Listen:  

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is a very good and important question.  There is the general question of where temptations come from and scripture addresses this question in different circumstances.  The word “tempt” can have two meanings.  It can mean to test as in the Lord bringing a question to Philip in John 6:1-6, “After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.”  To “tempt” can also mean to face evil.  We have the Lord Jesus being led by the Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted by Satan in Matthew, chapter 4 to demonstrate His sinless nature.

There can be some confusion based on the translation of James 1:12 which says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”  The KJV uses the word “temptation” rather than trial or test which is used in other translations and is the correct sense of the word.

Let’s read James 1:12-14 in the New American Standard Bible to get a clearer understanding of what the Lord is saying to us.  That says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”

Testings, as they are seen in trials and temptations, may seem similar but they are not the same.  God may put a trial before us to prove our faith.  He may discipline us as we read in Hebrews 12:11, which tells us, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” These are given to us so we might be trained in righteousness, and we should face these times of testing and chastening with joy.

Unlike trials, God does not tempt us with sin.  Temptations to sin come as we are drawn away by our own fleshly desires.  If we fail in a trial that God allows in our lives and we don’t grow from this experience, it can turn into a temptation when we are seeking our own way and resisting what God has for us.  But we know from James 1:16-17, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  (114.2 – CC)