By Allen White
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13
Is Jesus implying that if we don’t pray this, then God is leading us directly into temptation? That seems odd. Bible translators have wrestled with this sentence too. Some say, “lead us not into testing.” Another interprets, “keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” Who’s leading what where?
We know from Scripture that God doesn’t tempt us. “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Temptation comes from our flesh (Matthew 26:41) and from the devil (1 Corinthians 7:5).
God’s role in temptation is providing a way out. “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If we want a way out, God will lead the way. If we don’t, God will allow that too.
Temptation takes various forms that are unique to each of us. For some, resisting temptation means avoiding the neighborhood bar. For others, it’s avoiding the neighborhood buffet. Some temptations make absolutely no sense to us. Others disgust us. We can be thankful for not being tempted by those things.
The evil one, the Devil, has one purpose – “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Once the pleasures of sin have run their course (Hebrews 11:25), the end result is never pretty. The Devil has allegiance to no one. Even those who do his work, end up robbed and destroyed.
People can tie themselves up in knots over the evil in this world. No one would argue that things are actually improving. But, God is greater.
When we ask God to protect us or to redirect us from temptation, He leads us toward an abundant life. The life that God gives doesn’t lack anything. It doesn’t need to be supplemented with the pleasures of sin. There is pleasure enough in what God provides.
As for the devil, he is a defeated foe. The evil one is certainly more powerful than you or I, but his power is nothing in comparison to God. After all, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). As we stay closely connected to God, we have nothing to fear.
Where is temptation tripping you up these days? God can provide a way out. Sometimes it comes as an interruption. Sometimes it comes as a moment of clarity. Sometimes it comes as a friend. Sometimes it comes as a support group. If you want help, there is help. Often the path God uses involves other people.
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