Secrets of the Lord's Prayer: How Can We Affect Our Tests, Trials, and Temptations?
"Lead us not into temptation..." (Matt. 6:13a)
Part 2 of this article on temptation left us thinking about the idea that God uses difficulties, circumstances, and temptations to move us to the next level of spiritual maturity. While He never tempts us, He does allow the Devil to, because God has bigger plans in mind for us. He sees them as opportunities for our growth. For past articles in the Lord's Prayer series, click HERE.
Have you ever thought about the role we play in our own difficulties? We have a lot to do with the test, trials, and temptations we go through in life -- it's not all arbitrary and random. We so often assume that we are like Jesus, perfect in what we are doing, and therefore, the difficulties are someone else's fault. The truth is that we are not like Jesus, and many of our difficulties, temptations, and trials are our own fault. If we had made different decisions, used different words, or had different attitudes, so many of our difficulties would disappear. Our issues are drawn to us because of how we act. We are responsible and can change the temptations that face us by embracing our responsibility and dialoguing with God about the testing we're bound for.
Let's look at this very practically. If I walk into a bar and find the largest meanest looking man in there and I punch him in the face, I should expect to be beat up as a result. If I ignore my spouse and children every night when they want to talk, I should not be surprised when they don't want to have anything to do with me in five years. These are the results of what I did. Because of the way I have acted, spoken, reacted, I have drawn certain difficulties, temptations, and trials into my life. You can ask the Lord, "Is there any way that I caused or drew this difficulty into my life?" That is a dialogue worth having. The people around us can see that we create our problems through how we act, but we are often so blinded. God wants to talk about this with you. Our problems repeat because we have not grown so as to repel and avoid certain problems.
We tend to see a problem whereas God is sending an opportunity. I have found in my mentoring and counseling ministry that people can get locked into a way of seeing a person or a situation and they cannot get free until they start using a different metaphor to explain the situation. They see a person as always opposing them because their requests receive a "no," but if the person is approached as a mentor or coach, then the picture changes. God will lead you to dialogues with others out of your dialogues with Him. Only as you see the problems and issues differently will the path to growth and joy become obvious.
Jesus wants us to prepare for our tests, trials, and temptations by passing out of some of them and growing up before some of them occur, so that they are not necessary life lessons we have to go through. Let's say it this way. There are problems, difficulties, and temptations barreling toward you because of the choices you are making. Many of these can be avoided if you will dialogue with God and others about the difficulties you have and are currently facing. You and I can pass out of many of these with different choices, different actions, and different words.
I have found that the tests and trials come through our relational categories. Sometimes it is more than one relational category, but usually not all. Take a look at each category and ask yourself, "How am I being tested, tried, or tempted in my relationship with __________?"
Spirituality: Your relationship with God
Personal Development: Your relationship with yourself: mental, spiritual, emotional and physical
Marital/Romantic: Your relationship with your spouse
Family: Your relationship with your family, both immediate and extended
Work: Your relationship with your work, career, businesses and bosses, colleagues and subordinates
Church: Your relationship with your church and/or support system
Money: Your relationship with your money, trying not to have it become a god
Friends: Your relationship with your friends
Society: Your relationship with your community, region, and nation
Enemies: Your relationship with those who oppose you or are your rivals
God goes about wanting to move us forward in each of these relationships. He must test and train us to be able to bless us with the new responsibilities, opportunities, or relationships before He gives them. Which of the above are you facing a good deal of conflict, tension, fear, or set back in. It is these that you need to look for the test, the trial. What is God trying to teach? What do you need to learn?
I hope this holiday season is a time to stay really close to God and reflect on the joy and wonder of our savior's birth. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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The Fruit of the Spirit explained simply and with relevance for today.
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