How can we determine if something is a temptation toward evil or test to develop Godliness?

1 Pe 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. First, let’s understand the word translated as “testing” in NIV and ESV or “trying” in KJV. The Greek dokimion appears only twice in New Testament scripture: Jas 1:3 and 1 Pe 1:7. NIV translates dokimion as “prove”. The word appears to have the same basic meaning when read in context, regardless of the translation. A “test” is essentially a critical observation, examination, evaluation, or procedure to prove or disprove something supposed. A trial may also be defined similar to test, which is to say a trial proves or disproves something.

Ro 5:4-5 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Ro 5:1-5 needs to be read to see the entire context, but verses 4-5 are critical to supporting and expounding on Jas 1:3. God’s tests prove us to be His and cleanse us along the way. They make us better (more Godly) people. They strengthen our relationship with our Lord and our hope in the prize for which we strive.

1 Thess 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. If we want to know the source of a test then we must test the test, so to speak. If it is good, or rather if the results are good, then we are proving God’s work. Again, I would refer you to Zech 13:9 or you can look up “refine” in your concordance. See also Gal 5:22-23 (the “fruit of the spirit” passage).

If something results in our falling into sin, it was probably a temptation and we were probably suckered. If the test was of God and we still failed, it’s because Satan was offering us the wrong answer – which probably looked easier and better and right to our minds – when our minds aren’t focused as they should be on God. I don’t think God sets us up for failure. God promises not put more on us than we can handle. But still, Satan will take advantage of our weakness for harm just as God will use our weakness to glorify Himself.

This post is an excerpt (Question 3.2) from my book Ask James one.


About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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2 Responses to How can we determine if something is a temptation toward evil or test to develop Godliness?

  1. Todd Beal says:


    I hear you saying that God wants us to test a test to see in order to strengthen our mind and spiritual discernment.  This approach requires effort, or work, on our part.  Satan either tempts us to give in to something that is not good for us or tempts us to take the easy way out when given a Godly test.  This second route always involves letting down our guard, growing spiritually and mentally slothful in an effort to avoid personal pain or discomfort.

    Am I on track with what you are saying?

  2. Lance Ponder says:

    Todd, that’s a BINGO. You win. 🙂 The whole test the test thing sounds like a challenge, but what it really calls for is discernment – another popular subject in the latter verses of 1 Thess 5. 😉

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