Temptation – And How to Fight It

Our church is studying the life of Christ right now, and we just looked at His time in the wilderness facing temptation. Although He had divine power, He faced temptation like a common man would have to, without resorting to miracles to solve His problems.

The English pastor Charles Spurgeon observed, “God has one Son without sin, but no sons without temptation.” If Jesus Himself suffered temptation but never sinned (Hebrews 4:15), then the fact we suffer temptation is a problem but not a failure – as long as we resist!

And we have an additional problem which Jesus did not – we have a fallen, sinful nature. It’s our natural inclination to break the rules. James warns us that “each one is tempted when he drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:14)  Jesus was tempted from the outside; we have that, but we also have our own rebellious hearts to deal with.

So what should we do when we feel the urge to cut corners, break rules, run from God, and jump into sin?

We taught our children a five-step strategy – which works for adults, too.

  1. Leave or change the situation. “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself.” (Proverbs 22:3) If you’re tempted while alone, go find company (and accountability!). If you’re tempted by a morally dangerous situation or bad company, leave!
  2. Pray and ask God for help. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:7) Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13) – we have His blessing to pray this way today!
  3. Read your Bible. “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9) This is how Jesus answered Satan’s temptations – by going back to Scripture! This is where memorized passages come in handy. Psalm 1 tells us the man who avoids “the path of sinners” is one who meditates on God’s word “day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
  4. Sing to God. “For it is good to sing praises to our God.” (Psalm 147:1) Music can warm a cold heart. It also uses both sides of our brain, which helps overwrite distracting images.
  5. Go to your authority and ask for help. Whoever occupies a position of spiritual trust in your life, reach out to them. It may be a parent, spouse, pastor, or a trusted friend. Paul told Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness … with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

(By the way, if you are that trusted authority for someone else, you are following the command, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Just remember you are trying to bear their burden, not add to it. Don’t interrogate and judge, just listen and offer encouragement and prayer!)

We tell our kids that these five – holding up fingers to represent them – can be rolled into a fist to knock away temptation. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) That’s encouraging!

And take heart – our Savior understands our struggle.For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin … in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 4:15, 2:18)

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