The Threat of Temptation in Missions

The stress of ministry can leave missionaries vulnerable to temptation—but we can help them withstand it.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one…” (James 1:13 ESV)

Tribulations bring temptations.

The word for trials (1:2) is also translated as tempted or temptation (1:13). It means to test or determine the quality of something. The language in verses 13-14 marks a shift from trials to temptations. Tempted with evil means an enticement to do that which is bad, harmful, or damaging. While James understood that tribulations bring temptations, he wanted his readers to understand that God never entices people towards evil.

Say is an imperative. It is coupled with the negative let no one, making it an emphatic prohibition. James commanded his readers to never ever make a claim that God is luring them to do evil. That is an impossibility.

Satan is described as the tempter (Matthew 4:3; Genesis 3:1-7). Since God does not delight in evil (Psalm 51:4), and his eyes are too pure to look at iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13), he is never personally tempted with evil or tainted by it. Therefore, he would never tempt anyone towards evil.

Temptations are common to all Christ-followers—including missionaries (1 Corinthians 10:13). Temptations come in many shapes and sizes. But James will also add that they are specific to the individual (1:14).

Like us, missionaries are tempted at their weakest moments. Temptation comes when they feel isolated and alone due to separation from friends and family. It comes with the stress of culture shock, language learning, government prohibitions, and resistance to the gospel. And when all these factors are working at the same time, temptation’s doors swing wide open to entice the missionary towards evil.

There are too many heartbreaking stories of missionaries who have submitted to temptation and committed egregious sins that have ruined families, destroyed ministries, and grieved the heart of Christ. We need to pray for God’s satisfying presence, his sustaining power, and his sanctifying purpose to be accomplished in the lives of our missionaries so they can withstand temptation. We can help them through prayer.


“Father in heaven, please protect our missionaries amid their temptations. Enable them by your Spirit to resist and stand firm. Strengthen and refresh them to continue the gospel work you’ve called them to do.

Prayer requests for missionaries:

  1. Pray specifically for the missionaries your church supports.
  2. Pray for ABWE missionaries, asking God to enable them to resist temptation.
  3. Pray that our missionaries will keep their eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
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