Putting God to the Test

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 10, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Jesus said these words to the devil when he was tempted in the wilderness. Satan took him to the peak of the temple and told him to throw himself down, citing Psalm 91. After all, Scripture is true, isn’t it? Can we not trust God’s promises to protect us in times of trouble? Why did Jesus deny God’s promise to protect him? Did Jesus not trust God to protect him?

What is the deal with this situation? Jesus said to not put the Lord your God to the test. What does that mean? The Bible also says that God is faithful and true and that none of his promises are void. Can we not call on God to fulfill them? In Malachi 3:10, God tells us to put him to the test. Contradiction? Let’s get to the bottom of this.

There are two types of scenarios we are dealing with here, two situations. What was Satan tempting Jesus to do? The temptation was to be presumptuous about what God would do. Jesus lived the perfect example of the Christian life. He only said what he heard his Father saying and he only did what he saw his Father doing. Satan told him to leap from the pinnacle of the temple, not his Father. Jesus knew how to discern between the two voices.

Satan’s temptation is very similar to what we see today because it sounds religious. He is saying, “Go ahead and do it. If you don’t, you prove God a liar. You prove that you don’t believe him.” This temptation has other forms. Carman did a song/music video titled A Witch’s Invitation. In this account, Carman gets invited to the house of a Satanist and is challenged to present what God could do to rival the “miracles” the Satanist had done through demonic powers. Carman, in the song, got wisdom from God and said he would not compare Satan’s miracles to God’s, but rather compare the conditions of his soul to that of this Satanist.

This challenge is echoed in reality in apologetics. When the atheists tells me, “Prove God exists,” they are not interested in proof. They are interested in a heated discussion where God is put on trial, where they are the judge. Many people did not like the movie “God’s Not Dead” because the main character even said he was going to do that. But if you look closer, that’s not what he did. Yes he said he was putting God on trial, but that was mostly to appease the professor. In reality, what he did was expose the flaws in the challenges against God and showed how they did not have any real weight.

I myself have fallen for this tactic. There have been times where someone has challenged me to prove the Bible is true and give evidence for God’s existence, when they had only interest in mocking and ridiculing anything I had to say. I have learned from those experiences and I often don’t bother trying to address that question to the mockers. They will say that is because I don’t have the answers, but they already think I am an uneducated, blind, moronic idiot. Not showing them any evidence is not going to make that opinion any worse. I do not care what they think of me because their opinion has no value to reality. And I find when I get a bit too heated in the discussion, it is because I am set to “prove them wrong,” not to show the truth. I have learned greatly in my experiences in how to better deal with this, but I still have a lot more to learn.

Are we putting God to the test? Are we being presumptuous about what God is going to do? I have seen some do that when going to the mission field. They know God has called them to go, but then they assume God is going to take care of their needs and go unprepared. This is most easily seen regarding finances. We will spend our money however we want and assume God will provide for us when we come up short.

But here is a good example of how NOT to put God to the test. On the mission field, I saw “feeding of the 5000” miracles regularly, to the point where we expected it to happen. However, we were not presumptuous. We did not pack lightly and say, “God will provide when we run short.” We planned for the most realistic situation we could, but we’d often have way more people than we planned for. That wasn’t due to poor planning. One example is when a small group went to a children’s home with a sloppy joe meal. We planned for 40 people: the group, the staff, and the kids. We did not know the colonia came over as well. We decided to trust God to provide and gave everyone else full plates and the team would fast if necessary. God gave us seconds and leftovers. We had food for 40. We had 75+ people, and things like buns, apples, plates, could not be stretched.

This example is perfect for this post because it shows both sides of putting God to the test. On one side, it is being presumptuous and acting foolishly, expecting God to come through. A local pastor here in El Paso often says, “God can’t help stupid.” And why should he? What obligation does God have? If Jesus had thrown himself down, God had no obligation to save him because he did not say he would in that case. But there is another side of putting God to the test: the call upon God to deliver on his promises, when we have no other choice.

Jehoshaphat did that in 2 Chronicles 20. He was surrounded by three nations and had absolutely no chance at winning. He turned to the temple to seek the Lord. He called upon God to fulfill his promises to protect his people if they turned to him. He was not being presumptuous; he was calling upon God’s faithfulness. He was putting his full trust in the Lord to take care of the situation. Now when God gave his orders, Jehoshaphat sent out the singers and musicians to be the front line of their army. Had he just done what Joshua did without receiving orders from God, he would have put God to the test and gotten squashed. But because he sought the Lord and trusted him, he could stand on God’s promises and prove that God is faithful and true.

God will not break any promise he makes. But we have to be watchful for assuming God is going to come through on a promise we actually did not get from him. God is obligated (if that is the right word to use) by his character to fulfill his promises that are his “rhema,” his revealed Word, the one he specifically gives to his people for a given situation. But there are also many “if / then” promises that are not guaranteed. We cannot easily say, “God said it for this person, therefore he is also saying it to me.” Let us not presumptuously put God to the test. Let us not assume he is going to deliver us in the way we want him to. But we can trust God to carry out what he said he would do. We can trust him to be faithful. It has to be on his terms, not ours.

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