Trial and Temptation: God's Object in Bringing Us Into Them

James 1  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Listen from:
We try various things with the object of displaying either their badness or their goodness, and thus God works oftentimes with men. When God allows special trials to overtake natural men, it is to lead them to turn to Him in them, to teach them that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will” (Daniel 4:1717This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. (Daniel 4:17)), and that He is able to abase him who walks in pride.
But trials of similar character to those found among the “children of this world” are found also among God’s children. Oftentimes God’s desire in thus dealing with them is to manifest to themselves the evil of their own natural hearts (but this is not always necessary); and what is always necessary and of far greater importance in God’s sight is to make their faith shine more brightly. This was the desired end in His dealings with His servant Job, though in the same trials Job also learned deep lessons as to nature’s (i.e., his own) vileness. (42: 5, 6) God sees faith in His children: this He values, and the trial is a trial of faith. Thus God takes the distinct ground in our trials of helping us. This is in order that faith (which, it may be, He sees is so feeble) may be strengthened. I believe there is no exception, but that every trial of a Christian is a trial of faith, (1 Peter 1:77That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:7))
It is evidently not always the desire of God to manifest to me (or to any one else) the evil that is in my nature—evil which always rebels against the trials He sends. For if I bow to the trials, and to the word of God, which tells me God is taking the ground of helping me in and by them, nature gets no place and no voice; that is, it is not displayed, though there.
These trials are called “chastenings” in Hebrews 12:5-85And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:5‑8), and “purging” in John 15. In both we see that God is helping us dealing with us as with sons. Chastening is either to prevent or to remedy our running into evil. First, it is by the word of God, which runs always counter to my will; and second, where this fails it is by trials of various kinds, for God seeks to keep me in a right path, and to prevent me from going wrong. Both of these are chastening, but neither is because of any wrong doing. Then chastening and trial are for something wrong done. Then they are remedial, not preventive. I believe God always chastens to prevent before He chastens to remedy. But to be without that, “of which all are partakers,” would mark me as not of the family. If trials and chastenings to prevent my going wrong, as well as trials and chastenings to restore me when I have gone wrong, should both fail to effect this object, God may repeat them, or act in judgment. (1 Corinthians 11:30-3230For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30‑32); 1 John 5:1616If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (1 John 5:16)) We have then to “count it all joy,” according to this chapter 1, “when we fall into divers temptations.” God sees in me something that He desires to help. Hence the trial, and hence also my joy. The trials are occasions of manifesting my faith, opportunities given to me to prove God in a way that I have not done previously. What is the meaning of verse 13? “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: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” I believe God’s desire is by the trial to manifest the good that is in us; that is, to bring out that faith which. He has given. (Ephesians 2:88For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)) If the trial manifests only the evil that is in me (rebellion, or plans of my own to get out of the trial), I am drawn away by my own evil lusts. But this was not God’s first object in sending the trial. He may see it necessary to show me out to myself; but even with the ungodly their trials are allowed, in order to turn them to God. (See Job 33:19-2919He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain: 20So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat. 21His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out. 22Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. 23If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness: 24Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. 25His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth: 26He shall pray unto God, and he will be favorable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness. 27He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; 28He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. 29Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, (Job 33:19‑29); see also Psalm evil) Trials test faith, or they stir up the evil (rebellion, &c) that dwells in my nature. The one casts me on God, the other carries me farther and farther away from Him, as to the experience of my soul. I believe that it means that God never tries a man merely to expose the evil that is in him to the man himself, as if this were the end, the prime motive of the trial, though this may come out (as with Job), in order that we may see what we are. God has a higher object than this, even our blessing. In this way I understand Genesis 22:11And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. (Genesis 22:1).
H. C. A.