Proper guidance is vital to success in any endeavor. Many people are open to accepting guidance for their physical and mental lives, but, tragically, when it comes to their spiritual life, they depend on faulty, erring guidance systems.
In the gospel of Luke, as the Lord’s model prayer comes to a conclusion, we read these words of Jesus: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Luke 11:4. The phrase, “lead us not into temptation …’’ is a prayer for divine leadership. Not only are we to ask for our daily bread and ask to be forgiven, but we also need daily guidance and leadership as we face life’s daily temptations.
A woman taken in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus with the accusation, ‘Now Moses said that a person taken in adultery like this should be stoned. But what do You say?’ They said this to lay a trap for Jesus, because if He said, ‘No, give mercy to her,’ then they would go to the people and say, ‘He doesn’t believe in the law of Moses.’ But if He said, ‘She should be stoned,’ then they would go to the Romans and say, ‘This man said that this woman should be stoned.’ ” The Jews did not have authority on their own to use capital punishment without the Roman’s permission. Either way that Jesus answered their question would get Him in trouble.
Scripture continues that Jesus stooped down and started to write on the ground the sins of the people who had brought this woman to Him, beginning with the oldest. As He wrote they became embarrassed. The Bible says, “… beginning with the eldest until the last and there was nobody left.” “When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ ” (See John 8:1–11.)
Notice the blessed assurance that Jesus provided the sinner. He assured her that “Neither do I condemn you.” Your sins are forgiven. It was immediately followed by the command to go, sin no more. The command to “go,” calls for progress and advancement, which always requires guidance. All moving things need to be directed. Unless directed in their proper course, they will come to a tragic end. That is true for airplanes, ships, cars, or any moving object. They must be directed. We are not left to travel alone, undirected, down the dark pathway of life. God has promised that if we ask Him, He will guide us, directing us with His eye.
The consciousness that human wisdom is faulty, causing us to make mistakes, leads us to request divine guidance for the future. The phrase, “lead us not into temptation” is considered by many Bible students to be the most difficult of all the petitions of the Lord’s prayer. In fact, some theologians believe that the early church, consisting of the early Christians in the first century, misunderstood it. As a result, the apostle James corrected their misunderstanding.
To impress the fact that it was not God Who was the source of our temptations, He said, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:12–17.
God is not tempted with evil and He does not tempt anyone. Part of the problem comes because of the faultiness of human language. An example of this is Genesis 22.1. Some versions of the Bible read, “It came to pass after these things that God tempted Abraham.” So people have been confused when in one place it says that God tempted Abraham and in the New Testament it says that God does not tempt anybody. Most modern translations say in Genesis 22 that God tested Abraham. There are many places in the Bible where God tests people. However, He does not tempt people or try to persuade or entice them to sin. That is the work of the devil and of the fallen human nature of man.
The main source of temptation is within us as we read in James 1. Therefore, a mere prayer for pardon is not sufficient; we need guidance or direction in our life. The original word for temptation used in the Lord’s Prayer literally means trial or test as it is translated in many other places in the Bible. For example, in James the 1:2–4 it says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
This is not a prayer that we will be kept from temptation, but that we will be divinely led during our temptation so that we will be kept from yielding to it. If we were to ask not to have temptation, we would be making a request that is impossible to be fulfilled in this world of sin. God never asks for us to do the impossible. Even Jesus Christ did not escape temptation. Notice what it says about His temptations in Hebrews 4:14–16, speaking of Jesus Christ: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest Who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Notice that even Jesus had temptations. The Bible speaks of His being tempted by the devil. He was in all points tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). Temptation must not be confused with sin. “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin …” Jesus did not yield to the temptation. There is no other way that you and I can develop the moral character that we need to enter the kingdom of heaven except through overcoming temptation.
As the gospel song says, “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.” [Yield Not To Temptation, Horatio R. Palmer, 1868.] All people are tempted, but all people do not yield to the temptation. It is through this process of resisting temptation that we grow in grace (II Peter 3:18). In Revelation 2 and 3 to each one of the Christian churches the promise of eternal life is given on the basis of being an overcomer. Even right at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:6, 7 it says, “He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’ ” To turn away from sin and overcome is a principle that is repeated throughout the Bible.
In the Bible, sometimes the Lord is spoken of as doing something Himself that He just permits someone else to do. God does not originate or approve of all the things that He allows to happen in this world but He does permit trials and afflictions to come to both good and evil people. The reason for this is so that we might overcome the temptation and become partakers of His holiness (see Hebrews 12).
The tests, the trials, the afflictions that we have in this life sometimes turn out to be blessings in disguise. In fact, in Romans 8:28, there is a promise that is so wonderful that it is very hard to believe while going through the trial. It says, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Now, it doesn’t say that all things are good, but that He can work all things, even those most difficult for us, into something that ultimately results in good, according to His purpose.
God allows the trials to come so that we can discern the impurities of our character so that they, through His grace, can be removed. Often we do not recognize the divine leadership and purpose in our trials and temptations that God allows to come to us, but someday it will all be made plain. We read many stories in the Bible of people who experienced terrible trials and discouragements and could not understand why God allowed such things to happen to them. Jacob once lamented that, “All these things are against me” (Genesis 42:36). He had lost Joseph and now Benjamin was going to be taken away. He thought that he was going to lose the only children he had from the one woman that he really loved. Although he thought that all these were against him, in a few weeks he not only had Benjamin back, but Joseph as well.
The Lord worked out all things together for good, although Jacob thought for a time everything was against him and it would all work out terribly. The same thing happened with David. For approximately ten years, David fled for his life before an infuriated king who stirred up the people against him, forcing him to live in caves and haunts in many desolate places wondering how he would ever become the king of Israel, as the Lord had promised him. But in spite of all those things, God eventually worked it out.
Romans 8:28 says that if you love God, all things will work together. It is not our responsibility to work it all out. God will work it out so that all things, even the evil things that happen to us, will be pulled together to work it out for our good in the end. This is very difficult to believe while going through severe tests and trials, but that is the Bible promise. The prophets Malachi and Isaiah have said that all of God’s children have to go through the furnace of affliction or trial. Trust God, for He has a purpose in our trials. When they are over, something wonderful is going to happen.
In this world, with our limited human vision, we struggle to see through the confusion, broken promises, disappointment and thwarted plans, but the Bible promises that when we reach the end of the Christian journey, we will be able to see in all of it a grand and overruling purpose and divine harmony. Malachi prophesied what the Lord will do in the last days. “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3.
The Bible clearly predicts that God’s remnant people, His children in the very last days of earth’s history, will go through a great tribulation, but it also promises that the Lord will bring them out of it.
Notice what John wrote in Revelation 7:9, 10: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues [languages], standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ”
Then it says in verses 13, 14 that one of the elders answered and asked the apostle John, who was having this vision, “Who are these?” “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ”
You see, God is going to lead His children out of the great tribulation that is coming upon this world. The Bible says that the devil has come down to this world having great wrath. In Revelation 12:12, it says, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows he has a short time.”
The devil knows that his days are numbered and that he has a short time to work out his plans of wickedness. He does have control of the majority of human beings in this world but in an effort to have full control of the world, he puts forth his last effort to take out those who claim Christ. If you have read the rest of the story you know that he does not win, for there will be a multitude that nobody can number that have come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes of character and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. It may not appear that way at present, but Satan is a loser.
We are not left alone to fight our adversary. Jesus said, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10. The promise here made is that during the refining and purifying process, there will be divine guidance that we will be kept from falling. Temptation is always inspired by the devil, but it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus Christ into the wilderness to meet the temptation and to conquer it.
The person who asks for pardon for past offenses against God will then make every effort to avoid future transgressions and seek for the blessing of holiness or sanctification. The Bible tells us what the devil uses to tempt people. Understanding the source of the temptations will help to know how to meet them. The Bible says, “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. For all that is in the world—the lust [or craving] of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” I John 2:15–17.
Divine assistance is needed in meeting these trials or temptations, but the Bible pronounces a blessing on the person who endures. Notice this text again in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
If we expect God to keep us when we are in temptation, we need to see to it that we do not deliberately walk into temptation. It is an interesting thing that some people pray and say, “Lord, lead me not into temptation” then presume to be protected when they deliberately walk in temptation’s way.
In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night that Jesus was betrayed, He gave some advise to His disciples that they neglected at that time. He said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41.
Notice, it is because we are in constant danger of entering into temptation that we should pray not to be led where we will be tempted to sin. If we are sincere in our prayer, we will avoid walking directly into the allurements of the flesh which so easily tempt us.
The Bible predicts that a multitude of people in the last days will lose eternal life because, instead of praying to be guided away from temptation, they deliberately walk into temptation and have pleasure in unrighteousness. Paul says to these people, “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” II Thessalonians 2:11, 12.
How is it with you friend? Are you praying that the Lord will guide you and lead you so that you will not walk into the way of temptation, or do you seek pleasure in unrighteousness? The choice is ours; help is only a prayer away. All the resources of heaven have been commissioned to save lost man so put your trust in Jesus today. Reflect on the words of the gospel song:
So I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He’s brought me through.
‘Cause if I never had a problem,
I wouldn’t know that He could solve them,
I wouldn’t know what faith in His Word could do.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.