by Jefferson David Tant
Do you say you are tempted to do wrong? Your friends are pressuring you, and you are afraid you might give in, or you have already given in and don't know what to do to avoid yielding again? Welcome to the club!
Temptation is as old as man and must be dealt with by every person in every generation. But we are thankful that we can overcome temptation. We are not helpless, even when faced with "irresistible" temptations. No matter how enticing, whether by sexual immorality, drugs, alcohol, shoplifting, or lying, there is abundant and powerful help. Young people are not just dumb animals that operate only on instinct. (And that goes for older folks, too.) We are all creatures made in the image of God with the ability to reason, make choices, and act upon our decisions. While Satan is a powerful enemy, we have a greater ally. We are reminded of the words the prophet Elisha told his servant when they were surrounded by enemy soldiers: “Fear not; for they that are with us are more than they that are with them” (II Kings 6:16).
Let’s consider some points that will help for victory over temptation and sin.
Rule 1: Believe in God
A firm belief in our Creator is the foundation of victory over the world. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith” (I John 5:4). If we believe in an all-wise and all-knowing Father, then we can have confidence in His wise counsel. Since He made us, He knows what is best for us, in the same way, that a parent has more wisdom and knowledge than a young child.
A child may like to play with matches, but parents know better, and tells the child “No.” The child may not understand and be tempted by the lure of fire. But respect for and trust in Mother and Father will keep a child from danger. Thus Paul could say with confidence, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (II Timothy 1:12).
Furthermore, a belief in God includes the realization of our accountability before Him on the Day of Judgment. Thus we want to live so as to give a good account. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10). I am quite sure that knowing I would have to give an account to my parents kept me out of a lot of trouble when I was young.
Rule 2: Lay up the Word
What great blessings come to those who heed the Psalmist's advice. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You” (Psalms 119:11). Knowledge of the word is a part of the "abundant life" Christ promised in John 10:10. Just as a knowledge of food and nutrition will keep us from harmful foods, a knowledge of the Word will keep us from those things that defile and destroy.
Sometimes people will say, “I didn’t know that was wrong.” Perhaps so, but the truth is, ignorance is no excuse. My wife and I have talked to young people in Jamaica who did not know that premarital sex (fornication) was wrong. They were shocked to learn otherwise. But they have Bibles there.
If you were arrested for robbing a bank and had to stand before the judge, your plea “But I didn’t know it was against the law” would fall on deaf ears. Paul charged the Gentile world with being “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) in their failure to acknowledge the existence of God. The evidence of His existence was abundant.
Also, time spent with the Bible will give wisdom and assurance beyond that of your peers in the world. Paul's high regard for his young friend Timothy was in large part because from Timothy's early childhood, he had this knowledge: “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15).
The Word of God is an offensive weapon—the "sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17). It is also a defensive weapon in that we are to “take … up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). God has given us this to help defeat the enemy. It is significant that every time Satan tempted Christ, our Lord responded with "It is written …" (Matthew 4:1-11). He used the Word to combat Satan’s temptations. No soldier ever goes into battle without good weapons and good armor.
Rule 3: Believe in the Power of Prayer
Have you ever seen a small child in trouble calling for help from Mom or Dad? How often is the request refused? In facing temptation, we have a powerful ally in our Lord. Surely no one is more interested in helping us to overcome. This is why we are told to pray "and bring us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:13).
Christ told his disciples to "watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). Enlisting God's help in our struggles is eminently wise, because "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation" (II Peter 2:9).
I heard a man tell of his dating experiences in college. Had a change in attitude toward God and His Word, and learned what a great help prayer can be. When he picked up his date, they prayed together in the car before leaving the dormitory. Also prayed together when they returned home after the date. He said that had a profound influence on their conduct! It will do the same for you, as well.
It is hard to pray for God's help to stay pure and then stop off to pick up a 6-pack or go off to lover's lane for a few hours of wandering hands. The prayer of faith will work. Try it! “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
Rule 4: Believe in Yourself
So often those who are most tempted to yield have low self-esteem. The desire for approval and popularity leads many to travel down the road of "everyone else is doing it" or the broad avenue that leads to destruction named "prove your love to me." They think they must prove that they are worthy of the friendship and attention of others by being a good pot-partner or a good bed-partner.
Young people, you don't have to prove anything to anybody in this sense! You are a worthy and valuable person in your own right. God knows it, and He wants you to know it. You have been created by God in His own spiritual image. (Genesis 1:27) The Psalmist marveled at the worth and dignity of man. “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” (Psalms 8:4-5).
If you still have doubts about your worth, consider the fact that Christ died for you -- even if you had been the only person on the earth. Therefore, you need to be important to yourself. Your body, your spirit, your purity -- all are of supreme importance. If the only way another is willing to be your friend is for you to cheapen yourself or sell yourself, that “friend” is not worth having! If you will believe in yourself, that will give you the courage to look your tempter in the eye and say "No." In so doing, you will gain respect -- respect for yourself, respect from others, and respect from God. That is of much greater value than simply gaining a partner in sin.
Rule 5: Choose Your Companions
Many have fallen into sin because they ran with the wrong crowd. If you run with skunks, you will begin to smell like them. If you lie down with the dogs, you will get fleas. “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals" (I Corinthians 15:33). How many times I have heard, "But I'm strong. I just enjoy being with them, but I wouldn't do anything wrong." But God's word says, "Be not deceived…" That gives the strong possibility that such thinking is not smart.
Solomon warned of the danger of picking up the bad habits of bad companions. “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself” (Proverbs 22:24-25).
The Bible further declares the happiness or blessedness of the one "that walks not in the counsel of the wicked" (Psalms 1:1). But the verse does not stop with “wicked.” The complete verse says, “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!” You can see the progression. In a sense, we could say that you “walk by” where sin is, and then you “stand around,” and the next thing that happens is that you are “sitting” right in the middle of sin. So the first part of the admonition suggests that we watch where we “walk” in the first place.
This is not to say that you cannot be friends with those in the world, nor that you cannot be a good influence on them, but if you are honest with yourself, you will know if you are being a positive influence, or if you are being negatively influenced. And as for running with such as your best friends, your chances of changing a whole group are just two -- slim and none.
If your situation is such that you feel you will have no friends if you stand for what is right -- then so be it. I’m not saying this is easy, but sometimes we are persecuted for principles of truth. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12). If you are not willing to make sacrifices for the Lord, then what is your religion worth, anyway? Better to stand alone (with the Lord) than to stand with a multitude and do evil. “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil” (Exodus 23:2). Choose your companions with care, and it will be easier to say "No" and "Yes" to the appropriate things.
Rule 6: Watch Your Circumstances
Sin does not like the daylight and wide-open spaces. It likes darkness and secret places. Christ talked about those who loved darkness rather than light. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
Common sense will avoid situations where you will be pressured to do wrong. If a boy's date suggests they go to the lake to watch submarine races, a trip to McDonald's would be a better suggestion. A girl who accepts a date to a party where she knows alcohol will be present is just plain dumb. God’s Word gives wise counsel in this matter. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).
In other words, don't even let temptation get a foot in the door. If you’re a sucker for every salesman that comes to the door, just don’t open the door when he rings. That way, your house won’t be full of unwanted merchandise.
If you are careful about where you go, what you do, and with whom, then you won't be in danger of wearing out the batteries that operate your "No" button.
Rule 7: Make Up Your Mind in Advance
This is so important if one is to live right and keep from sin. Sometimes I ask, "What would you do in such and such a situation…? Some reply, "I don't know, but I hope I would make the right decision." Wrong answer! That's a cop-out, and oftentimes that person will give in to temptation. Waiting to decide is a dangerous game. If you are with a group of friends and wait to make your decision only when they pull out a bottle of beer, the pressure of the situation can easily overpower you. If you wait until your heart is pounding after an hour's steamy session on Lover's Lane to decide on whether or not to have sex, there is a strong chance that hormones will overrule your conscience.
Of course, if you had heeded Rule #6, you wouldn't have been there. Make the decisions beforehand. If you will make it a practice to settle such questions before faced with temptations, you can think clearly and rationally, and decide without the pressure of friends, hormones, or lust clouding your mind. Because Daniel "purposed in his heart not to defile himself" (Daniel 1:8) he was able to withstand the pressure from the king to go along with the crowd. Therefore, Daniel is honored by God, and by us.
Rule 8: Watch Your Heart
"Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). When we feed the heart on spiritual junk food, it should be no surprise that we are "hooked." While some try to discount the influence of sexually stimulating movies, books, music, and other such pornography, students of human behavior say otherwise. The Bible agrees with this. In writing of a certain man, Solomon said, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7)
Do you have at least half a brain? You should know that a young couple watching a sexually stimulating movie are more likely to be sexually aroused. Studies have shown that many times fornication is committed while couples are listening to erotic music. It's as if the song's message is issuing an invitation that the girl or boy may not be bold enough to do. Thus David told us to put God's word in our hearts. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalms 119:11).
Do you suppose this has any connection with Paul's admonition? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). When my heart is attuned to things that are wholesome, then my actions are more likely to follow. But when I dwell on fleshly desires, then my actions are influenced in that direction.
Where does murder begin? -- With the heart. If I dislike someone and dwell on our disagreements, I will eventually come to hate that person. And if I harbor hatred in my heart, it is possible that one day I will kill that person if circumstances are right. Ergo, God teaches us to be forgiving, to get over the anger, to settle differences. Likewise stealing begins in the heart — with covetousness. And so sexual sins begin in the heart with lust, but by watching the heart, we can keep lust from dwelling there.
My friend, temptation can be overcome. There is never any excuse for saying, "I couldn't help it." God has provided all we need to say, "No." There is a way out of every temptation, if we will just take it. It may not be the easy way or the popular way, but the way is there. "No" is a two-letter word, and we all know what it means. It is not difficult to pronounce. Just purse your lips, place your tongue at the roof of your mouth just behind the teeth, and … Oh, you know how to say it. Try it. It works wonders.
Remember God’s promise in I Corinthians 10:13: “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.” That’s God’s solemn promise, and he always keeps his word. Bottom line: you can resist temptation if you want to.