The Why of Temptation
Temptations are a part of the Christian’s curriculum, and are essential to the development of a Christian character. In the first place they serve as monitors, reminding us of our utter weakness, and necessary dependence upon divine aid. They detach us and wean us from the world, and human dependencies, and drive us to prayer and reliance upon God. They develop the iron graces of faith, and patience, and fidelity, and thus save us from becoming mollycoddles or jelly-fish.The reader would not be the Christian you are if it had not been for the trials and temptations you have encountered. It was when the sky looked most threatening, and human props were swept away, that you prayed the most earnestly, and the promises of God seemed most precious, and you leaned the hardest upon the strong arm of your Lord. The fact is, not many can endure continued prosperity and affluence without becoming self-reliant and self-sufficient — and backsliding. As we read in Deut. 32:15, “Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” “When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God” (Psalm 78:34).
A good soldier must learn to take blows as well as to give blows; a good sailor must learn how to utilize a head-wind. Temptations and trials are to the spiritual life, what the exercises in a gymnasium are to the physical life. Thus we become stronger and more useful. Having passed through the ordeal ourselves we know the better how to help, and how to sympathize with, others who may be passing through similar trials. When we ourselves have received help, and been divinely comforted in the midst of “our tribulation,” we will “be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4). Because Christ “himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).
It is by trials and temptations that He “proves” us, and discovers the sincerity of our purpose, and the fidelity and loyalty of our hearts. As was said to the children of Israel, “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deut. 8:2). Not only does He thus “prove” us, but it is in the hour of temptation that we “prove” God, (Psalm 95:9) and demonstrate to others His faithfulness, and the reality and power of His saving grace. It is thus “that the trial of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).