Trials and Temptations

“…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from temptations…” (2 Peter 2:9, NASB)

I hadn’t ever heard it put that way before. I could use a God like that because, frankly, I can’t rescue myself from temptations.

I know me. I know my flesh. I know the allure temptations have. I know my propensity to sin and my weak will to resist sin. I know my success rate at rescuing myself from temptations is embarrassingly low (like, 0%).

Because I know these things, I also know that any time I ever successfully resist temptation, it is only because the Lord enables me to do so. And He only enables me to do so because He is gracious.

There is nothing good in me. But out of His perfect love, He gives me the desire to obey Him (I can’t even muster that up myself…) and then empowers me to do so.

I pulled up the verse in the NIV and ESV and it read, “…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials…”

What’s the difference between temptations and trials?

I’m not sure this is right, but here’s an idea I’ll lob out there for our consideration.

I think temptations are bad things we have a choice to be a part of or not. And trials are bad things we find ourselves in whether we want to be there or not. 

In other words, we (our sinful natures) happen to temptations, and trials happen to us.

For example, when we feel the pull to boast about something, that is a temptation. Our sinful natures take over and taint an otherwise good thing. Being successful at righteous things is an inherently good thing. But when we toot our own horns for the purpose of manipulating others to praise us or envy us, we mar that which was good. Excessive pride is a bad thing we choose to be a part of; it happens because of us.

On the other hand, when you’re laid off because your company is down-sizing, that is a trial. Assuming you are a good employee, you did nothing to warrant the lay off. No one asked you if you’d mind losing your job; they just took it from you. Nothing you could have done or not done would’ve changed the fact that you are now unemployed. Being laid off is a bad thing none of would choose; it happens to us.

So when the NASB says God knows how to rescue us from temptations, I think it is saying God knows how to help us not do stupid things. And He will, if we ask Him to… (That’s the catch, isn’t it? Too often we don’t ask Him and just go forth in our own stupidity and sin…probably because we don’t really want to overcome temptation in the first place.)

And when the NIV and ESV say God knows how to rescue us from trials, I think they are saying God knows how to help us through and out of tough circumstances we didn’t bring on ourselves.

In both cases, I am glad God has the necessary knowledge to help me out. I am also glad He is willing to help me if I want Him to. He is not not in control. He will act on His knowledge when the time is right. That brings me peace.

“…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from temptations and trials…”

Reflections on Psalm 102

Psalm 102 begins with this caveat:  “A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD.”

Intriguing. I read on.

“Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.”

Yes, I need Him to listen. I need Him to respond quickly. It’s all relative, I guess. When one day is like a thousand years and vice versa (2 Peter 3:8), how quick might this fix come?

“For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.”

How long have things been like this? The days have given way to months, and I’ve lost count.

“My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.”

It’s funny, at first, trying to imagine someone actually forgetting to eat. But this morning I had to cinch my belt as tightly as it would go, and I watch the number on the scale fall day by day. The joke’s on me.

“I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.”

I sip my second cup of coffee and think of all the hours I saw pass me by last night: 9:32, 10:43, 11:21, 12:25, 2:41, 4:46, 5:28, 6:37…

“All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse.”

I can’t see the Enemy of my soul, but I know he’s there, trying to persuade the Lord my faith is self-serving, the same way he accused Job before God’s throne (Job 1:9-11). Is Satan right?

“For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.”

Like a warehouse that boasts of x number of days since its employees’ last accident, a sign hangs on the wall of my heart that reads, “0 days since your last tears”.

“My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.”

I hope my withering isn’t as evident as grass dying in the summer heat or the winter cold…because then I’d have to explain it.  Just in case it is, I devise ways to throw off the casual observer… makeup covers the evidence long nights leave behind; t-shirts hide a shrinking waistline; I’ve been rehearsing “I’m good!” with just enough inflection to make it believable on a Sunday morning.

“But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.”

Ah, this is the part of the psalm my Enemy doesn’t want me to get to. If the Lord is Lord forever, it doesn’t matter how quickly I estimate He is responding; He can take all the time He wants because all of time is His.

“You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.”

The Lord is a God of compassion and shows favor… His character has not changed since the days of Zion. I can trust He will show me compassion and favor too. But will I?

“The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.”

I guess that’s what all this destruction is about… the Lord is going to rebuild me from the inside out to make His glory evident. But will I survive the demolition phase?

“He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.”

That sounds like a promise. There are no guarantees how He will respond, only that He will respond. Do I trust His response is best, even if I don’t understand how?

“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD: ‘The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.'”

The Lord sees me. He hears me. He longs to release me that my children’s children will praise Him when they hear my story.

“So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD. In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.”

God has worn me down, not allowing me to settle for less than His best. This is actually an expression of His love for me. Will I receive it as such?

“So I said: ‘Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

My approach to life has bought me a few days, but, if I continue in my ways, in the end, my plan will result in my death. Only the Lord’s way will endure forever; if I follow Him, I will live.

“The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.”

More is on the line than just me and my life. If I serve You, You will bless my children and grandchildren. I want that legacy for them. But I have to choose; You won’t choose for me.