Brady: Temptation can be good for you

Published 5:29 pm Monday, February 26, 2018

After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was asked, “What did you miss most down at the South Pole?” Admiral Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things, but one thing they missed most in the middle of this six-month long polar night was temptation. What a surprising answer. Why would anyone miss temptation?

The writer of Matthew tells us that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). What kind of God do we have? Does God tempt us? In order to gain understanding, we need to know that this word “temptation” has two meanings.

The first meaning with which we are most familiar is this one. James says, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14). To be tempted, then, means to be enticed or lured into doing that which is not right nor good. And these temptations are to be resisted.

But there is also a second meaning of temptation. According to scholars, this meaning comes out of the Greek world and suggests that temptation is a time of testing. Now, this kind of temptation has nothing to do with enticing to do wrong, but rather helping us to build spiritual character. God sees this kind of temptation or testing as something that strengthens us to become mature people in faith.

As you recall, God tested Abraham with the instructions that he was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. No question, it was a severe test, but it proved Abraham’s dedication to God.

So, in the second meaning of temptation, God places us in a world where we are tempted and tested. It has to do with “proving our mettle.” It is the idea of “suffering that produces endurance and endurance that produces character” (Romans 5:3,4).

Where have we arrived? In terms of temptations, there are some that we desperately need to avoid. But on the other hand, there are some temptations which we ought not to avoid. Today, I want to focus on a few of these. I repeat, there are some temptations we ought not to avoid.

First, we should not avoid the temptation to do what we know is right. Have you ever had a time when you were tempted to say a good word, and you didn’t, and the moment passed? Have you ever had a time when you were tempted to do a good deed, and you didn’t, and the moment passed? These temptations should not have been avoided. You see, these were the right thing to do.

The story is told of a Jewish rabbi whose disciples were debating the question of when precisely “daylight” commenced. One of them said, “It is when you can see the difference between a sheep and a goat at a distance.” Another suggested, “It is when you can see the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree at a distance. And so it went on. When they eventually asked the rabbi for his view, he said, “When one human being looks into the face of another and says, ‘This is my sister, or my brother; then the night is over, and the day has begun.’”

Second, we should not avoid the temptation to stretch beyond our limitations. We all have limitations and living healthy lives has something to do with knowing those limitations. However, occasionally, the opportunity comes to stretch beyond our limitations, and we should not avoid that temptation.

Third, we should not avoid the temptation to see the good in people. It’s so easy to see the bad in people. This is especially true if we don’t particularly like them. Isn’t this the parade of so many in our society today? So many folks see only the bad in people. But then, occasionally, there comes a moment of seeing the good in everybody. We should not avoid that temptation.

James Moore, Methodist minister and noted author, told about a gregarious friend who spoke to a group of young people and was a real inspiration to them. He said, “When I first became a Christian, I was so frustrated because I wanted to hug God and didn’t know how.” He continued, “I was so thrilled by what God had done for me in Christ, I was so grateful for the way God had turned my life around, I wanted to hug God, but I didn’t know how.” And then he said this, “Over the years, I have learned that the best way to hug God is to hug his children; the best way to love God is to love his children; the best way to serve God is to serve his children.” He’s right, you know. The best way to represent God is to see the good in everybody.

One last time, some temptations are good and should not be avoided. They have to do with proving our mettle.