How can I tell if it’s God testing me or Satan tempting me?

Hunter McGee

We are tested every day with temptation to do what we know is wrong. We wonder if it’s a way for God to test us or Satan to defeat us. I’ve often wondered if the reason I can’t keep a job for years to come is because God is testing my faith or because Satan is tempting me to doubt God can provide.

Many people ask the question, “How do I tell the difference between God testing me and Satan tempting me?”

This usually stems from a mindset that it’s not always easy to tell when God is speaking or when someone else is. We have all wondered how we can know we are hearing from God, and often struggle with the thought of it being something He actually told us to do or something we made up. How do we know when to do what is right and what is actually a test to see if we will grow from the experience?

God Allows Us To Be Tempted

The question isn’t only whether we’re being tested or tempted, but how will we respond to the situation. A lot of people would answer this question by saying, “God is never part of anything that tempts you because God will never put something on you that you can’t handle.” But, this just isn’t true. Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth about how God will never let someone be tempted beyond what he or she can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). God allows us to be tempted, but provides us the ability to resist temptation and a way out of the situation.

One of the main reasons this question is asked is because we don’t want to accept the fact that God allows us to be tempted. Jesus was tempted and made it through. He can identify with your anger, greed, and struggle for provision because He was tempted in every way just like us, yet stood up to it to provide us a way to withstand it and stand firm against it (Hebrews 4:15).

Satan Cannot Tempt Us Without Approval

God rules over everything, even Satan, so everything Satan does has to go through God first. So, maybe God testing and Satan tempting aren’t two separate things at all – maybe they work together. In Job 1:1-22, the dialogue between God and Satan shows Satan asking God for approval before he can act against Job. Sometimes God tests us by allowing Satan to tempt us. Because God knows that He will get glory out of it by making wrong things right, and Satan will fail, God allows us to be tempted.

None of us likes to go through testing and temptation, but God can use them to grow our faith. James 1:2-5 says to consider it a joy whenever we face trials so that we can be mature and complete. When that happens, God will help our faith grow and make us stronger for the next challenge.

Read more about growing your faith and the problem of evil. 

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