Scripture : 2 Chronicles 32:31
However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.
Temptation and Test
When we are tempted, we must not say that we are tempted by God because God does not tempt anyone (Jms 1:13). Temptation is evil in its nature, so it never comes from God. But, though God never tempts us, He does test us. We can read throughout the Bible that God continually test His people. So, is ‘temptation’, then, different from ‘test’? Yes, it is. Temptation is something that draws us to commit a certain sin, whereas test is something which happens to us that challenges us to do a certain deed of righteousness. The former comes from the devil (1 The 3:5) and is designed to pull us down and destroy us; the latter comes from God and is motivated by His desire to build us up and to bring us up to a higher level of glory. Entering temptation is something that we must avoid at all costs by not allowing our desires to be drawn away and enticed (Mat 6:13, 26:41; Jms 1:14), while being tested is something that we cannot avoid because it is prepared for us by God. Since it was designed to lift and build us up, we should count it all joy when we fall into various tests (Jms 1:2). A very good example of how to deal with temptation and test is given by Joseph. When he was in Egypt and became an overseer of Potiphar’s house and all that he had, he was seduced by his wife to lie with her. What did he do? He fled from her (Gen39:12). He did not allow himself to be drawn away by his own desire by lingering near her, but immediately ran away to avoid the temptation. This is what we must do with every temptation. We must avoid it at all costs. Though Joseph avoided the temptation, he could not avoid the tests which God had prepared for him. After he fled outside from Potiphar’s wife, he was falsely accused of forcing her to lie with him and was immediately put into the prison. In all these things, he did not resist, but submitted himself.
God and The Devil in Test and Temptation
Although ‘temptation’ and ‘test’ are different, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A temptation from the devil can be used as a test by God and a test from God may include some temptations from the evil one. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil himself in the wilderness, it was the Spirit of God who led Him there. So, His temptation by the devil is also a test from God (Mat 4:1). Job lost everything that he had because God allowed the devil to attack him. The devil was trying to make Job curse God by all the calamities he brought upon him. But, God used them to test his integrity and to bring him into a deeper knowledge of Him (Job 1:6-2:10; 42:5).
The Purpose of God’s Test
God enjoys close and intimate relationship with His people. He wants us to live and walk in His presence. But, when He tests us, He will withdraw His presence. He will seem to leave us alone by ourselves. Now, He does this, as mentioned above, to build us up and lift us up to the higher level of glory.
There are three purposes in every test from God (Deut 8:2-3) :
1) knowing what is in our heart.
2) humbling us.
3) teaching us to live by His truth.
Take the children of Israel, for an example. God led them in the wilderness where there was no food. He allowed them to hunger. In that situation, God could know what was in their heart, whether they would complain or give thanks, whether they would continue to follow Him to the land of Canaan or would rather go back to Egypt. By allowing them to suffer hunger, He also humbled them. They realized that they could no longer support and provide for themselves. They became helpless. Then, God fed them with manna which they did not know nor did their fathers know, that He might make them know His truth that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
Knowing The Test from God and How to Respond
How do we know that we are being tested by God? And, more important, how are we supposed to respond when we are being tested by Him?
1) When we are faced with an impossible situation.
When we face a situation in our lives which are impossible to overcome humanly, we can be sure of that we are being tested by God. The Lord Jesus tested Philip to know how he would react when he and His other disciples were faced with an impossible situation of feeding the five thousand (John 6:5-6). The Lord tested him where they would buy bread that the multitude who followed Him may eat. Philip answered that two hundred denarii worth of bread was not sufficient for them, that every one of them my have a little. Probably, he looked at the money which they had and calculated that the bread which they could buy with that amount of money would not be enough for the people. Philip was overwhelmed by the greatness and the impossibility of the task and forgot that Jesus was greater than the task and that nothing was impossible to Him. When we are faced with an impossible situation, we must never forget that God is greater than the situation and that He already knows what to do. What we need to do is to present whatever we have, no matter how small or insufficient, to Him and trust Him that He will use that to overcome the situation for us.
2) When our prayers seem to receive no answer or even seem to be rejected.
When we have prayed for some time and do not receive the answer, most likely, it is because we are being tested by God. The woman of Canaan whose daughter was severely demon-possessed came to Jesus and begged Him to have mercy on her (Mat 15:22). At first, the Lord answered her not a word. Then, He answered and said that He was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But, as she kept on begging, He told her that it was not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs. It seemed that the Lord rejected her and would not grant her request. But, what actually happened was that the Lord was testing her. Would she give up and felt offended? No, she was persistent. She worshipped Him and said that even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table, showing her humility as well as her great faith. And, the Lord granted her request (Mat 15:28). This is exactly what we must do when our prayers seem to receive no answer though we have prayed for some time. We must not feel offended nor give up. Instead, we must humble ourselves even more in worship, but at the same time, be persistent and wise in our faith.
3) When what God is doing in our lives seems to contradict His promise.
We all have received promises from God about the great things He is going to do in our lives. But, many times, having received His promise, we find ourselves in situations which seem to contradict His promise. When these happen, we need to realize that we are being tested by God. Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his only begotten son, Isaac, in whom he was promised to have multitude of descendants (Gen 22:1-2). Abraham was tested by God. Though he was told to do something contradictory to the promise he had previously received from God, he did not waver nor resist. He obeyed and concluded that God was still able to keep His promise by raising his son up, even from the dead (Heb 11:19). We must follow the example of Abraham when we find ourselves in a similar situation. We must not doubt nor resist, but commit ourselves to God and trust Him that He is able to fulfill what He has promised no matter how impossible the situation is.