Investigating the Bible: Tests, temptations, and evil for eternity

A religious man faced some strong temptation. The enticement was winning, since he prayed, “Please Lord, give me strength to resist this temptation, but not now!” On any drive to a local store, there can be something lurking to wedge into our weaknesses: Breaking the speed limit, alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods, gambling, road rage, and much more. And we may face painful difficulties or illness. Jesus gave his followers a prayer that responds to the challenge of temptations and troubles.

The Lord’s Prayer is often recited in churches each week. Jesus said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9-13, English Standard Version, used throughout).

Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to ask that God not lead them into temptation? Satan is usually identified as the one leading people into temptation. He came into the garden to test Adam and Eve. Satan afflicted Job to turn him against God, bringing the death of his family, deprivation, and disease on his body. Satan tempted Jesus at the beginning of this ministry. So why would Jesus tell his followers to ask that God not walk them into some problematic place? Jesus’ words model a humble person’s request, with recognition of his weakness and desire for God’s serenity. An expanded statement of this part of the prayer could be, “Instead of allowing a gauntlet of trials and hardships, please protect and keep us in a safe place.”

The latter part of that verse in the Lord’s prayer states the inevitable reality, that evil will come to test believers. They need not ask for it. So believers must ask and look for God’s deliverance. Evil is clearly in our world, in our daily news. Recently in Wyoming, 14-year-old Bobby Mahn defended his girlfriend, who was being harassed and followed by two other teens in a shopping mall. Bobby tried to walk away. They followed him into the parking lot and stabbed him to death.

Evil is also internal. Jesus said. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and they defile the person.” (Mark 7:20-23).

Regardless of these challenges, the Bible offers promises of hope and help. For assaults of evil on believers from the world, the apostle Paul wrote, “So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” (II Timothy 4:17-18). Jewish King David, who encountered many obstacles, wrote, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalms 8:9). For internal struggles, Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:13).

Prayer is available for everyone whenever a difficulty looms. In 1975, a long drought had parched the western Plains and no rain was in the forecast. Lieutenant Governor George Nigh of Oklahoma proclaimed a state-wide day of prayer for rain to be observed by all churches and citizens across the state on Sunday, Feb. 29, 1975. Only a few days later, on March 2 and 3, up to 1½ inches of rain fell, ending the drought and the state held a day of Thanksgiving the next Sunday.

David Carlson Pastor (yes, that is his last name, not his profession) is a Polk County, resident and graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in Minnesota (M.Div., M.Th.)


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