Sunday Morning Word: Overcoming Temptation

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Temptation. We all face it. It’s a natural part of being human. That inner battle that results in us choosing to either do good, stay the course, and continue walking in the Spirit, or veer from the path and stop at a little dive bar off to the side, where we can fulfill the desires of our flesh for just a couple of minutes.

Sometimes we are able to overcome temptation. Other times, the call of the flesh is just too loud and it gets the better of us. If you succumb to the temptation, don’t make the mistake that I often do and go silent, as if to say, “If I don’t say anything, maybe God won’t know.” That is only the tricks of the devil, and you have to kill that thought before it even arises. God is everywhere. He sees all and He knows all. He knows what you’re going to do even before you do it. Hiding from God because you’re ashamed, like Adam and Eve did when they ate from the forbidden tree and saw that they were naked (Genesis 3:10), won’t get you anywhere. It’s almost as if you’re making a fool of Him to think that he doesn’t already know. What’s done in the dark will come to light, but that doesn’t mean He won’t forgive you when you finally do come to Him. The question is will you?

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. (James 1: 13-15)

Sometimes it’s hard to admit when we do wrong. We fight it with all our might. Deep down, we know we’re good people; we just had a moment of weakness. We know we’re better; we can do better. So we’ll pretend this moment of weakness never happened. We’ll continue to be the “good Christian” people we know we can be. But what happens when that temptation returns? Will we be able to resist it, or will we again have a moment of weakness and try to fix it ourselves by sweeping it under the rug and hoping that God won’t find out?

We are doing ourselves a true disservice when we don’t let God into our problems. David shows us in Psalm 32:5 how truly forgiving God is if we only confess: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Then again in Proverbs, we see what covering up our sins gets us. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy”  (Proverbs 23:13). But for those of us who like to put on our “good Christian” faces even when we know our actions show the opposite, John brings that conviction that we need to finally kneel before God and tell him all our troubles.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

So what happens after you confess, after you finally include God in your life, showing Him your troubles and asking Him for help? Don’t expect Him to wrap you up in a bubble so that you’re never tempted again. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world” (John 16:33). Let us not forget that even Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), but He was able to overcome it. If He hadn’t, if He had fallen to the deceit of Satan, He couldn’t have become the Savior of the world. You don’t have to wait until after you’ve messed up to go to Him. Run to him while the temptation is still strongly pressing down on you. He knows exactly what you’re going through because He’s been through it, and He can provide you with a way out.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you 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. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Your way out of temptation is the word of God. If we look back to the temptation of Christ, we see that each of Jesus’ responses to the devil comes directly from Scripture. When Satan tells Jesus to turn the stones to bread for food, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:4). When Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the highest point of the temple to see if the Lord’s angels will catch him, Jesus responds, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ ” (Matthew 4:7). When Satan promises Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He will only bow down and worship him, Jesus answers, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ ” (Matthew 4:10).

If we are to resist the temptation of the enemy, it is important that we know the word of God, and not just have it memorized—because Matthew 4:6 shows us that even Satan can quote the Bible—but know it and understand it. Ephesians 6:11 instructs us, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Part of that armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). The King James translation of 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We must study the word so that we can discern what is of God and what is not. And for the things that are not of God, we can use His word to resist them violently.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate, for you and for me, how important it is to stay under God’s authority when dealing with temptation. Trying to do it all ourselves only leads to our own self-destruction. My home pastor teaches us that the spiritual principle of authority is God’s plan to protect our lives. So let God protect you. Galatians 5:16 says to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” I encourage you again and again, to walk in His Spirit, immerse yourself in the studies of His word, resist the devil and his tricks and temptations with the tongue of Christ, which is a double-edged sword (Revelation 1:16), and he will flee from you.

Happy Sunday.