Temptation Matthew 6:13

"Lead us not into temptation."

The original and true meaning of the word "temptation" is simply a "trial," or a "test." Anything which tries a man's mettle, puts him to the proof, reveals the real character of his heart, is a temptation in the true sense of the word. This is its meaning in Holy Scripture, and this was also its only meaning in English at the time of the translation of our Authorized Version. Viewed in this light, every experience of life is a temptation. Our joys and sorrows, our health or sickness, our work or play, our adversity and prosperity can and do put us to the test quite as effectively as Eve's temptation in the Garden of Eden.

1. The Christian, while in the world, has to face the temptations and dangers of the world; and, so long as there is any evil within him, he will be prone to yield to these. Only after a race, a race run in much weakness, it may be with many falls and bruises, does he obtain the prize. Only after a fight, a fight with the evil within him, around him, a fight which he is at times tempted to abandon in despair, is the victory his. Therefore it is that our Lord, to the petition for forgiveness, adds the further petition, "Lead us not into temptation." As that points to the past, this points to the future. When we pray, "Forgive us our debts," we think of contracted guilt which we ask God to cancel, liabilities we have failed to meet which we ask Him to pardon. When we pray "and lead us" (or "bring us") "not into temptation," we think of the temptations and difficulties which are lying before us, and ask for the needful grace and strength to meet them. It is as if with the Psalmist we cried, "Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?"

2. But it may be asked: "Why should we thus pray to God? Do we not know that, as He ‘cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man' " (Jam 1:13)? Yes; but God may permit temptation. He does not, like the tempter, stand on the side of temptation, and desire to see evil result from it; but He may at times place a man in such a situation that it is very easy for him to do wrong, very hard for him to do right. Thus we read of our Lord Himself that He was "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1). He was as much under the guidance and direction of God then as when He went down into the water to be baptized; and because His will was in perfect harmony with the will of God, He successfully overcame the temptation. And so, when we look forward to the temptations which must meet us in the world, what petition can be more natural for us than that God should not bring us into such as may prove too strong for us? It is our prayer of conscious weakness, the weakness which shrinks from the danger by which it may be overcome; or, in the words of the Shorter Catechism, it is the prayer "that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted."

3. If we are following Christ fully, we will not hesitate to go with Him into any experience, however perilous it may be. "He that saveth his life shall lose it." Yet so much is involved in temptation, such possibilities of defeat and failure are dependent on the issue, that we dare not desire to enter into it. It is presumptuous to clamour to be led into the conflict. More than once Jesus warned His disciples to watch, that they might not enter into temptation. He knew how inadequate their courage and strength would prove in battle with the Evil One, how their faith would fail in the moment of assault. We read of soldiers sick of camp, and chafing to be led against the enemy, but the Christian who is impatient to be tempted is very foolish. Temptation is too terrible an experience to be rushed into, unled by God.

to be continued