Temptation is not sin; however, it is the decision to do right or wrong and the action that follows. If it’s not dealt with, it will breed sin. Jesus was tempted in all manners just like we are, but without sin, so to be tempted must have a purpose. So what is this purpose?
To answer this question, we must look closely at the origin of temptation. James tells us emphatically the when, where, why and how it occurs. In chapter 1:12-16 James Amplified says, “Blessed (happy, to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. Do not be misled, my beloved brethren.”
To fully understand the purpose of temptation, we must admit that it does not come from God; it comes from Satan and is embraced by us. Temptation is birthed out of our own lusts and desires to go against God’s will. In the Garden of Eden, Eve displayed the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. In the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus with the same three things. He hasn’t changed his mode of operation.
Satan can only tempt us with something that we desire. I hate beets, they taste like dirt—I wouldn’t eat a beet for a hundred dollars (well maybe.) Nonetheless, Satan cannot tempt me with beets and will never even try. J.D. Quinn doesn’t eat turnip greens (I love them), therefore JD will never be tempted with turnip greens. He won’t even taste Mollie Sue’s turnip greens and they’re great. Maybe they taste like beets to him.
So what is the purpose of temptation? It is to build our character, so the Lord may rejoice because we overcame that temptation. If we are to overcome temptation we must discern it correctly–then we must examine ourselves for cracks in our character. It is these cracks that allows Satan to see our weaknesses. Whenever we are tempted, we should rejoice in the Lord and ask Him to help us overcome this temptation. I have overheard people pray for God to remove the temptation; however, that will never happen. A pastor friend of mine fell into sin because he prayed for God to remove the temptations—he prayed wrong. He should have said, “Thank you Father, for revealing this flaw in my character, now that I recognize it and admit it, I ask You to please help me overcome this temptation before it becomes sin.”
Are you fighting temptations? Then you have cracks in your character and Satan will pry them open causing them to become sin. Don’t let him do it—ask our loving Father for strength.
“Let us have more confidence in our Redeemer. Turn not from the waters of Lebanon to seek refreshment at broken cisterns, which can hold no water. Have faith in God. Trustful dependence on Jesus makes victory not only possible but certain. Though multitudes are pressing on in the wrong way, though the outlook be ever so discouraging, yet we may have full assurance in our Leader; for “I am God,” He declares, “and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22). He is infinite in power, and able to save all who come to Him. There is no other in whom we can safely trust.” (In Heavenly Places, page 17)