Do Not Put God to the Test
by Greg Wright
One of the most fun things about being a kid is the physical challenges. Whether it's something as simple as arm wrestling one of your friends or a challenge as complicated as receiving a football, outmaneuvering and outrunning opposing players, and scoring a touchdown, the physical challenges of boyhood provide great fun and enjoyment.
When you meet these physical challenges God's way, they also provide a wonderful means of building confidence, strength, and endurance, as well as molding friendships through teamwork. However, when you fail to meet these physical challenges God's way, the results can be disastrous.
In continuing the discussion of how God calls us to be mentally, physically, and spiritually alert, let us look at one aspect of being physically alert, as taught by Jesus Christ, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." Matthew 4:7 (NIV)
What does it mean to put God to the test? God has given us moral laws and physical laws. Examples of moral laws are the Ten Commandments and The Beatitudes. An example of a physical law is the law of gravity, that is to say, what goes up must come down. There are many more subtle physical laws that you discover just by living, for example if you drop a raw egg on asphalt it will break.
Now if you were to drop that egg, expecting God to act to keep it from breaking, you would be putting God to the test.
Parents are very careful with young children because the kids lack knowledge of many physical laws. We try to keep toddlers from putting objects in electrical outlets, and in the deep south, we make sure toddlers don't fall into fire ant nests. If you were baby sitting a toddler, and you were to turn that toddler loose in a yard full of fire ant hills, expecting God to act to keep that toddler safe, you would be putting God to the test.
Once you get well beyond toddler age, you are expected to anticipate physical challenges on your own and to prepare for them. For example, if you are likely to sunburn at the pool or water-park, you are expected to think ahead and bring sunscreen. Similarly, if you are allergic to poison oak or poison ivy, it is not a good idea to go for a hike in the woods wearing sandals and short pants. This is failure to be physically alert. However, when you know these dangers and fail to plan for them, expecting God to rescue you from the normal affects of the sun and poison ivy, you put God to the test.
One common way of putting God to the test is through taking unnecessary risks during recreation. Once in Davie County, North Carolina there was a boy who played a game called chicken. He and his friends would lie down on a highway at night. They would lie there until they heard a car or truck approaching. Then they would retreat to the side of the road. However, the first to retreat was the chicken. One night one of those boys did not retreat fast enough. The boy survived, but the last I heard he was still in a coma. What a loss! What a waste! Did this boy expect God to rescue him in spite of his reckless disregard for his own safety? If he did he put God to the test.
Perhaps you would never do anything that crazy. But what about you guys who ride bicycles, do you resist wearing helmets? What about you guys who play in the middle of lakes and ponds, do you resist wearing life jackets? Do you swim alone? What about you guys who sniff solvents; do you expect God to overrule the laws of nature and rescue you if you get in trouble? If this is what you expect, you are tempting God.
It is your responsibility to anticipate physical challenges and dangers. When you recognize those dangers and fail to prepare for them, you are careless. When you expect God to keep you safe in spite of your carelessness, you put God to the test.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he took him to the pinnacle of the temple and said, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, and he will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Matthew 4:6 (NIV)
Surely if anyone had the right to demand a miracle from God it was Jesus. But look at how Jesus responded, "It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test." Matthew 4:7 (NIV)
Dear brothers young and old, let us carefully anticipate the physical challenges that await us, and even as we gratefully receive God's intervention in our lives, let us strive to be physically alert: let us never put God to the test.
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