Deuteronomy 7-9, Psalm 55
We are to avoid temptations and no one enjoys trials when we are going through them. It has been said that no one knows what's in a sponge until it's squeezed, just like we don't know what's going deep within ourselves until we are squeezed. When it comes to temptations we are to treat them radically, we are not to flirt with them. If you are tempted by someone on Facebook, defriend them. If you are tempted along the way to work, one pastor in NYC said he altered his path so as to avoid the particular temptation. If you are an alcoholic and a bartender, it's time to change vocations. If you keep falling into drug use because of the friends you hang out with, it's time for new friends. Temptations come by way of the flesh, the world, and the demonic horde and we are to resist them. Trials come by way of God and are used for our growth. The purpose of trials is to test our heart and bring about humility. Trials allow us to see the truth of our hearts. Though no one enjoys trials, if we are to be used by God we need humility and cannot allow pride to rule our heart. It is so easy to become mesmerized with our daily lives to the exclusion of God. However, God offers us something so much better. While on this earth, He offers us the incomparable riches of the Spirit-filled life. After death, He offers us heaven, our Promised Land.
Moses reminds the people in Deuteronomy 8:2-5 of God's testing and trials, "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you." Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4, when being tempted in the desert by Satan. Why did God do this to the Israelites, He explains in Deuteronomy 8:7, "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land,...". They were being given a land full of material blessing which they did not work for or earn. Many pastors in the prosperity or "name it and claim it" group will use this to promise material blessings for their listeners. But these material blessings were particular for the Israelites. Many of us may never see the material blessings of the Spirit-filled life. But we are offered the inexpressible joy of the life given fully to God, much better than anything the world has to offer. Better than this we one day get to spend eternity, which is the bulk of our existence, continually with Him. There the blessings are more than any person can describe. Moses warned them that like the forty-year journey, the remainder of their lives would be a marathon. He then warns them what will happen if they forget God in Deuteronomy 8:18-20, "And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth,...Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God."
There are so many wrong paths to take. Many mistakenly flirt with temptation believing they are strong enough in themselves to resist, only to get burnt. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." If being tempted, we must lean on the strength of God to resist rather than rely on our own feeble strength. When God is blessing us along our journey with Him, there is a tendency to be puffed up with pride and forget the true source of these blessings, God. We should never forget Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." God wants us to free ourselves from the bondage of this world. He offers this for us both while in this world and in eternity. Because of this, Paul could say with confidence in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: