“Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?” Well, yes actually. Quite a lot. There are the trials of physical illness or mental stress; there are the trials of uncertainty regarding the future; there are trials as we face opposition for our faith. And then there are temptations - for our hearts are idol-making factories (as Calvin has it), and we are betrayed by our sinful longings.
In fact, there is no such thin
g as UNTESTED FAITH. Oh, we can raise our hands in worship and rejoice on Sunday, reciting our belief in the almighty Fatherliness of God ... but on Monday when we are facing chemotherapy, or on Wednesday when we have to put up with hassle at work, or how about Thursday when our own folly has led us astray - do we then trust the same Father, do we rejoice as much as we did on Sunday? That’s the acid test.
I was reminded of this ( there being no such thing as untested faith) when reading again the temptations of Jesus. In Matthew’s account his temptations are immediately preceded by his “fulfilling all righteousness “ in getting baptised, and in hearing the public commendation “you are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased” from God the Father.
Then driven by the Spirit into the wilderness Jesus goes, and the devil attacks him straightaway with the insinuation, “IF you are the Son of God.” Jesus’ faith was being tested. His trust in the almighty Fatherliness of God was coming under assault. Unlike us, of course, he didn’t give into temptation. But the trials were real.
Testings will come that our faith “more precious than gold” (as Peter says) may be proven and that praise and honour and glory may go to our glorious Saviour.
And the way that Jesus strengthened himself under such attack is open to us too: he relied on the power of Scripture, memorised, and used as a sharp sword to defeat the enemy. Of the 39 books in the Old Testament Jesus makes reference to at least 20 of them in his ministry. He quotes Scripture throughout his life indeed and when we consider that we read he grew in wisdom, this knowledge of God’s Word written wasn’t downloaded into his mind - no he had to work at memorising and studying it - as we must do if we are to emerge still trusting.
“Still near me, O my Saviour, stand,
And guard in fierce temptation’s hour;
Hide in the hollow of Thy hand,
Show forth in me Thy saving power;
Still be Thine arm my sure defence:
Nor earth nor hell shall pluck me thence” (Charles Wesley)