Bible Reading Made Easy

3 Ways to Distinguish Trials and Temptations

By Kelly, United States

It’s said in the Bible, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man” (James 1:13). So, some brothers and sisters wonder the difference between temptations and trials. Below, I’d like to share a bit of my understanding of this issue.

First, distinguish from the source.

Matthew 4:3 records, “And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” This verse clearly states that Satan is “the tempter.” As we all know, when the Lord Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness after baptism, He was tempted three times by Satan. Job lost his vast wealth and all his children because of Satan’s temptation. And so on. It can be seen that temptations come from Satan and that God never tempts people. Just as the Bible says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man” (James 1:13).

As for trials, they come from God. Just as Jehovah God said, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried” (Zechariah 13:9). God appropriates Satan’s tests to try people. For example, when Satan made accusations of Job before God, God permitted it to tempt Job. As a result, Job lost all his property and his children in an instant, and later he was covered in sores head-to-toe. God used these things to try Job in order that he could bear testimony for Him before Satan and the worldly people.

3 Ways to Distinguish Trials and Temptations

Second, distinguish from the substance and the effect.

The substance of Satan is evil and malicious, so its temptations are also evil and malicious. For instance, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve, they listened to its enticements and ate the forbidden fruit. As a result, their spirits died, and they were driven out of the Garden of Eden by God and lived a cursed life of sweating and laboring. There is another example, concerning Job. When Satan first tempted him, his livestock, enough to cover a mountain, was carried off by the robbers, and his children were crushed to death by the collapsing house. When Satan’s second temptation befell Job, it raked his flesh, smiting him with sore boils from head to toe and causing him unbearable pain.

The substance of God is righteous and holy, so God’s trials are beautiful and good. God’s words say, “He is almighty, holy, and righteous. So likewise, His flesh is also supreme, almighty, holy, and righteous. Flesh such as that is only able to do that which is righteous and beneficial to mankind, that which is holy, glorious, and mighty, and is incapable of doing anything that violates the truth or morality and justice.” When God subjected Job to trials, although he lost all his livestock, sons and daughters, and he developed terrible boils all over his body, and suffered the censure of his friends and even the abandonment by his wife, these trials brought him great benefit: He felt God’s care for him, his faith and obedience toward God were perfected, and his knowledge of God was heightened. Most importantly, because Job stood firm and bore testimony for God before the worldly people and Satan, he thoroughly got rid of Satan’s accusations, becoming a free person who worshiped God. Just as Job said, “But He knows the way that I take: when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Besides, after Job had undergone God’s trials, God blessed him, bestowing him with double the fortune and lifespan he had originally had, and ten beautiful children. And God appeared and spoke to him out of the whirlwind.

Third, distinguish from Satan’s motives and God’s intentions.

Temptations come from Satan. By means of them, Satan intends to harm and corrupt man, and wreck the relationship between us and God so that we will blame, leave and even betray God. But as for trials, they come from God. Through them, God wants us to learn to rely on Him to see His deeds during our experiences, thereby increasing our faith in Him; meanwhile God aims to purify the contamination within us and make us have more knowledge and obedience of Him.

Next, I’d like to share some experiences of a sister of our church with you. When she was doing church work, one day her son called and said that her husband needed to be hospitalized because of illness. Hearing this news, she wanted to go to the hospital to look after her husband. But she was tied up with some important work in the church. At that time, she thought of God’s words, “In every step of work that God does within people, externally it appears to be interactions between people, as if born of human arrangements, or from human interference. But behind the scenes, every step of work, and everything that happens, is a wager made by Satan before God, and requires people to stand firm in their testimony to God.” God’s words allowed her to realize that this thing was a spiritual battle. That was Satan’s temptation befalling her and Satan wanted to disturb her from maintaining the work of the church. Meanwhile, God was testing her to see what she would choose at the crucial time, personal benefit or the benefit of the church. Feeling that God and Satan were watching her, she didn’t want to disappoint God. Thus, she determined to deal with the church work first and then go to care for her husband in the hospital. When she made this decision, to her surprise, her son rang up to say that her husband had gotten better. After experiencing such things several times, she gradually understood God’s will, and could see through Satan’s schemes and choose to obey God when encountering things at odds with her conceptions.

Brothers and sisters, if we grasp the above three aspects, we will be able to discern temptations and trials in general. This way, no matter what happens to us in life, we will know how to overcome Satan’s temptations and how to stand witness to satisfy God in His trials.


» You may be interested in reading more:

How Should We Christians Deal With Trials

Thoughts Provoked by a Test: Trials of Hardship Are God’s Blessings

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