It’s amazing what you can learn from junior high students. I tell people that if you want a lesson in perspective hang out with some middle school students for a few hours each week. You learn a lot about what’s important and what’s not, and you laugh – A LOT.
Tonight, as I attempted to teach several seventh grade girls how God responds to deeds done in faith by crediting it to us as righteousness I received a lesson on the difference between temptation and testing. We’re studying the book of James, and in chapter one the writer shares that 1) Trials should be counted as joy 2) Joy comes from knowing that testing helps develop us into the people that God wants us to be and that 3) Temptation comes from the devil, not from God. Although our plan for tonight was to finish the 2nd chapter it did not stop us from going back and revisiting the lessons from the early verse. And of course these verses beg the question – how do you know the difference between testing and temptation? Often times they can feel the same and both are definitely difficult, so how can we differentiate the two. Although, I am by no means a Biblical scholar, this is what I shared:
1) Testing never has to do with a moral truth, because when God has clearly articulated what’s right and wrong, He’ll never encourage us to do something that’s against His commands
2) Testing is for our good; God uses it to bring us closer to Him. Temptation is for our detriment; the Devil uses it to pull us away from God.
3) Testing is for a finite time; temptation can be a lifelong struggle.
4) God always provides a way to pass the test; however there are no short-cuts we must go through the trial. Temptation is not a requirement; it’s a lousy bi-product of living in a fallen world.
5) Temptations require resistance, testing requires acceptance.
Coincidentally (or maybe not) upon coming home, I returned to a message from my friend depicting a difficult time that she is going through. She asked if stretching always occurred when one tries to grow. My edited response follows:
I think stretching occurs when God is trying to grow you. It’s like the growing pains that occur before growths spurts. Your bones are preparing to take on the additional height and weight that your body knows is coming. It seems counterintuitive that they would hurt before the actual growth occurs, but they often do. It’s a sign that our bodies are going through a change. It’s a natural process and something that must occur for our betterment, but it’s painful just the same.
The important thing to remember when you’re stuck between a rock and hard place is that it was while Elijah was crammed in a crevice that God decided to show him His glory. The rock and the hard place provided a barrier that prevents us from moving forward until God has shown us what He wants. Being there is no fun, but in the long run, it’s worth it.
If you’re going through a trial and feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, look for how God wants to demonstrate His glory. It’s why we go through testing to begin with.