Is it a test or is it a temptation?
It is important to point out that there is a difference between a person being tempted and a person being tested. Temptations are an appeal to the flesh, whereas a test is an appeal to Spirit. Thus, the saying that the spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness. How we view various trials will determine if we are being tested or tempted.
“The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14 NKJV)
Further, God is not the author of temptation as he has nothing in Him that can appeal to the flesh.
The scripture says,
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15 NKJV)
Satan is the author of temptation as he is the author of deception. Temptation has one aim and that is to cast a shadow or a barrier between the person and God. Conversely, trials are designed to aid the person in removing barriers between himself and God by giving God an opportunity to see the fruit activated in the person’s life.
When God visits, he does it for one reason only, and that is to see if he can find fruit. As Christians, we are supposed to be ready in season and out of season to give a reason for the hope that is in us. Remember what Jesus did to the fig tree when He came looking for fruit and there was none. Remember that it was not even the season for figs, yet Jesus was so disappointed to find no fruit that he cursed the fig tree, and soon it was withered and dead.
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response, Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.” (Mark 11:12-14 NKJV)
Then in Luke 13, we see the explanation of Jesus' actions when he spoke the parable of the fig tree.
“He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”” (Luke 13:6-9 NKJV)
So you see, when God visits, he looks to see if he can find fruit. The Bible says that Jesus is the author and the finisher of your faith. Jesus is the keeper of your vineyard (your heart). He is your advocate before God and he has sent the Holy Spirit to help you. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead you into situations that will till the ground of your heart and cause you to not only bear leaves but have fruit in season and out of season.
So many of us don’t even know the time of our visitation. We don’t understand that our trials are a visit from God, a test, to see Him glorified in us. If we are not mindful, we will allow the devil to change our test into a temptation.
Here is a simple example of being in a position to be either tested or tempted, according to what Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, has been able to put into your heart. Imagine that while you are out shopping you see someone unknowingly drop some cash on the ground. At that moment you are presented with either a test or a temptation. If the devil is able to appeal to the lust of your flesh, he will convince you to pick up the money and pocket it. However,, if you are able to discern the time of your visitation, you will recognize this as a test from God to show His glory through you. In this case, you would provide fruit to God by picking up the cash and returning it to the person who dropped it.
Be sure that you are always prepared to be fruitful, even in the midst of possible temptation.