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I was working on a different question and I found that I couldn't actually find anywhere that shows that God actually tests us.

Psalms 26:2 (NIV)
Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

Clearly, asking for tests is acceptable, per the Psalm above. Also, it seems that God allows us to be tested:

Job 1:12 (NIV)
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Another verse that shows that God allows temptation:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Does God ever intentionally put things in our way himself to allow us to be tested (as the Psalms says)? Or does God merely allow Satan to give us trials and temptations?

Also, what does the mainstream Protestant doctrines say towards this end?

I'd really like Biblical support for any answer, please.

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I'm starting to see that this question may not be too clear: Does God put temptation in front of us? Does God give us commands to see if we will follow them? And does God give us trials as a way to test our faith? Three separate questions that seem to be wrapped up in this one. –  Richard Sep 23 '11 at 12:34
    
I would argue that Life is one big test from God to man based on the Christian religion. –  The Freemason May 13 at 18:17

5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

One well-known example of God specifically testing someone is when he commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac as an offering unto him. (Genesis chapter 22)

Also, the Bible contains several references to God testing people in general to see if they will obey. For example:

Exodus 16: 4

I [will] prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

Deuteronomy 13: 3

the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

EDIT:

To answer a question from the comments, we can turn to James for a pretty solid NO; God does not put temptation in our path:

James 1:12-14

12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

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@Richard: See my edit. –  Mason Wheeler Sep 23 '11 at 13:03
    
Excellent answer, thanks! –  Richard Sep 23 '11 at 13:26
1  
So God does test our faith (do we love Him more than anything else), but it is our lusts that try to make us sin? –  Zealumble Sep 24 '11 at 20:11

If by "test" you mean "Tempt" then no. God will not tempt us.

James 1:13-16 (NKJV)

13 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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.


However, this is not the only meaning of the word "test". Like the word "love", "test" is a word that has different connotations based on the context and/or the original word that was translated as "test".

For example, in several translations, the word "test" is used where "examine" is a better translation of the word. (Sometimes it's translated as "prove" as well.) For example:

  • 1 Thess 2:4 (NKJV) "We speak as men Approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel. We are Not trying to Please men but GOD, who TESTS our HEARTS."

  • Jer 17:10 (NASB) "I, the Lord, search (EXAMINE) the HEART, I TEST the MIND"

In these cases, God does "test" our hearts.


To get to whether or not God actually causes bad things to happen to you to test you (which is, I believe, a re-phrasing of your main question - correct me if I'm wrong.)...

I have yet to run across a scripture that indicates that God places evil, pain, or suffering in our way in order to test us. As you've pointed out, there are many verses where it is allowed, but none where He actually places the suffering in our paths.

The only places in the Scriptures where God causes what we might, in our finite wisdom consider "bad things" to happen is as a punishment for sin, which is a completely different matter.

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"One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.' Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. "'Does Job fear God for nothing?' Satan replied. 'Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.' The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger'" (Job 1:6-12

God tests the character of every human being, and that is a major aspect of what happened with Job. Paul wrote, "We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts" (1 Thessalonians 2:4, NIV).

Moses explained to the ancient Israelites, "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger [a form of suffering] and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, NIV, New International Version).

The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger'" (Job 1:6-12, New International Version).

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It is important to understand how God works with His creation. There is a 'relative' way and an 'absolute' way with God. When the scriptures say that He tested Abraham or Job, He did it in a relative way, in a human way, if you will. In an absolute way, God does not, indeed He cannot, test anyone. That is because He is "declaring the end from the beginning." (Isaiah 46:10)

So when he 'tests' anyone it is not for His benefit - i.e, to find out how we would react - as He already knows that. It is for our benefit. Truly and ultimately, it is for the benefit of ALL of His creation. What is our benefit in this? It is the experience of evil which God wants us to have. We are supposed to experience evil, which He created (Isaiah 45:7) so that, ultimately, we can give God the glory for His mercy and salvation.

It is also worth remembering that no one should question God in these matters (Romans 9:20). Job and Abraham were wise enough to know this, even before Paul penned the words. He is God and we are the work of His hands. He can do as He pleases with His creation, but it is with good reason and for our ultimate benefit that He does what He does. His ways are indeed higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

May we all glorify Him for His wisdom and mercy!

PS I don't blog often and chances are I will not be here again. If anyone would like to respond, please feel free to contact me at gabealexander26@yahoo.com.

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Does God ever intentionally put things in our way himself to allow us to be tested (as the Psalms says)? Or does God merely allow Satan to give us trials and temptations?

One piece of information regarding "testing". The King James version (1611) does not use the word "test". This is because the first English use of the word "test" does not occur until the late 1600s. It was first used in regard to metallurgical testing.

The concept of testing is found throughout the Bible often using the word "trial". Even the metaphor for metallurgical purification (refining) is used.

Isaiah 1:25 And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:

Zechariah 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

However the concept of measurement implicit in testing is not so much a Biblical component. God already knows all about us. The testing that is done is to provide opportunities for correction, transcendence, and faithful dependence.

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

The idea is to allow various difficulties such that we benefit developmentally.

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

God will directly act to correct us. God may even directly act to provide us a circumstance for growth. God may also allow the evil of others to benefit us or others.

Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

God may even make use of an evil spirit to manipulate the unsaved.

1 Kings 22:20-22 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

However, God does not try to get us to succumb to sin.

James 1:12-13 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

There are two ways we can respond to a trial or test. We can with the help of God overcome, or we can give in to our base desires.

James 1:14-15 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

God limits the severity of our temptations.

1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

God understands our temptations.

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

For those who live by faith, God may chasten, correct, or test either by his own hand or allowing circumstances to provide such situations. While frequently uncomfortable, these situations are always for our good.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

The purpose of such trials is developmental.

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Ephesians 4:14-15 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

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