We often think of temptation in terms of the food we love to consume, that we shouldn’t indulge in. I have a very hard time passing on chocolate chip cookies for instance. I find potato chips to be so irresistible, that I’ve been known to take down an entire bag in one sitting. When the Bible talks about temptation, however, something quite different than indulging in a second slice of pie is intended.
Temptation, quite simply, is the inclination to do something contrary to the will of God.
Have you ever wondered where temptation comes from? We may want to claim that “the devil made me do it”, or perhaps we imagine that God is tempting us, but the Scriptures refute this. James explains “God…does not tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:13,14).
It is a humbling thing to learn that the greatest obstacle between me and obedience to God’s will is my own desires. The reason I am tempted is because, at some level, I am fond of that thing. This is what makes the fight against temptation so difficult–I’m fighting against something that I’m inclined to do.
As a result, sheer will power won’t cut it. We need something beyond ourselves—we need God to intervene and to alter our affections. We need God to help as take down temptation at its root—we need Him to change our desires.
I have a long way to go in terms of mortifying my desires that contradict God’s will, but I am encouraged by the words of Scripture. Paul explains to the Corinthians (and to us), “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. And when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out.” (1Corinthians 10:13).
When I delivered a message on Overcoming Temptation at St. Andrew’s Kirk on August, 29, I encouraged the congregation to focus on the “way out” which God promises to provide. Not surprisingly, one of the primary ways in which we access this “way out” is through prayer. But I also cautioned about letting temptation get too close. Let me illustrate this by having you imagine someone jumping off a swimming pool diving board and praying, ‘Lord, please don’t allow me to get wet!’ Do you expect that the Lord would answer such a prayer? Yes, God can do the impossible, but in my experience God provides a “way out” long before we are in mid air.
Followers of Jesus have every reason to be hopeful in their fight against temptation. May I invite you to have a listen to the audio below. I expect it may encourage you as you seek to overcome temptation, and as you endeavour to walk more closely with the Lord Jesus Christ.