These questions came up in our Hatchet gathering last week: Is there a difference between temptation and testing (or a trial)? And if there is, should we deal with them differently?

The answer to both questions is absolutely ‘yes’!

I bet you’ve heard of the idea of ‘fight or flight’? Well, if you think about these two things in these terms, then that’s a good start.

The simple answer is:

  • If you’re facing a temptation – get outta there – ie it’s ‘flight
  • If it’s a test or a trial you’re up against – then  it’s fight 

So, how do you know the difference? Don’t be like this guy:

fight or flight


OK, so here goes…

Temptation is easiest to understand if you think about it as something from within you; something that appeals to your ‘fleshy’ nature. A quick fix or a lure towards something – like food, booze, lust, money, bullying, lying, overspending on credit cards, laziness – anything that nudges you to believe an immediate desire or need will be met. Temptations tap into your weaknesses – so they can be different for each person. For example, someone might not have any weakness at all around, say, watching porn, so that’s not going to be any kind of temptation for them. But that same person could have a major weakness to get angry with people, so something like road rage is going to be a thing they will get tempted by big time. Just some examples – but think about it – are you being tempted by anything over and over? What situations do you find your self tempted in, and what are you doing to avoid them? The best thing you can do is admit it, and ask for God’s help to turn and walk (or run!) away from that stuff. That’s ‘flight‘.

Check out this post from Rick Warren for more about this.

Trials or testing are different – they come from outside of you. Circumstances like being skint,  getting ill or having an accident,  having your stuff nicked, facing some kind of loss or your family or friends letting you down can happen to all of us at some point – and if it all comes at once, man, it can be really hard going. The funny thing is, these trials can actually test our strengths.  God allows them to happen for a reason – we may not see it at the time we’re going through it – and in fact we might be tempted within our trials. For example we could be tempted to complain or get bitter, take it out on people around us, or think we’re a really bad person that deserves what’s happened. But if we ‘stand and fight‘, some day we will find out His reasons and we will grow in our character and faith.

But what does it mean to ‘stand and fight’. It means we don’t try and deal with stuff in our own strength, but in the strength of God. Matt Slick’s article How strong are you? is well worth a read, with lots of awesome insight and advice about what it means to stand firm in the strength of God. Boom!

“There are many kinds of strength. But the most important one is the strength you need in the Lord. True Christian strength is not of the body. True Christian strength is of the spirit, measured in faithfulness, trust, and perseverance. By Grace we live by Faith.” – Matt Slick

Check out some more about the difference between temptation and testing here too.