BIBLE STUDIES

TEST AND TRIALS

1. Introduction

 

A few days ago the Lord spoke to me and told me to start a study on testing. Specifically on daily and circumstantial testing.

 

In this study we are going to try to analyze these two classes of testing and see if the Lord gives us understanding and clarity.

 

1.1 Analysis of the word test

 

Before getting into the study, I found it necessary to do an analysis of the word “test” in the New Testament. The word that is translated as test is: πειρασμός (peirasmos).

 

When we do an analysis of the occurrence of this word in the New Testament, we see that this word is used a total of 21 times, and has been translated in different ways (tests, temptation, trial) :

 

 

If the translation of the word “test” can also be translated as “temptation”, what do we do with the verse from James that says that God does not tempt anyone, nor can he be tempted?

 

James 1:13–15 (ESV)

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

 

After all, doesn't the Bible say that the Lord tests?

 

Psalm 66:10 (ESV)

10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

 

Proverbs 17:3 (ESV)

3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.

 

Jeremiah 12:3 (ESV)

3 But you, O Lord, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.

 

John 6:6 (ESV)

6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

 

So, how can we solve this possible contradiction? We know that the Bible is inspired by God and that there is no contradiction (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1: 20–21, John 17:17, Psalm 119: 160)

 

Although this question may seem, a priori, a contradiction, in reality it is not at all. As always we are going to solve all doubts, because one thing is clear, as Paul said in another context (Romans 3: 4) but very applicable to this "let God be true, though every one were a liar”.

 

 1.2 The intentionality of the temptation vs the test

 

The translation of the word πειρασμός (peirasmos) by tests or temptations has been chosen by the translators with great rigor, understanding the context and with the intention that we better understand the concept of the difference between temptation and test.

 

In order to understand this concept that the Bible speaks of, we have to differentiate between intentionality when we speak of trials and temptations. The difference is great and it is so important that this is why James makes an emphasis on it. For this reason, it is necessary for us to make a clarification, so that the intention behind the word πειρασμός (peirasmos) is clear to us. As one intention can be from God, and as another intention, never, as James says, can come from God.

 

  • God's intention (test): God's intention of testing is to overcome and be victorious on his behalf by us being submitted to his word and in obedience to his precepts. Behind the test that comes from God there is never a malicious intention for us to fall into sin. This is why, so that we are not confused, the translators have used the word "test" correctly.

 

It is for this reason that James says:

 

James 1:13–15 (ESV)

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

 

James says it because God is holy, He has no sin. His intention is never for us to fall because He is love and He is righteous. When God tests us, it is so that we grow in our relationship with Him. So that we are closer to Him. So that we depend more on Him. The test that comes from God is to demonstrate our hope placed on Him, our obedience, and it is always for good, because the end is not sin, but victory over sin.

 

1 John 2:12–17 (ESV)

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

  • The intention on the part of the enemy (temptation): This is when the difference between trial and temptation is made. Temptation is something that is caused and rooted for evil ends, for a sinful result. The intention behind the temptation is that we fall. This is what the enemy wants, that we fall into temptation, that we sin and that we turn away from God.

 

God tests according to his nature (for our good, with beneficial intentions for our souls, to draw us closer to him). On the other hand, Satan tempts according to his nature (for our demise, with evil intentions for our souls, to distance us from God). However, we have to realize that no temptation is something that cannot be resisted, but God will provide the way of escape:

 

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

Although these are the main variants that we see regarding the origin of the test / temptation, it is not only those two that the Lord has revealed to us through His Word. There is a third variant which has a harmful end to our souls and it’s origin is found in ourselves:

 

The intention of part of our sin (temptation): In this case, the reason for the temptation does not come from a third person (Satan), nor is it a test of the Lord, but rather it is our own will rooted in a sinful nature (enticed by our own sinful nature or lust). This is the temptation James speaks of when he says:

 

James 1:13–15 (ESV)

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

 

1.3 Translation of the word lust in the NT:

The word translated as "lust" in Greek is the word "ἐπιθυμία". It is a word that is repeated 38 times in the NT. On 18 of these occasions the word is translated directly as "desire" in the ESV, the rest of the times the same Word is translated as “passion, covet, to long,  earnest and lust.”

 

ἐπιθυμία, ας, ἡ (s. ἐπιθυμέω; Pre-Socr., Hdt.+):

1) a great desire for something, desire, longing, craving,

2)  a desire for something forbidden or simply inordinate,

[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 372). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Meaning of Lust: The Greek term epithumia is translated as "desires" (Rom. 13:14; Eph. 2: 3). In the same way as with the word ”test” in its original language, the word "epitumia" can have good and bad connotations depending on the intentionality. For example, when the Lord Jesus says: " I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer " he is using that same word (epithumia = how much I have desired [Lk. 22:15]) - We also see it on other occasions when Paul tells the Philippians that he wishes to be with them.

 

However, if the intentionality does not come rooted in the love that comes from God, the word is used to indicate the evil inclination of our fallen nature, which produces desires, illegitimate greed, exaggerated, disorderly, sinful desires.

 

Romans 1:24

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

 

1 Peter 4:2–3 (ESV)

2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions (epithumia) but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions (epithumia), drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Therefore, lust is about a singular desire originated in a person based on his own willingness to fulfill his passions.

 

Although God's intention is that we pass the test (πειρασμός / peirasmos) to grow in Him, to be closer to Him, and also if we have understood that the temptation (πειρασμός / peirasmos) that comes from Satan comes with the intention that we fall and sin, the temptation (πειρασμός / peirasmos) that comes from our own heart is made to please ourselves, to please our desires.

 

Perhaps this is the type of temptation (πειρασμός / peirasmos) to which we pay the least attention, to which less importance is given, and perhaps it is also the one that hurts us the most.

 

1.4  The importance of testing

 

Once we have already understood that the word πειρασμός / peirasmos is a word that can be translated as test or as temptation, once we have been able to make the distinction of intentionality when it comes to knowing what type of word to use, and taking into consideration that translators have used a good criteria when translating into our current understanding of certain words depending on the context in which they are found, from now on, we will continue with the biblical text by analyzing each type of test or temptation to which we are subjected each day to evaluate what the Lord wants from us.

 

Tests are important, first we must understand that there is nothing that surprises God because He knows how we would react in any situation. But testing is very important to us because:

 

  • They show us where we are in our relationship with the Lord: Many times it is very easy to say "I would do this and this in this situation" and sometimes we even advise people on how they should act, until we are the ones who are being tested. Testing is where we really see who we are. Are we going to depend more on the Lord or are we going to blame Him for our situation? Note: later in the study we will see how God's servants faced trials, so that we can understand from their example.

 

  • Tests demonstrate to others how God's children act under difficult circumstances: We understand this when the trial is faced in a correct way. Non-believers, including other Christians, will be influenced by our dependence on and blessing of God during trials.

 

  • Also, it is a way that God has to show the enemy that we are his children:

 

Job 2:1–6 (ESV)

1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

 

How did Job react to this?

 

Job 2:7–10 (ESV)

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

2. God's Tests

 

To begin this analysis, we are going to start examining the tests that come from God. As we have been indicating from the beginning, this is a way that the Lord has to test our hearts, to see how we react to different circumstances, to test our obedience and our faith. Although, many times we think that the test is to show God how we are, in reality, we are not going to surprise God by our way of reacting. The reality is that the intention is also  (1) a way that God has to show the enemy that we are his children, faithful and obedient to him and (2) so that we see ourselves as we are.

 

It is important to always remember that the Lord's intention may also be to show the enemy that we are his children (of God) and that sin does not rule over us

 

The latter is important, because sometimes when we are faced with a test from God, our reaction to us not passing the test is to think that nothing is wrong either, that it is no big deal, that everyone sins. Instead of reacting in a way in which we see that we have been disobedient, acknowledging we have damaged the heart of God and have fallen short of what is to be a child of God.

 

2.1 Different types of tests from God

 

God tests his people in different ways. These types of tests can be both individual and collective. Both the individual test and the collective test aim to get us closer to God. However, it should be noted that the end of the test does not always have to be a positive end in terms of what the people would call  “a good end”. In the same way, if the end result of the test ends in a negative outcome according to the world’s standards does not suggest that the test was passed in an approved or godly way either. Everything will depend on our way of facing the test. We will see this in more detail in the following points.

 

Henceforth, we will see that God's tests can be divided into two:

 

1. Personal tests

 

2. Collective tests

 

2.2 Personal tests

 

These are about the tests that God does to his children individually. The intention behind these tests remains the same as always: that we get closer to him, that we depend more on him and that we show that we really are faithful to him and love him as we say.

We see this type of evidence in many places in the Bible and in different situations. Here below we are going to mention some and then we are going to analyze them in more detail:

 

  1. Sporadic tests

  2. Daily tests

  3. Momentary tests

  4. Final tests

 

2.2.1 Sporadic Tests

 

This type of test describes a test that arises at a sporadic moment. It is a test that God submits his children to at a certain time for a certain purpose. For example, in the Bible we see cases of this type as when Paul was shipwrecked (Acts 27) and ended up in Malta. It was a one time occurrence where Paul was put to the test.

 

In this example we see how the ship that Paul was traveling on was subjected to a strong storm where they spent some time without eating and where they did not see the sun or the stars (Acts 27.20):

 

Acts 27:20 (ESV)

20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

 

Paul's faith was tested that day, yet he did not lose hope. As he said to everyone on the boat:

 

Acts 27:21–26 (ESV)

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”

 

What do we learn from this example?

 

• Faced with trial and uncertainty, Paul trusted the message he received from the angel of God.

• He did not doubt the message or the vision saying: "it was the fruit of my imagination because I had not eaten in many days".

• How many times has God spoken to us through dreams or visions and have we doubted Him?

 

Many might say: if an angel of God appears to us saying this, we would also react calmly. However, the Lord speaks to us in dreams, in prophecies, and through the Bible in many circumstances and yet we still have no faith or complain against God.

 

Here below, we are going to put other examples, among many of this style that we see in the Bible:

 

Example 1 Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh: When the Lord told Moses and Aaron to throw the rod before Pharaoh so that it would become a snake (Exodus 7: 8-13). The faith of Moses and Aaron could be tested by God at this moment, both in trusting God to say this before Pharaoh, and in trusting that God was going to perform the miracle by throwing the rod to the ground, as when the Pharaoh's sorcerers succeeded in performing the same miracle, but Aaron's rod devoured their snakes:

 

Exodus 7:8–13 (ESV)

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ ” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

 

What do we learn from this example?

 

  • Trust in the word of God given by Moses (Aaron did not hesitate)

  • Before the threats of the enemy and the miracles on the part of the evil hosts, do not be intimidated, but remain confident in the power of God.

  • How many times, faced with the opposition of the enemy, do we continue to trust in God or do we allow ourselves to be overcome by his “power”?

 

Example 2 Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22: 1-24): God tested Abraham on a specific occasion when he told him that he had to offer his son. In fact, we clearly see how it was a test because the same text tells us:

 

Genesis 22:1–2 (ESV)

1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

 

This time we see how Abraham experiences a unique or sporadic test. We see that Abraham's way of reacting was as should be expected of a servant of God. He did not try to evade God's call, he did not try to say that maybe it was not from the Lord and that it was his imagination.

 

In fact, Abraham got up early, saddled his donkey and what he needed to travel, took two of his servants, his son Isaac and cut wood for the burnt offering and went to where God had sent him (v3) . He did everything with the intention of doing what God commanded him:

 

Genesis 22:9–14 (ESV)

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

 

One of the things we learn is that Abraham was so sure that he was going to do what God commanded him, that he thought it would be a possibility that God would raise Isaac from the dead, once he had committed the sacrifice that God asked of him:

 

Hebrews 11:17–19 (ESV)

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

 

In this specific test we see many things that we must learn from. Among others, we see how (1) not only did Abraham not try to evade the Lord's command with excuses, (2) how his intention was to carry out the Lord's command, but we also see (3) how he trusted and believed in the Lord's firm promise , in his word:

 

Genesis 21:12 (ESV)

12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.

 

In this specific test we see many things that we must learn from:

 

  • 1. Abraham did not try to evade the Lord's command with excuses.

  • 2. His intention was to carry out the Lord's command.

  • He trusted and believed in the firm promise of the Lord, in his word

Example 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3: 1–30): In this sporadic test Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were in Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue of seventy cubits high and six cubits wide.

 

On the day of the dedication of the statue (v3), the king's herald said the following (V4-6) “4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

When all the people heard the music, they fell down and worshiped the golden statue except for three Jewish men (12). The reason was because they knew that God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14) and that making sculpture or cast image was an abomination to the Lord (Deuteronomy 27:15) and whoever made it was cursed:

 

Exodus 34:14 (ESV)

14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

 

Deuteronomy 27:15 (ESV)

15 “ ‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’

 

As it is well known, Nebuchadnezzar called these three Jewish men, threatened them that if the next time they did not do as he ordered, then they would be thrown into a fiery furnace (v13-15):

 

Daniel 3:13–15 (ESV)

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

 

Their response to the test was easy, they were going to follow the Lord's command at all costs because they knew, like Abraham, that God had the power to take them out of the furnace, and if not, in any case, they were not going to serve any of their gods (v16-18):

 

Daniel 3:16–18 (ESV)

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

Faced with their response, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with anger and ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than normal, so much so that the people who tied them were consumed by the flames of fire (V22). However, their plan did not bear fruit, as God delivered them by sending an angel (according to the words of Nebuchadnezzar himself - v28), or as those of his council said, one whose appearance was similar to a son of the gods (V25) and had to exalt the true God, to the point that he said by decree that anyone who speaks blasphemy against their God should be dismembered and his house turned into a dung (v29).

 

What can we learn?

 

  • Faced with the loyal response of these three servants of God, the end seemed even more cruel for them

  • They did not back down from threats

  • They trusted in God, knowing that He could get them out of this situation

  • They also had in mind that they could have been burned and died for God’s cause

  • Be that as it may, they were never going to submit to the worship of idols (which are demons according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10: 19–20)

 

This test was important, because, although it was unique, it could have been a final test where they died as martyrs for the Lord. However, they were firm in the face of this possibility knowing that in the end they would go to be with the Lord.

 

 

Next week, we will see examples of failures in the Bible when facing sporadic testing:

 
 

 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

ROMANS 8:38-39