Two kinds of temptations: one to avoid, one to face

In Matthew 6:13 Jesus said to pray ‘Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.’ And yet in Matthew 4:1 we read, ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ 

Rather than a contradiction I see two categories of temptations: those God keeps us from because we are not ready to face, and those God leads us into because we are ready.

When we obey God, he leads us away from unnecessary temptations.

In Exodus 13:17 when Pharaoh let the children of Israel go it says, ‘God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” God led them in a way that avoided battle. Why? Because they weren’t ready. But later in Exodus 17 we see God leading them into battle with Amalek. Why? Because by that time they were ready.

When we seek God’s presence through His freshly spoken word, and yield our hearts and follow Him in obedience, we avoid temptations we are not ready for. Jesus lived his life in this way. He was able to say in John 14:30 ‘the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in Me.’ (no claim on Me). This is pictured for us in Psalm 23:5 when David says, ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’ This table is a place of fellowship and provision from God. And it’s experienced in a way that torments the devil as he has to watch and cannot reach us.

However when we are not in this place of surrender and obedience to God, we face temptations that we don’t have grace to overcome. 2 Samuel 11:1 tells us that in the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, ‘David remained in Jerusalem.’ The very next verse tells us that David, after a long nap, went out onto his rooftop balcony, saw a very beautiful woman who was not his wife and fell into sin. This was a temptation that David did not have the grace to overcome, because he wasn’t where he should have been. Had he been on the path of God’s leading, this temptation would have never even occurred. 

When we obey God, temptations become opportunities to experience God’s power.

Matthew 4:1 says, ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ God does not lead us into trials to punish us, but so that we can punish the devil. There are two views of the same situation. The devil sees it as a temptation to destroy you. God sees it as a test to prove your faith.

In Matthew 4:3 the devil challenged Jesus’ identity saying, ‘If you’re the Son of God command that these stones become bread.’ Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and it says that His hunger had returned. This was a sign that if He doesn’t eat soon he’s a goner. The temptation was to take matters into His own hands rather than trusting His Father. His response was to quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus was saying, ‘I don’t see His provision but I have His word.’ He chose to trust God rather than believing that His Father had let him down. 

Jesus answered two more times from the Scriptures foiling the devil’s attempts. Finally v. 11 says, ‘then the devil left Him.’ The devil cannot outlast us. Eventually he will run out of gas and have to give up. 

So the Holy Spirit will lead us into opportunities to prove God, strengthen our faith, and punish the devil.

What challenge are you facing today? You are ready for it or you wouldn’t be there! So seek the Lord for His direction and stay with it until you experience a breakthrough.

In a series of meetings I experienced a person who was being rude to me. Each time I tried to make a contribution I experienced a subtle put-down from her. I was feeling really frustrated and angry, and then I heard the Lord speak to me from something I had read in Romans 12 that morning. I heard the words ‘Do not be over come by evil but overcome evil with good. Get up and get her a cup of coffee.’ No way. But I pushed myself down the hall the to coffee room, poured the coffee, and when I turned 180º to go back the power of God hit me and I felt His overwhelming love for this woman. And as the devil left the room and the Holy Spirit filled it, the spiritual climate changed from negativity to joy and freedom.

God will lead you into situations like this, not to punish you, but so that you can punish the devil and experience God’s glory and your own growth in greater measure.

Author: Chuck Starnes

Chuck Starnes is a relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples find the safety, connection, passion and full-aliveness they are looking for together. He also helps organizations become more productive by improving relationship and communication skills.