Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

Pressure testing    (3/4/2018 1)

Language can be very confusing at times.  “We had a wicked night out” could mean we did some awful things…  But in today’s mocking use of English it could mean - we had a great time!

There is a problem when we turn to the last part of the prayer Jesus gave his disciples.  In everyday English this has come down to us as “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”  (see Matthew 6, verse 13).  But that could sound as though God was responsible for tempting us to do wrong, which can’t be right.  So we need to dig deeper.

Temptation in the Bible can have two quite different meanings.  Jesus himself was “tempted” right at the beginning of his ministry (see Matthew 4, verses 1-11).  We could think of that as his struggle within himself to be clear about his mission.  Would he follow God's good purpose or would he follow the subtle voices of temptation and a seemingly easier and quicker path?

That kind of tussle between what we know to be right and what we know to be wrong is familiar enough.  A boy asked his mother if he could go to the beach with his friends.  “All right,” she said, “as long as you don’t go swimming.”  When he came home, however, his hair was wet, it was obvious he had been in the sea.  “I told you not to,” she scolded him, “and what about your swimming costume?”  “Well,” he replied, “I took it with me just in case I was tempted!”  

And temptation about things far bigger than that can hit any of us.  In fact there’s nothing wrong with temptation - it’s part of life, and Jesus knew it at first hand.  It’s what happens next that matters.  I like the words of Martin Luther - “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”.

We’re saying in this prayer of Jesus - help me to face and conquer the temptations that threaten me.

But the other meaning of the word is “testing”.  In engineering, materials and systems are tested, sometimes to the point of destruction, to be sure they will stand up to the conditions where they will be used.  This kind of testing is designed to prove strength and reliability and endurance.

No one can avoid times of hardship or severe testing.  Jesus faced that especially in the hours leading up to his crucifixion.  This prayer is asking for God’s help, that when we face fire or grief or pain or doubt, God himself will strengthen and hold us through it.  Many modern translations put it - Do not bring us to hard testing.  To which we might add - but in all the testing we face bring us safely through it.

The key value here is to face temptation and testing with God’s help.


Lord Jesus, you have lived this life and know its temptations and trials.  Give me your strength in all that I face today, and in whatever lies ahead, and help me to share in your victory over sin and evil.

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