Sin is evil.
And temptation is the tool Satan uses to draw individuals into sin so that they are destroyed by it. He seeks to deceive and delude unbelievers so that they are prevented from seeing the light of the gospel. And he seeks to devour believers as their adversary.
There is nothing inherently good about temptation or sin.
And yet, as with all things, God uses temptation to accomplish good ends in the lives of His people. As John Bunyan has noted, “Temptations, when we meet them at first, are as the lion that roared upon Samson; but if we overcome them, the next time we see them, we shall find a nest of honey within them.”
So what is the good, the honey, of temptation? Again, Bunyan is helpful:
I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with, yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good;
- They make me abhor myself;
- They keep me from trusting my heart;
- They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness;
- They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus;
- They press me to pray unto God;
- They show me the need I have to watch and be sober;
- And provoke me to pray unto God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world.
And one more: when we are prosperous and when we face no temptations and when we have not struggle with sin, there is a “silent” temptation that attacks us, though we are particularly prone to be unaware of its presence. When we do not face temptation, we are susceptible to being forgetful of God. Consider Israel as an example, when God said of her:
Yet I have been the LORD your God
Since the land of Egypt;
And you were not to know any god except Me,
For there is no savior besides Me.
I cared for you in the wilderness,
In the land of drought.
As they had their pasture, they became satisfied,
And being satisfied, their heart became proud; (Hos. 13:4-6)
God provided and cared for His people demonstrating that He alone was their Savior and they accumulated land and comforts and became proud. They became so proud that “Therefore they forgot Me” (Hos. 13:6).
In their lack of distress and in their abundance of provision they forgot God. The blessings they received ultimately were to their detriment. And likewise, the lack of temptation can be to our detriment for we might pridefully delude ourselves into thinking we are self-reliant and not dependent on God. The constant onslaught of temptations and the battles that ensue from temptation are a gracious reminder from the Lord of our dependence on Him.
We are ever-reliant on God and the daily (hourly?) battles we face with sin are a reminder of that truth — along with the demonstration of His faithful sufficiency to daily (and hourly) to see us through those temptations.