Four Troubling T’s – Trials, Tribulations, Tests and Temptation
Have you ever experienced trouble in your life and wondered why? Why does God allow trials and tribulations in our lives? This post is a Bible study on the 4 T’s of Biblical Trials, Tribulations, Temptation and Testing. What are they? How are they similar? How do they differ? Is God using COVID-19 as a trial to test our Christian faith? This article provides a Biblical answer to those questions.
This is the 2nd in a series of articles examining the trials God allows to test His children, using COVID-19 as an example. To begin the series with the introduction which includes an outline with links to the various posts, please go to “Christlike During the COVID-19 Trial.”
The series is based on a 29-page e-Book on Biblical trials and God’s testing, and how Christians should behave. The e-book is called “7 Spiritual Tests – During the COVID-19 Trial” and is available as a free PDF.
Table of contents
- Four Troubling T’s – Trials, Tribulations, Tests and Temptation
- The 4-T’s Word Study
- The 4-T’s Word Meanings
Trouble – a 5th T
The four T-words we are studying (Trials, Tribulation, Temptation and Testing) all fall under the category of a fifth T-word, “Trouble.” Toil and trouble; adversity and struggle; suffering and sorrow have been part of the human condition ever since Adam fell, bringing sin into the world and God’s curse upon the earth.
Job was one of the most righteous men who has ever lived, yet God allowed him to experience extraordinary trouble at the hands of Satan. While suffering this adversity and being falsely accused of sin by his “friends,” Job said: “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
Ever since the Fall, death comes to us all. Death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death may result from disease, violence or an accident, but it always involves trouble.
People wonder why a loving God would permit suffering and death. But God is not only loving, He is also holy and just so He must punish sin.
Sin is rebellion against the holy God who created us. Sin breaks our fellowship with our Creator and demands justice. The just penalty for rejecting God is eternal separation from Him and everything good He provides. By sinning, we earn eternal death in hell (Romans 6:23a).
Experiencing trouble as a result of sin is just. Yet even in His justice, our loving God uses suffering to draw people back to fellowship with Him. Trouble is not meant to harm us; it is meant to bring us to repentance, confession of sin, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The 4-T’s Word Study
Future articles in this series will study three Scriptures that describe the purpose of trials in the lives of Christians and what our response should be. Before examining those Scriptures, it would be helpful to understand the meaning of eight Greek words and their English translations. The eight words include the noun and verb form of three Greek roots related to trials, tribulations, temptation, testing and trouble.
As with most English words, these Greek words can have more than one meaning. The proper meaning is based on the context in which the word occurs.
Test / Prove – dokimazo
This Greek verb has two meanings:
- To carefully examine something to determine its genuineness; examine, put to the test
- To draw a conclusion about the value of something based on testing; prove, approve
Testing Genuineness – dokimion
This Greek noun has two related meanings
- The process by which something’s genuineness is determined; test/testing, proving
- Genuineness demonstrated as the result of a test; genuine, without impurity
Trial – dokime
This related Greek noun has two similar meanings
- A testing process; an examination, trial or ordeal
- The result of experiencing a trial, proven character
Trial / Temptation – peirasmos
This Greek noun has 2 meanings:
- Trial, test, examination
- Temptation, enticement to sin (to do wrong)
To Test or Tempt – peirazo
This Greek verb can have 3 meanings. Throughout the “7 Spiritual Tests – During the COVID-19 Trial” Bible study, the first meaning is usually the best. But in James 1:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 7:5, the second meaning (to tempt) is more accurate.
- To test, try, put to the test
- To tempt, to entice someone to sin (engage in wrong behavior)
- To attempt to entrap
Test / seek to Entrap – ekpeirazo
This related Greek verb has 3 meanings like those of peirazo. In the Bible, it is most often used of humans putting God to the test.
- To test, put to the test
- Seek to entrap (as the scribes, lawyers, and pharisees sought to get Jesus to say something by which they could condemn Him)
- To tempt, to entice someone to sin / do wrong by offering something that appears attractive (as Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness)
Distress / Tribulation – thlipsis
This Greek noun has two meanings:
- The most common meaning refers to “trouble that inflicts distress” (BARD): tribulation, affliction, oppression, trouble, persecution. This meaning refers to the outward cause of a person’s inward distress.
- The inward feeling of distress caused by outward trouble: anguish, distress, pressure; to be troubled, bothered, stressed
Cause or Suffer Distress – thlibo
This Greek verb has three meanings:
- To actively cause or passively suffer trouble, tribulation, affliction, hardship
- To press against or crowd
- To constrict, compress, make narrow
The 4-T’s Word Meanings
This section will examine the meanings of trials, tribulations, temptation and testing in the Bible.
What are Biblical “Trials”?
Biblical “Trials” are tests. They are used by God to closely scrutinize our character and test the genuineness of our faith. They are examinations, more like school exams than courtroom judgments.
It should be noted that while God may allow trials that include temptation to sin, God Himself never tempts anyone to sin (James 1:12-14). For example, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), but Satan did the tempting, not God.
Why Does God Permit Trials?
God permits trials for two reasons:
1. Adversity reveals character. God uses trials to see who we really are. God uses trials to test our love and loyalty toward Him, and the genuineness of our faith in Him.
2. God uses the adversity of trials like a refining fire to purify us by removing impurities from our lives. The proper response to adversity is to draw closer to God, studying His Word, praying, examining our hearts, repenting of any sin in our lives, and striving to please God by becoming more like Jesus Christ.
What is Tribulation?
Tribulation is trouble “on steroids.” Tribulation refers to extreme trouble, calamity or affliction that causes great pain and/or distress.
Difficulty, disappointment and trouble comes to everyone, and may be considered tribulation when severe. Christians often experience tribulation through persecution because of their faith in Christ and obedience to God’s Word. But Jesus said we are blessed and should rejoice when we are persecuted for our righteousness.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.Matthew 5:10-12
As Christ gave His last words to His disciples during the Last Supper, He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Despite the tribulations and persecutions we may experience in this world, Christians should rejoice knowing we have peace with God, because we have been justified through our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
In Romans 5:3-5, the apostle Paul said we should “glory in tribulations,” . . . ‘knowing that tribulation (suffering affliction) produces patient endurance (steadfastness).’ Patience endurance while experiencing tribulation produces proven character (dokime). And proven character provides confident hope (expectation) of peace with God through the love of God, as evidenced by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
On the other hand, in the parable of the sower, Jesus warned that some fall away when tribulation “arises for the Word’s sake” (Mark 4:17). They wither away because they lack the root of faith, demonstrating that they never truly believed (Matthew 13:6; Mark 4:6).
What does your conduct during tribulation demonstrate about you?
What is the Great Tribulation?
The “Great Tribulation” refers to a 7-year period at the end of this age when God will pour out His wrath on the ungodly who have rejected Him, His laws and His grace. This time of great trouble for the whole world will be used to show God’s power and give people a final chance to repent of sin and turn to Him. (Deuteronomy 4:30; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19; Revelation 7:14)
What is “Temptation”?
The English word, “temptation,” in modern usage usually refers to an enticement to do something wrong. It may refer to enticement to sin in an absolute sense by disobeying one of God’s commands revealed in His Word. Or it can be an enticement to do something wrong in a relative sense, based on one’s own values, as in being tempted to eat desert while on a diet.
Many of the trials that test us include some form of temptation, but not all of them. God may allow us to be tempted, but God does not directly test us Himself.
What is “Testing” in the Bible?
Biblical testing refers to the trials God permits in our lives to test our character. God uses various means to examine the genuineness of our love for Him and our faith in Christ.
God allows trials, tribulations and temptations to trouble us in order to see how we will behave. Will we walk in the Spirit or in the flesh? Will we obey His Word or go the way of the world?
In the midst of his tribulations, righteous Job said,
He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.Job 23:10
Job held fast to his integrity and expected to pass God’s test. He was confident that when God was finished testing him, he would come out of the refining fire as pure as gold.
How well do you do when God tests you?
This Bible study has examined trials and tribulations, temptation, testing and trouble.
God allows trouble in our lives, including tribulation and temptation to try us. God uses these trials to test the genuineness of our love for Him and our faith in Christ.
How well do you do when God tests you?
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing trouble for the whole world. How has this trial tested you?
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