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Question 99

Q: I have heard you say that God leads us to the point of temptation, but not that He makes us sin.

My question is what is the difference between these points? The Gospels say that the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted. It also says that Satan left Jesus until a more opportune time.

You’ve also talked about thanking God for the temptation and how it can strengthen our walk with God. How can we thank God for temptations?

I’m very interested in this now because I’m being tempted with strong desires and I need to know how to overcome these desires.

Asked by: Michele, Washington

A: Michele, thank you so very much for your question and for your honesty in terms of your own struggles.

I have a couple of comments for you. First of all, I may have been confusing regarding that word “temptation.” Bottom line: I regard temptation as a test, in fact, that’s the way in which James uses it in James 1 when he talks about various tests and various temptations. So, it is true that God leads us to the place of temptation; He tests us.

But the word “temptation” is sometimes also used as a solicitation to evil. And I think that’s a very important distinction. I don’t believe that God causes us to sin; when we sin, it really becomes our responsibility. So, the bottom line is that temptation is very, very powerful.

God does test us to see whether or not we are loyal to Him, and what we need to do is to pass those tests. Now, I also think it’s perfectly proper for us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” That is, “Don’t lead us, Lord, to the point of temptation where we cannot bear it, where we are going to give in and where we are going to sin.” I hope that that’s clarifying for you.

But one other thing, Michele, I’m concerned about what you wrote here. You said that you were being tempted. There are times when we actually have to leave and flee temptation. If you’re working in an office, or you have a relationship with someone that is inappropriate or sinful, the best thing that you can do is to put physical distance between you and that person. And also, Michele, call on others to help you and pray with you, that’ll strengthen you so that you don’t give in to the tests around you.

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