Dealing with Temptation

by Jefferson David Tant

One of my early morning activities is reading the daily newspaper. Not only do I learn what’s going on in the world, but sometimes I get a smile when there is a misprint or misspelled word. I read about one in a weather report. It read “Fair weather tomorrow with no temptation.” Of course, we know it should have read “precipitation,” i.e., “no rain.” Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where there were no temptations? Wouldn’t that make life much simpler? But, of course, we know the world we live in is full of temptations, for Satan is still alive and active, as the apostle Peter reminds us: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).

We may wish we could live in a world where there is no temptation, but we know that temptation has been in the world since the beginning. God could have created Adam and Eve as robots, with no power to choose. But God didn’t want robots. He wanted a creation that he could have a relationship with. I have a car that always obeys me. It is a machine. It doesn’t have a choice. It doesn’t even know who I am. My five children usually obeyed me, but not always. If I had to choose between my children and my car, well, you know what I would choose.

No One Is Exempt

The apostle Paul made this clear in I Corinthians 10:12-13: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Notice that the text says that no one will “be tempted beyond what you are able.” When someone gives in to temptation and sins, the excuse cannot be made that “I couldn’t help it.” Back in the 1970s, there was a TV comedian named Flip Wilson whose well-known expression was “The devil made me do it.” Not true! The devil can’t make us do anything! Oh, he may give us a very enticing temptation, but God has promised that He “will provide the way of escape.”

So, we are not in the battle alone. God has promised to be with us and help us if we will put our trust in Him.

There are times when we put ourselves in harm's way. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom and was soon in the middle of a sinful nation. Thankfully, he did not succumb, but how much trouble he could have avoided, and the loss of his wife, if he had not been encamped amid sin. King David happened to see his neighbor, Bathsheba, taking a bath. He probably stood there looking at her, until he gave in and committed adultery with her. He could have turned away and set his mind on other things, but the likely thought is that he continued to look at her until he gave in to temptation and brought her to him and they committed adultery.

Satan has different ways to tempt us. He may convince us that “Just this once won’t hurt,” “It’s no big deal,” or “You will really benefit from this.” Don’t you suppose that’s how Adam and Eve were tempted? “Look, if you eat this fruit, you’ll really be like God.” We might understand how that would be appealing, but it totally changed their lives for the worse!

Temptation Comes from Within Us

James certifies this for us in James 1:12-15: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

How to Deal with Temptation

Put on Your Armor

Prepare for the battle by putting on your armor. God has given us the means to protect ourselves from Satan’s slings.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Don't Be Fooled

Don’t be deceived by good looks or good words. Sin doesn’t look like a flame of fire, or like a hole in the ground we may fall into. Nor does Satan have a red suit, with horns and a tail.

We are warned to be wary of those who look good and may speak good words. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

Don't Hang Around Sin

It should be obvious that if we hang around where sin is ongoing, there’s going to be a temptation to indulge. We go to a party, and everyone is drinking alcohol. We may be enticed by our friends just to try a little, or even be ridiculed as being  “goody two-shoes,” who think they are better than everyone else.

We need to give heed to the apostle Paul’s warning: “Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals'" (I Corinthians 15:33). If there are times when we have to stand alone, and have few, if any, friends, we can know that God is with us and will give us strength if we look to Him.

We are reminded of the admonition given to us in Psalms 1:1: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

And we have Paul’s admonition to his son in the faith, Timothy: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:22). So, don’t hang around, but flee, run.

Rejoice in Your Temptations

Well, that may seem a little odd, but that is the admonition that James gave us: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2).

But James didn’t stop there. He went on to write in the next two verses, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-3)

Suppose you want to increase your body strength and stamina. What do you do? Obviously, you engage in a program of exercise to accomplish your goal. Do you ever get tired, have muscles that ache, and get short of breath? Well, if you have a good exercise program, you do. But you can rejoice in this because you know you will reap the benefits. And the same goes for temptation, for when we resist and overcome, we know that we are strengthened.

Rise Above the World

The apostle Paul encourages this in Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

We live “in” the world, but we are not to be “of” the world. We are preparing ourselves for the world to come—eternal life in heaven. We should always keep our sight on things above more than things on the earth.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

There are various things we can that help us to keep focused on what is above.

  1. We can faithfully attend church services. “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). This will give us strength as we encourage one another as we worship together.
  2. We can spend time daily reading and meditation on God’s Word. “Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading from the book the words of the LORD in the LORD'S house” (Jeremiah 36:8).
  3. Give careful thought to your actions. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22).
  4. Ask for God’s help. "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13).
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