Mark 1:9-13
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” 12 Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

Generally, these two parts of Jesus’ story are separated as two different aspects of the story.  We secretly have an issue with accepting that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.  Why?  Because we don’t want at accept the fact that God puts us in difficult situations to grow.  In James 1, we read about the beauty and blessing of having our faith tested:

[quote]2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God “; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.[/quote]

When we are tempted by the devil, we are being tested by God.  We aren’t being tested by the devil, because he doesn’t care if we win, only if we lose.  Rather, God is using the devil as a mechanism to help us grow in our faith.  He endured it with the Holy Spirit and so can we; He set the example for us to follow.  Notice how Jesus didn’t even do it on His own,  He was urged by the Holy Spirit.  That indicates to us that first He had a relationship with the Holy Spirit to know where to go and second it was strong enough to rely on Him throughout the trial.  The testing of our faith, as James related to us, is so we can learn to rely on God more and increase in our relationship with Him through His Spirit that resides in us.

In Isaiah, God speaks to the nation of Israel for being stubborn by not listening to God.  Instead of destroying them, however, he uses their ignorance as a testing ground so they may grow and mature.  In chapter 48 we read:

[quote]8 “You have not heard, you have not known. Even from long ago your ear has not been open, Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; And you have been called a rebel from birth. 9 “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. 10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.[/quote]

God uses trials and affliction in our lives to refine us in order to better glorify Him.  If we think that our refining is just for our own sake, we are still thinking with a self-centered mindset.  Our faithfulness to God is only for His glory, not for us to tout our piety like the Pharisees did and many of us do today.  Our purpose here on earth is to glorify God, so why then would He set us up to fail?  This was James’ point in verse 13 about not saying we are being tempted by God.  Temptation has a goal of getting one to fail.  Testing has a goal of refining the person or thing tested in order to be stronger.  A samurai sword is tested in the fire and forged many times over.  When it is finished, it is not worshipped or praised, but the forger is.  This is the same process we go through in order to bring praise, honor, and worship to God the Creator.

So then, if we truly want to honor and praise and worship God and fulfill our purpose here on Earth of bringing Him honor and praise and worship, then we must…consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds.  These aren’t things that just happen to us because it is a broken world.  These are things that happen to us because God wants to refine and perfect you for His purpose.  As much as I love chapter 1 of James, I’ve never been able to see it this way because the world tells us “consider it bad luck when you encounter various trials.  Run for the hills, change your relationships, look for comfort and immediate satisfaction.  Whatever you do, complain about it because it sucks.”  Then we try to force ourselves to like it because God tells us to and we feel guilty because not only did we fail the test, but we also weren’t very happy about the process.  Unfortunately, we see the testing of our faith as a pass or fail event in which we almost always see ourselves as a failure.

Thankfully, the testing of our faith isn’t about passing or failing, it is about growing.  You can only fail the testing of your faith if you don’t grow from it.  Your perseverance under trial isn’t about winning, it is about surrendering it all to God because he has already won it!  The maturity of our faith is seen in our recognition that it isn’t about us doing it on our own, but relying on the one who already did it!  Once we realize this simple principle, we will start to see our own transformation from a piece of raw iron to a sturdy and sharp blade.

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