HOW TO TRUMPH OVER TEMPTATION?
M. G. Mathews
The word temptation conveys different ideas to different people. Some cannot control their tongue, while others battle the urge to take drugs or alcohol. All of us, without exception, have fought and are fighting a personal war against temptations and addictions to bad habits.
Temptation is defined as “the enticement to commit an unwise or immoral act, especially for a promised or perceived reward.” A good or wise option looks unappealing on the surface, while a negative one holds allure. This usually leads to tension as we are not sure which option to choose. While this struggle is real and can be unsettling, we should remember that it is caused by the conscience that God has put within us. All of us are born with the natural tendency to make wrong choices – the tendency we inherited from Eve, which the Bible calls sin. We have an innate desire to live life on our terms rather than God’s. The only way open for us to reverse our independence and separation from God, is His Son Jesus Christ – the only one who triumphed over every temptation, conquering sin and death on our behalf (Jn.14:6;Rom. 6:23;Jn.3:16).
When you accept Christ’s atonement for sin and trust Him as your Saviour, you have ‘died’ to sin. Temptation and sin no longer have the power over you (Rom.6:1-3). Sin does exist and temptations are as real as ever, but their reign in your life is broken. You are free to choose against sin; you are free to say ‘no’ to temptation. In Christ you have a new life and a new spirit (1Cor.5:17). The Holy Spirit, who indwells you the moment you place your trust in Jesus, enables you to choose obedience over rebellion.
It is important to understand that, as a believer in Christ, your new desires are God-given and legitimate. For example, there is nothing wrong with eating. But when you desire to eat more or less than you should, or in a way that harms your body, then it is sin. Every time you go beyond the loving boundaries God has set, you tread on sinful ground. We have a tendency to blame someone else or circumstances, and even the devil, when we fall into temptation and mess up our lives. When God called Adam in the Garden of Eden after he had sinned, Adam blamed Eve (Gen.3:12).
We do this because our pride refuses to admit that the problem lies within us. While Satan does play an active role in luring us away from God through his craftiness (2Cor.11:3), we have been adequately equipped to resist and defeat him (Eph.6:10-17;Ja.4:7). Yes, Satan is a formidable foe, as the Lord has warned us, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and father of lies” (Jn.8:44). In 1 Thessalonians 3:5 and Matthew 4:3, Satan is referred to as the tempter who lures many into temptation. He knows your weak and vulnerable areas and exploits them when you give him an opportunity (1Pet.5:8). Nevertheless, as Job 1:12 indicates, his abilities are limited by God. God does not tempt you to sin either. “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 any one. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (Jas.1:13-14).
What are your besetting temptations? What is it that you are most vulnerable to? Talk to the Lord about it and ask Him to give you the grace to overcome the temptation. When you experience the joy of God’s liberating grace and truth in action, apply the principle of the divine victory to the other trouble spots, bearing in mind that Jesus knows what it feels like to be tempted. He identifies with you in every way and can personally help you in the time of crisis and decision (Heb.4:15,16).
Consider Jesus’ confrontation with the devil in the wilderness (Matt.4). Jesus had not eaten for forty days; He was physically and emotionally exhausted, and that was precisely the time Satan chose to confront Him with his potentially lethal temptations. With every offer the devil made, Jesus experienced a real tug of war with worldly desires; He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet He was without sin. He can sympathise with us in our weaknesses, and we can always approach His throne of grace with confidence. Satan has no power over those who rely on the Holy Spirit to resist him.
In Christ Jesus we are more than conquerors when we recognise and resist Satan’s craftiness, sinful desires within us, or the temptations from the world around. No temptation is too strong to resist for those who are in Christ. “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 a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it”(1Cor.10:13). “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptations” (2Pet.2:9).
When tempted, turn to Him immediately and ask for His discernment to find the escape route. He is faithful to deliver you. Just recognising Satan’s strategy to attack is a significant step towards victory. But we must go to Him first; waiting to turn to Him until after we have tried to solve the problem ourselves will almost always end in disaster.
Temptation can hit us hard when we are not alert and watchful. Jesus told His disciples just before He was betrayed, “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt.26:41). A consistent prayer life is a powerful weapon for recognising and resisting temptation.
When Jesus confronted Satan in the wilderness, He did not argue, justify or debate. He quoted the word of God to counter each of the false claims of the devil to silence him. No half-truth or deceitful rationalisation can stand against God’s word.