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Trusting, Testing, and Tempting

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What is the difference between trusting God and testing God? What did Jesus and the Old Testament teach us about testing God? Should we seek out unnecessary danger and thus show our trust in Him, or would that be testing God? What should we do when the rules of God seem to be in conflict?

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Definitions

Trust - be confident in, be sure.
Proverbs 3:5 KJV 1900
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.
Test - assay; scrutinize; prove
Genesis 22:1 ASV 1901
And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham; and he said, Here am I.
Tempt - to entice to do evil
Matthew 4:1 ASV 1901
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Principles

We are to put our trust in God.
Proverbs 3:5 KJV 1900
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.
In opposition, we might say that we should not put our trust in riches, things of this world, or even ourselves. None of these can save us.
Mark 10:24 KJV 1900
And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
2 Corinthians 1:9 KJV 1900
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
We are not to test God.
God does not need testing or proving. God is who He is and He is immutable, meaning He does not change.
James 1:17 KJV 1900
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
We know from Scripture that God is good and God is faithful. Since God does not change, He is 100% pure and will always be that way. No assaying is required.
Matthew 4:7 LEB
Jesus said to him, “On the other hand it is written, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
We cannot tempt God, but Satan can tempt us.
James 1:13 KJV 1900
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
In summary, it is possible to trust in God and we should. It is possible to test God, but we should not. It is impossible to tempt God.

Examples

It is not too hard to understand these definitions and principles. It gets harder to figure out what is the appropriate action in a given situation. Let’s look at two biblical examples.
Abraham was about to do something that seemed like testing God. He was taking his son of promise and going to kill him, and trusting that God would raise him from the dead.
Hebrews 11:17–19 KJV 1900
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Why was this not testing God? The simple answer is that he was actually doing what God had commanded.
Genesis 22:1–2 KJV 1900
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Therefore, Abraham was trusting in God and God was testing Abraham.
Jesus was asked to do something that sounded like it was in line with God’s word.
Matthew 4:5–6 KJV 1900
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
This is a reference to
Psalm 91:11–12 KJV 1900
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, To keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Why did Jesus not cast Himself off the temple and trust in God and His word?
Not surprisingly, Satan is misusing Scripture. The question of trusting in God is in the very passage Satan quotes.
Psalm 91:2 KJV 1900
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: My God; in him will I trust.
How will Jesus trust in God? By not testing Him.
Jesus quotes
Deuteronomy 6:16 KJV 1900
Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
How had the Israelites tested God in Massah?
Exodus 17:5–7 KJV 1900
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?
The Israelites tested God by asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Satan wanted Jesus to test God by putting His life on the line to see if Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus said, rather, He will trust in the Scriptures, including the ones that say, “You shall not test God.” Notice that if you are trusting in God, you trust in who He is and what He will do, and therefore you do not need to test Him.
These incidents show us that sometimes it is difficult to determine if you are being tempted, testing God, being tested by God, or trusting God, or some combination. In the case of Abraham, Abraham was trusting God and God was testing Abraham. In the case of Jesus, Satan was tempting Jesus to test God, but instead Jesus trusted God.

Actions

So, how do we decide what to do in a given situation? While the Bible will not give us clear and specific commands in what to do in every life situation, it has given us what we need for life and Godliness.
2 Peter 1:3 KJV 1900
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Therefore, we can use our brains and Scripture and try to figure out what is best to do. I tried to come up with some guidelines.
First, remember three principles we have already seen from Scripture.
It is possible to trust in God, and we should.
It is possible to test God, but we shoudn’t.
It is impossible to tempt God, but Satan can tempt you.
Second, figure out what, if anything, is commanded or authorized by God.
If I asked you to kill one of your children and trust in God that He would raise them from the dead, that would not really be trusting God, it would be testing Him. You would be testing Him to see if He would perform a good deed, or whether He was with you or not. So, why was Abraham commended for doing the same thing? The difference is that there was a command of God involved. Abraham was following a commandment of God. Therefore, it was not testing God, it was trusting God.
Third, remember the rule of expediency.
Expediency is the latitude given to use our own judgment to figure out how best to carry out God’s commandments when all the specifics are not given.
Matthew 28:19–20 KJV 1900
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Jesus said to teach, but did not tell us exactly how to do it or when to do it. Therefore, we use our own judgment and the latitude of expediency to figure out how to best carry out the command.
Expediency allows you to fulfill a command in different ways when the need arises.
Fourth, accepting persecution or hardship because you trust in God is fine. Seeking out persecution or hardship could be testing God.
Jesus accepted persecution and hardship when it was given to Him for obeying the Father. But He also did not seek out extra persecution and test God to see if God would take care of Him.
Jesus was persecuted and taught that His disciples would be, too.
John 15:20 KJV 1900
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
But, Jesus taught others to avoid, persecution
Matthew 10:23 KJV 1900
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
He also avoided unnecessary death Himself.
Luke 4:28–30 KJV 1900
And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
Why did Jesus not trust in God and let Himself be killed? Would that really be trusting in God or testing Him? If it is right for us to put ourselves in unnecessary danger and believe we are trusting in God that He will take care of us, then why did Jesus not trust in God and jump off the temple? The answer is that putting yourself in unnecessary danger and telling yourself that you are trusting in God to take care of you may not really be trusting God, but testing Him to see if He will take care of you. If it is right for us to put ourselves in unnecessary danger and believe we are trusting in God that He will take care of us, then why did Jesus not trust in God and jump off the temple? Instead, Jesus was trusting God’s word which says, “Don’t test God!”
Why did Jesus avoid death in Luke 4 but accepted it in Matthew 26?
Matthew 26:39 KJV 1900
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
The reason is because it was in the will of God and in obedience to His commands.
Notice the examples of Jesus and the apostles. Did they accept persecution and hardship when it meant they could obey God and work for Him? Yes. Did they purposefully seek out persecution and death at the first opportunity they had to get it, no matter what? No. Jesus escaped death and so did Paul. Why? My question is, “Why not?” If I’m working for the Lord and living for the Lord, why should I not try to live longer and avoid unnecessary risk so that I can serve God longer? If persecution and death for the cause of Christ should come, I should be ready to accept it, but I do not need to go seek it out. Jesus didn’t. Neither did Paul. If Jesus had sought out death, He could have gotten it before the cross. If Paul had sought out death, He could have gotten it before dying in Rome.
I know one day I’m going to die, but I’m going to try and make it the last thing I do, not the first thing.
Fifth, trusting in God is not giving up all your decision-making responsibility. That’s testing God.
Trusting in God and avoiding testing Him, means to put your confidence in who He is and what He said, but it does not mean that you give up your abilities to make rational decisions and you give up your responsibility to do anything. If you still have the ability to make decisions about what is best, then God expects you to do so.
Proverbs 3:5–7 KJV 1900
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: Fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
Notice that you are to trust in God, but you are also to acknowledge Him, walk in paths, fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It’s not all on God’s shoulders, it’s on yours, too.
You cannot say, “I don’t have to worry whether or not this is a good decision, I will just trust in God.” That’s not trusting God, that’s testing Him. You cannot say, “I don’t have to worry whether or not this is safe, I will just trust in God.” That’s not trusting God, that’s testing Him. It is testing Him to see if He will take care of you and if He will do whatever needs to be done.
If I go home and lie on the bed and don’t do anything and just say, “I’m trusting in God to bring me income, food, shelter and take care of me,” that’s not trusting in what God said, it’s testing God to take care of you.
What if you say, “I’m not going to let fear stop me, I’m going to put myself in unnecessary danger and trust in God.” If that’s what we are supposed to do, then why did Jesus not jump off the temple? Instead, Jesus trusted God’s word enough to believe, “You do not test God!”
Trusting in God is not giving up your rational thinking and flinging yourself off the top of the temple.
Sixth, ask yourself the three questions:
Am I trusting God?
In order to trust in God I need to be trusting in who He is or what He has said.
Answering “yes” is good.
Am I testing God?
In order to be testing God, I need to be putting Him to the test to carry out something He has said He would do, or to be putting Him to the test as to who He is.
Answering “no” is good.
Am I being tempted?
In order to be tempted, I need to have something enticing me to do evil.
If the answer is “yes,” then see #1.
Practice #1:
There are some places in the world where openly preaching God and carrying a Bible may lead to death. Jesus said to go teach all nations. Are we all in violation of God’s command by not getting on a plane with a load of Bibles and going directly into those places?
While we are to attempt to teach these people, openly inviting persecution and death would probably not be beneficial to the cause. It might be considered testing God to take care of us by unnecessarily putting ourselves into obvious danger. Using expediency to figure out the best way might lead us to teach via radio, Internet, or one-on-one. Avoiding unnecessary danger is not distrusting God, otherwise Jesus distrusted God when He did not allow Himself to be cast down a hill.
Practice #2:
Acts 9:23–25 KJV 1900
And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
If Saul had openly walked to the gates of the city to leave, would that have been trusting God or testing God? Was Saul trusting in God when he escaped the city surreptitiously? Was there a command involved?
I believe that Saul was trusting in God by attempting to live and teach the Gospel. Putting himself in mortal danger by the enemies of God would not have been obedient to any commandment of God, nor would it have been beneficial to the cause of Christ. Later in his life, when the government forced Paul to lose his life, then he was accepting of it, because the decision was out of his hands.
2 Timothy 4:6–7 KJV 1900
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Notice that he doesn’t say, “I sat back and did nothing because I trusted in God.” Instead, he says, “I fought a good fight, I finished the course, I kept the faith.” What is faith without works?

When Rules Seem To Conflict

Another thing that makes figuring out how to act difficult is when it seems the desires of God are in conflict with one another.
Practice #3:
When I was younger, my family was coming home on a Sunday afternoon after being out of town. We saw a couple on the side of the road having car trouble. There was not enough time to stop and offer help and still make it back for Sunday evening worship services. What should we have done?
On the one hand, we do not want to miss the assembling together of the saints. The Bible gives us an approved example to follow.
On the other hand, faith without works is dead. Will it really matter if I go to a worship service and try to show God that I’m faithful if I won’t stop to help someone when they need it?

Media Law Lessons

In media law, there are times when the laws of the Constitution seem to be conflicting with one another.
The First Amendment gives the right to freely speak out and peaceably assemble against the government. However, if two opposing groups assemble to address the government at the same time, the outcome may not be peaceable. What do we do?
The answers include trying alternatives and placing limited restrictions. Some restrictions are called, Time, Place, or Manner Restrictions. It doesn’t mean the freedom is revoked, it simply means the freedom must be exercised under certain restrictions in order to protect the freedoms and safety of others. The answer to the opposing groups problem may be that the police grants a permit to Group A to protest from 9-11 AM and grants a permit to Group B to protest between 1-3 PM. The necessary things are still carried out, but a limited restriction or alternative may have to be temporarily put in place.

Pandemic

The same has happened with the recent pandemic. While the government is not legally allowed to prevent us from worship, they can temporarily restrict certain of our freedoms in order that we do not trample on the rights or needs of others. In the interest of public health and safety, the government temporarily restricted the worship to small groups. Our restriction in this state now allows for larger groups, provided that all are wearing a mask, with the exception of someone giving a religious speech who is distanced from everyone else.
Does God want us to assemble together on the first day of the week to worship Him? Yes. Does God want us to show love and care and concern to our fellow brethren? Yes. So, what do we do when there is a pandemic and we are told to stop assembling in large groups for a limited time? Do we follow the word of God and assemble, or do we not assemble for fear of catching and/or spreading a deadly disease and potentially causing death to ourselves and others? Which one is trusting God and which one is testing God? Or are there alternatives that allow for both to be done?
Let’s go through our things to remember:
Trusting God is good and testing God is bad.
Assembling together is authorized, but so is loving others and putting them first.
Remember the rule of expediency.
Are there other ways to carry out the worship and assembling other than the normal way?
Yes. We can worship together in small groups and even remotely online.
Are we accepting persecutions or hardships or are we seeking it out?
If we restrict our assembling we are accepting hardships, but if we get together and potentially catch or spread a deadly disease, we might be seeking it out and testing God.
Trusting in God without accepting responsibility is really testing God.
If we just say that we should assemble, potentially catch or spread a deadly disease, and possibly end up causing our own and others’ deaths, I don’t think we are trusting God. I think we are testing God by putting ourselves in danger and expecting Him to just control everything or bail us out of trouble.
Ask the three questions:
I think I am trusting God to continue to be obedient in that I am worshipping.
I think I am avoiding testing God by not putting myself and others at unnecessary risk.
I am not being tempted to disobey God, I am changing how I obey in order to protect myself and others.
Practice love
I know #7 wasn’t on the previous list, but I think it should be added and may be the final determining factor. If you can’t make up your mind on what is the right thing to do, from #1-#6, or even if you can, ask yourself if you are practicing love.
Love, the agape love of the Bible, is putting others first, even if you don’t get what you want.
Matthew 26:39 KJV 1900
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Jesus is our great example of love. He desperately did not want to go through the persecution of the cross, but He did it because it was what was best for us.
Why should we think about love in determining what to do? Because that’s what Jesus did when He had to choose between accepting persecution and death or avoiding it.
So, does that mean I just get on a plane with a Bible and go to a foreign land that outlaws Christianity and start preaching so that I will be killed? After all, I have to put my life second and others first? No, because notice what Jesus said.
Matthew 26:39 KJV 1900
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
What is Jesus asking for? An alternative to death! In the case of Jesus, there was no other way and still pay the penalty for our sins. In the case of me standing on a street corner and pronouncing Jesus in a land that outlaws Christianity, there are alternative methods of teaching. I am not distrusting God by preserving my life, I am trusting His word by not testing God.
Why should we think about love when determining what to do? Because Paul said it was greater than even faith and hope.
1 Corinthians 13:13 ASV 1901
But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Now, which one should be done, stopping to help the couple at the side of the road, or passing them up to go to Sunday evening worship services? Which one shows the agape love of Jesus by putting what I want second and what others need first?
Now, which one should be done, temporarily halting the assembling of large groups together in order to avoid spreading a deadly virus, or ignoring the temporary limitation of the government and the danger in order to assemble together in a large group? Which one shows the agape love of Jesus by putting what I want second and what others need first?
I think the answer is stopping to help the people and temporarily meeting in small groups and online. Why? Because it is sacrificing something for me, worshipping with the saints, and it is giving to someone else’s needs, and I think that is what Jesus would have done. Also, I am still able to worship and assemble, I just have to do it in smaller groups or online.
What about not assembling together, won’t that affect my faith? What about not worshipping God, won’t that affect my hope?
1 Corinthians 13:13 ASV 1901
But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
If love is the greatest, then I think that is the trump card you have to play when rules seem to be in conflict. Whatever option shows agape love, that trumps all the other rules, including assembling together.

Not Forsaking the Assembly

Because some of the questions we’ve raised deals with the assembly and because there may be some confusion about it, I want to briefly deal with the verse from Hebrews.
Hebrews 10:25 KJV 1900
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
First, what is the purpose of assembling? Can I not worship God on my own, or if I were the only person in the local congregation? Yes, you can worship on your own, and if you are the only person in the local congregation you may have to worship on your own. However, if you are not the only person, then you should try to assemble together. But why? The answer is for the benefit of others. Yes, I may get something out of it, too, but notice the context.
Hebrews 10:24–25 KJV 1900
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Do you see the love that is being practiced? “Consider one another.” Provoke others to love and good works. “Exhorting one another.” God knew that we could worship alone, but He also knew there would be a benefit in meeting together. But notice the context says that benefit is for the other person. Obviously, I will benefit if others follow this, too.
Second, the condemnation is connected with the “forsaking” of the assembling together. The Greek word translated “forsaking” is defined as:

to separate connection with someone or someth., forsake, abandon, desert

The definition I like to use should go along with that. Forsake - to leave behind on purpose.
Therefore, when someone says, “I am sick and unable to come to worship.” Have they forsaken the assembly? No, because they did not leave it behind on purpose. If my parents stop the car to help people on the side of the road, have they forsaken the assembly? No. They have not separated their connection with the church and said they are never going again, neither have they purposefully put a couple beside the road in a stranded car to cause them to miss worship. They did not go to assembly, but it was not their idea and their purpose to miss it.
The dictionary goes on to say regarding this verse:

Cease assembling Hb 10:25 (do or carry on someth. in a negligent manner, be remiss is also prob.

Some might say, “It says cease assembling, and the verse just says ‘as the manner or habit of some is,’ therefore, as long as I come now and then it’s okay, provided I don’t make a habit of it.” Keep reading the definition. It also says to do something in a negligent manner. That means you are still doing it, but you are not doing it in the way that you should. Negligence means failing to take the proper care that you should have taken. Therefore, doing something in a negligent manner means that you are still doing it, but you are not doing in the way that you should be doing it.
If I feel very sick with the flu in the winter and stay at home instead of coming to worship, is that the right thing to do? I think so. I have not left behind the worship on purpose. I did not try and get sick, it just happened. I have not severed my connection with the church. I am also not testing God by saying, “I’m just going to go out into the cold and trust God that I won’t die or pass out while driving.” That’s not trusting God, that’s testing God. I’m also practicing love by keeping away from others who may be likely to get sick, or who may even have immunity problems and potentially die from something like the flu.
When the elders of this congregation decided to comply with the laws of the land and stop assembling together in large numbers like we usually do because of the pandemic, was that right or wrong? I think it was right. We did not leave the public assembly behind on purpose. Instead, we practiced expediency and continued worshipping online or in small groups. We accepted the hardship of not assembling, but we did not seek out the hardship of a deadly disease. We did not just let whatever happens happen, but accepted responsibility for making decisions. And in answer to the three questions:
We were trusting God by continuing to be obedient in that we were worshipping.
We avoided testing God by not putting ourselves at unnecessary risk.
We are not being tempted to disobey God, we are changing how we obey in order to protect myself and others. We are not losing our freedom of worship and assembling, we are merely having a temporary manner restriction placed on our freedom.
And last, but actually first, we are practicing love, because we are sacrificing what we might prefer for the good of others, both in the church and out of the church.

Conclusion

As you can probably see, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly what to do and still be pleasing to God. Therefore, don’t be surprised if yourself or others have difficulty knowing what to do right away, or even that they make a mistake. You can’t open the Bible and find out a specific answer to each problem. You have to use God’s word and your best judgment. Remember, as we all go through this or any persecution or hardship, love is the greatest, and that is what we need to show toward others.
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