Temptations: we all face them. There just seems to be something within us all that desires to do that which we know to be wrong. The desires can be strong at times, almost like a war within our mind or body: a draw to disobey God’s will and way.
And unfortunately, sometimes we succumb. We chose to do that which we knew was wrong. Probably you know the feelings. You’ve been there before or you still face such situations.
So what is the way out? Must we always face temptations? Why do we face temptations and just how do we handle it? This and much more we hope to address in this piece. Have a blessed time reading!
Is It A Sin To Be Tempted?
Facing a tempting situation in itself is not wrong, but succumbing (yielding) to the lure of a temptation is what is wrong. After all, our Lord, Jesus Christ was faced with temptations. We read of the account of when He was tempted by the devil in Mathew 4: 1-11, and Luke 4: 1-13 And in the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord again struggled between what He knew was God’s will and what his flesh desired. (Matt 26: 36-46).
So if facing temptations was in itself sinful, probably Jesus Christ sinned: but we know that He never did (Heb 4: 15).
Every Christian who will be sincere enough will admit that we are all prone to temptations. The temptations you face might be different from mine, but we are tempted all the same. And temptations, in whatever form has just one goal: to make us go contrary to God’s will or simply put: to lure us into sin.
Where Do Temptations Come From?
Maybe it is good to ask ourselves why we get tempted. Where do these desires to disobey God’s laws come from?
The Bible offers us help: First, we must realize that temptations do not come from God. God will not cause in us a desire to disobey Himself. It would be quite ridiculous, wouldn’t it? The goal of a temptation is to lure us to sin, disobey or rebel against God and His ways. Could such a desire then come from Him? Certainly not! See how the Bible puts it: ‘And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong and He never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows’ (James1:13 –17, NLT).
So where do temptations come from. Again James has something to say: “from the lure of our own evil desires” (v. 14). This tendency exists in all of us. We have a tendency to be enticed by our own evil desires. Why? Because we still exist in our flesh.
Temptations come our way because our flesh/sinful nature still has its urges and desires (Rom 6: 12, Rom 8:12, Gal 5:16-17). Yes sin no longer has power/dominion over us because of the death of Christ, but the lures and urges of the sinful nature still exist. ‘For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you can not do what you want to do.’ (Gal 5: 17, GNB).
In actual sense, we don’t have to sin as if we had no choice: but we may, if choose to yield to our flesh’s desire. That is exactly what it means to be tempted: to be lured to do what you shouldn’t do. So while sin’s power over us is broken, the tendency to live according to its desires still exists. Sometimes, we may have developed sinful habits before knowing the truth. This may serve as a lure for a dog to return to its vomit- to return to what we’ve repented of.
Of course, the devil tempts us as he did Jesus. The worlds system could be a source of temptation. But there might really be no clear dividing line in all these. More often than not, they seem to work together.
For example, the devil could bring tempting situations our way- stirring up within us a desire to live according to our flesh’s desire.
It is also good for us to be mindful of the existence of tempting situation around us. The world’s system is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Many things around can be a source of temptation and the devil could indeed engineer situations to lure us into sin. In the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples, He said: ‘And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Matt: 6:13, NLT). So you see the links.
As long as we live in this world and in this body of ours: “There will always be temptations to sin” (Luke17: 1, NLT).
How To Handle Temptations.
Having settled that temptations exist all around us, the big question is how do we handle them?
1) Realize That You Are Not Immune To Temptations- Watch Out: Imagine a soldier who puts off his defensive armour and takes a casual walk through the camp of his enemies, assuming that they’ve all been too badly injured to attack him. Suddenly from his back comes the strike of a sword piercing through his chest. Such a soldier would probably be described as ‘careless’ and consequently ‘caught off guards’
Too many times, the devil would want us to behave like this- believing that nothing can happen. Note how the Bible describes him. ‘He prowls (roams) around…., looking for some victim to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8, NLT). He is also described as being full of ‘strategies and tricks’ (Eph 6: 11, NLT)
While as God’s children, we are not supposed to be scared of the devil (whom God is greater than); we must never loose sight of the fact that he is crafty and full of schemes and devices. And for these, the Bible encourages: ‘Be alert, be on the watch!’ (1 Peter 5: 8a, GNB).
To think that we can not be tempted is not only untrue, but dangerous. If we realize the possibility of being tempted, then we will see the need to take heed; to be careful and on the watch. We must bear in mind that even Jesus Christ faced temptations, though without sinning. If He did, we will face no less. So don’t take the possibility of being tempted for granted. Always be on guard.
‘Those who think they are standing firm had better be careful that they do not fall’ (1 Cor. 10:12, GNB)
2) Be Strong In The Lord: This admonition only seems to make sense in light of the point mentioned above. The Bible teaches this because our battle can not be fought with human power but with God’s (Eph 6:10-12). In his teaching on prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to say: ‘And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’ (Matt 6:13, NLT). In another incidence, Christ told his disciples: ‘Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!’ (Matt 26: 41, NLT).
Prayer, to a large extent, is our expression of our dependence upon the Lord. It is that which strengthens our union with God.
Being strong in the Lord would mean a continual empowerment by the Lord. As rendered by the Good News Bible: ‘build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of His mighty power’ (Eph 6:10, GNB). We will only come to depend upon the Lord when we realize our own insufficiency.
This probably makes our regular time of communion with God through prayers and study of His Word inevitable as this allows God to strengthen us for daily challenges. Hence the need to strengthen our prayer lives.
More specifically, we also need to talk to God over our areas of vulnerability (specific weak points). The Bible states: ‘Our High Priest is not one who can not feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it’ (Hebrews 4:15-16, GNB). ‘Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted.’ (Heb 2:18, NLT).
The Bible says that we can approach God’s throne of grace – with confidence (not fearfully). Here we will receive mercy (see Heb 2:17) and find God’s grace to help us. Help here implies “running to the aid of one who cries for help”. Grace is that which enables us to do what we could not ordinarily have done on our own. So don’t be ashamed to tell God about your weaknesses. He understands them (see Psalm103:8-14). But not only so, only He can help you. So why not come to Him for help?
3) Flee Evil Desires: Sometimes, there is no point standing and staring at a tempting situation when you can avoid it. Remember, sin can be enticing. And so Paul gives Timothy an advice that is equally pertinent to us today: ‘Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.’ (2 Tim 2:22, NLT)
We all know of situations that stimulate ungodly desires in us. We can at times simply avoid such. And as an alternative, we should pursue things that lead to godliness. The Bible describes becoming godly like training for a sport (1 Tim 4:7-8). We must continually be committed to this. It is not enough to avoid things that stimulate lust; we must also actively follow things that lead to godliness. See Phil 4:8, Rom 12:2. It is good that we settle in our minds that only by living our lives in accordance with the will of God who made us and gave us life can we find true joy and fulfillment.The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight to life. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to those who hear them; there is great reward for those who obey them. (Psalms 19: 7-11, NLT)
4). Live By The Spirit: The Bible admonishes us do ‘live by the Spirit’ so that we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. As Christians, God’s Holy Spirit lives in us. He is able to empower us to live for God. But we most realize this and also give Him control of our lives. Living by the Holy Spirit means giving the Holy Spirit control of our lives.
Have you ever seen a drunkard before? He is controlled by the wine he took. In fact, it is not Him acting but wine. The Bible gives us a similar admonition in Eph 5:18.Instead of being intoxicated with wine, we are to allow God’s Holy Spirit to fill and control us. If this happens, the Bible says: ‘you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves’ (Gal 5:16, NLT). Yes, the sinful nature may have its cravings, but you are not yielding because you are living according to your new life in the Holy Spirit.
Note that the key word to living by the Holy Spirit is ‘yielding or submitting. We are practically do forget about our desires and focus on God’s desires. Then the Holy Spirit can live through us. This is what Christ did: He submitted to God’s will above His flesh. Let the Holy Spirit have full control over you. ‘For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.’ (Rom 8:2; NLT).
You can make a choice either to live according to the desires of the sinful nature or to live according to the Holy Spirit. Remember, the sinful nature no longer has dominion over you. The Holy Spirit enables us do to desire and do God’s will (Phil. 2:13). Why not allow Him work in you?
What Happens If I Do Sin?
Have you ever been asked to do something by someone who doesn’t care how you would get it done? Have you ever been trained by a coach who does not treat you like a beginner, but expects you to perform like someone who has been in training for the past 20 years. Maybe you’ve been in a class where your teacher, who has taught the same subject for the more than 15 years, is impatient with you because you can’t reproduce all that he has just taught you as well as well as he explained it to you. Probably you can identify with one or a similar situation and you simply developed a thick skin to such people because they just don’t seem to understand you or feel what you feel.
The writer of Hebrews gives a picture of Jesus as one who has been through what we are passing through and yet made it, despite all odds. So how does this relate to temptations? First Jesus, who is God, took on human form. By this He was able to identify with all our human tendencies and limitations, thus experiencing first hand what we humans are prone to (Hebrew 2:10, 14-15, and 17).
This position made Him both a ‘merciful’ and ‘faithful’ High priest. Christ is, thus, not only able do help us face our own temptations; but also able to deal with us mercifully and with understanding, even when we fail.
Mercy means kindness and forgiveness shown to one who does not deserve it. Christ deals with us this way because He Himself knows what it means to be tempted, though He never sinned. We require mercy because we tend to falter at times; we give in to temptations. And at such times, we can be assured of God’s forgiveness because of Christ Jesus. (See also 1 John 2:1).
But Christ also provides grace to help us. He does this because though tempted, He never sinned. This is why we can and should approach Him confidently. We can receive His help to face our temptations. There is no other place to be helped.
Consider the experience of one of us: “One of the reasons that I failed in handling temptations early in my Christian life was that I approached it legalistically. I felt that my acceptance to God depended largely on whether or not I yielded to a temptation. And as such my failures drove me further away from God. It was helpful for me to know that God had already accepted me whether or not I yielded. I soon discovered that my failures were not meant to drive me away from God but closer to Him for help. Looking back to those times now, I smile and see that I’ve grown. Today, when I see someone facing a challenging situation, the first thing I want to know is what his hope is. And if his attitude is right, I’m sure that he’ll overcome”
So in case we do yield to temptations, instead of walking in despair, let us come boldly before God’s throne of grace to receive mercy and also to find His grace to help us. Above all, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, who because of the joy set before Him endured the cross (Heb 12:2). If He could endure under temptation, He can also help us do the same. Remember: ‘No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’ (1Cor 10:13, NIV). Looking forward to reading from you.
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