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No Extra Credit

Should we blame the devil every time we’re tempted and tested?

I don’t remember the exact details that prompted my friend to say it, but I do recall being a young believer at the time, struggling with something that wasn’t going my way. I carelessly blamed my difficulty on the schemes of the devil, which led to my friend’s gentle correction: “Don’t give the devil so much credit.”

It is so easy, even tempting, to assume every trial, struggle, and difficulty we face is rooted in the Enemy’s schemes. He’s delighted, of course, for this focuses our attention on our problems and away from God, providing fertile ground for the Enemy to plant doubt in our minds as to God’s goodness, power, and love.

My friend’s statement is a good one. What if we are giving the devil too much credit? Is every difficulty we face really from him?


Temptation vs. testing

I did some research and discovered that in the New Testament, the Greek word translated “temptation” (peirasmos) is the same word translated as “testing.”* Even more curious, the word is derived from the Greek word peira, which means “an experiment.” Isn’t that comforting? The word itself is neutral; the translation depends on context. If Satan is attempting to entice a person to sin, it’s translated “temptation.”

However, if God is orchestrating events in order to strengthen a person’s faith, build character, or serve some other godly purpose He ordains, then peirasmos is translated “testing.” At times, we may even think of it as two sides of the same coin. Whenever God desires to strengthen us, Satan is right there trying to tear us down. When the Enemy comes after us to steal, kill, and destroy, God is right there, taking what was meant for evil and using it for good (Genesis 50:20).

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. . . . Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:12, 13, 19, emphasis mine).

No one wants to suffer, but Scripture clearly teaches that at times God allows, even wills, suffering for good purposes. Nevertheless, just as we need to be careful not to give undue credit to the Enemy, we must never ascribe any kind of evil to God, no matter the outcome. God is holy. He never wills or orchestrates sin or tempts anyone with evil (James 1:13). If we suffer as a consequence of evil desires (whether ours or someone else’s), we can be certain it is of the devil.


Understanding suffering

On the other hand, if suffering is intended for our good, then it’s from God (Hebrews 12:6, 10). Other types of suffering are simply the tragic, but natural, consequence of living in a sin-cursed world. However, all too often we ascribe any kind of challenge as Satan’s doing.

In one sense, this is true in that, had God prevented Satan from deceiving Adam and Eve in the garden, sin and suffering would never have entered the world. Alas, sin and suffering have entered. Yet perhaps the more difficult question to grasp is why God, who is good, all wise, and all knowing, allowed it to happen.

While we may not understand why God does everything He does, He has, in His grace, revealed to us who He is: loving, holy, patient, all-knowing, good, and so much more. We must cling to these truths whenever we undergo trials and are tempted to doubt God’s wisdom, goodness, or love. It should be no surprise that whenever God orchestrates events to strengthen our character, build our faith, or draw us closer to Him, the Enemy will be lurking in the shadows, looking for an opportunity to entice us away from God.

May we, like the apostle Paul, resolve to trust in God’s revelation of Himself and, if we must suffer, to trust He will empower us to even rejoice in our ordeal: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . .” (Romans 5:3, 4).

The word rejoice in the above passage is kauchometha in Greek and literally means “to boast.” Therefore Paul is not suggesting that we should enjoy suffering, but rather that we can boast in what it will accomplish for God’s glory.


Genuine faith

Finally, like Abraham who was called to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah, we can trust in God even in the testing of our faith. He never tests us because He needs to assess our faith. God is omniscient; we are the ones who are uncertain. God tests our faith so that we can praise Him (“boast” of Him) when we discover that our faith, a gift from God himself, is truly genuine.

Then, in light of this precious gift, we can truly rejoice:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [who] caused us to be born again to a living hope . . . to an inheritance . . . kept in heaven for you. . . . In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3, 4, 6, 7).

Rather than blame the devil for everything bad that comes along, we can keep the right perspective, knowing that God is working all things for good in our lives.


*       In the Old Testament, there is no Hebrew word translated “temptation.”

Shadia Hrichi writes from San Jose, CA. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.