Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love Him. – James 1:12
On our path to spiritual maturity, temptations will come along. They serve as opportunities to do good. Yes, temptations are Satan’s primary weapon to destroy us, but God plans to use it to develop us. Every time we chose to do good instead of sin, we are growing in the character of God. Abundance of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will help us overcome any temptation thrown at us. We learn best to love when we can show love to mean people, we learn faithfulness the more we do good when no one is watching. You can’t claim to be good if you’ve never been tempted to do bad, so for us to gauge the growth of these characteristics of God we ought to posses, we need to be tempted.
HOW TEMPTATION WORKS
Satan is predictable. He’s used the same strategy since creation. From the bible, we learn that temptation follows a four-step process:
Satan identifies a desire in you: This could be sinful, like the desire to get revenge, or legitimate like the desire to be loved. Temptation starts when we start thinking we can give in to our desires in the wrong way, or at the wrong time. We need to beware of shortcuts, they are mostly temptations… good things generally take a while. Temptation always start in our minds. If we don’t have an internal desire, the temptation can’t possibly attract us. Jesus says in Mark 7: 21-23 “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Satan tries to make us doubt what God has said about the sin: We start questioning: Is it really wrong? Did God really mean I this or that. I just asked my parents this: ‘how can a single 40-year-old, be expected to be sexually pure? We all have sexual desires, and we try to wait till marriage (20-30’s), but what happens to those who don’t get married? Are they expected to wait? Till 50? 60? 70? NO SEX!!? What!’ I started finding reasons to justify premarital sex for these people. I’m not even in that category, but I can’t imagine it, but now, I realize that’s a seed of temptation- doubt. In Hebrews 3:12 we’re encouraged; “My friends, watch out! Don’t let evil thoughts or doubts make any of you turn from the living God.” I KNOW it’s not easy, but by God’s grace, we can do it people!
Satan deceives us: Satan is the father of lies. Sometimes, he can even quote scriptures, like he did when he was tempting Jesus, but he is also smart, so he only gives the half-truth, he will make sure not to let you know the possible repercussions. Stay on guard!
Satan leads us to disobey God: What begins as an idea will eventually get birthed into a behavior. James 1: 13-16 says, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.”
Refuse to be intimidated: As Christians, we tend to feel ashamed when we are being tempted. This is a misunderstanding of maturity. We can never outgrow temptations. Jesus was tempted, yet He never sinned. Temptation only becomes a sin when we give into it. MLK said, “you can’t keep birds from flying over your heads, but you can keep them from building a nest.” In the same way, you can’t keep the devil from suggesting thoughts to you, but by the grace of God, you can keep from dwelling on those thoughts. Sometimes, in the midst of praying, or preaching, or doing something good, Satan will suggest a bad, bizarre thought. Don’t dwell on it, treat is as a distraction and rebuke all evil thoughts by the authority we have in Christ, then continue on with your business.
Recognize your pattern of temptation and be prepared for it: Some circumstances can cause us to stumble immediately, they’re tailored to our weaknesses. It’s our responsibility to identify them and stay on guard! Ask yourself several questions:
When am I most tempted?
Who is with me when I’m most tempted?
How do I usually feel when I’m most tempted?
Identify these things, and avoid them as much as possible.
Request God’s help: Psalm 50:15 says, “call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” As soon as temptation strikes, cry out to God for help! He is always available! Sometimes we don’t want to be help as we want to give in to the temptation, other times, we don’t want to ask for help because we keep giving in to the same temptation over and over, and we feel guilty (I fall into this category). But I’m learning that God never gets irritated or impatient with us! He’s not angry at us for being ask-holes (google it pips).
Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” If we cry out to God for help on a specific thing a thousand times, He is still eager to show us mercy a thousand times and more!
Temptation keeps us dependent upon God. As roots grow stronger when the wind blows, we get stronger when we rose above temptations. In fact, we become more like Jesus. We will stumble, we’re human. Don’t beat yourself up, that gives the devil victory. Look up to God, ask for His mercy, He will come to our rescue. James 1:12 says, “when people are tempted and still stay strong, they should be happy. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever.”
Food for thought: What Christ-like character quality can I develop by defeating the most common temptation I face?