This general cluster of questions does come up a good bit with all of us, at one point or another. So this needs to be carefully addressed.
I would like to look at James 1:12-14, which covers the issue of whether and how God tempts / tests us quite well.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 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.
Literally, v.12 says:
Happy (makarios) is the man who is enduring (under-remaining – hupomeno) trial (peirazmos), for when becoming tested (approved, qualified – dokimos) he shall be obtaining (taking hold of) the wreath of the life which promises the Master (Lord) to the ones loving him.
What the passage doesn’t say:
- That after a man endures, God blesses him. It simply says that a man is happy if he is enduring – standing under, as opposed to crumbling under, a trial. If he endures and remains standing – he is one happy fellow. Also, the adjective used here – makarios (happy) – is not eulogetos (blessed).
- That God will give him a wreath of life, or that God will give him life. The passage says the man who stands under the trial will take (receive) the crown – because this crown is already promised (and is therefore given, since otherwise it wouldn’t be obtainable) by the Lord to those who love him. God’s promise is the blessing (eulogia – good spoken word/saying). It’s not that God hasn’t given the blessing, it’s just there are some that don’t take it.
Also, the wreath generally refers to a position of tangible, recognizable victory. A wreath (stephanos) was commonly used as a public recognition symbol of victory in war, races, games, etc.
Notice the two different words used that convey the concepts of trial/temptation and testedness. Blessed is the man who remains standing under the temptation (peirasmos), for when he becomes tested (dokimos – approved, qualified) he receives (takes) the wreath of life.
When temptation happens, we should stand and be unmovable, and that stand of faith is what qualifies us to take/receive victory in life. By refusing to be moved by anything other than the promises of God (see the latter part of the verse). So the qualification here is our tenacity of belief. In other words, it’s not just a one-time spurt of faith, it’s a tenacious, patient faith on our part.
The 2 following verses say this:
v. 13 when a man is tested (peirazo) – let no man say that he is tested (peirazo) of God, because God doesn’t test (peirazo) any man. Instead –
v.14 – when a man is tested (peirazo), it’s because he is drawn away by his own desires and is thus enticed.
Notice how the same verb (peirazo) is used over and over again here for tempt (verb) / temptation (noun) – peirazo / peirasmos. It very clearly states that God isn’t the initiator of temptation. On the contrary – we get into temptation ourselves. Instead, based on v.12, God seeks to see us approved and qualified (dokimazo (verb) / dokimos (adj) – i.e., a completely different word) by encouraging us to stand on his promises.