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“Tiger Breath!” Matthew 6:9-13 Key verse(s): 13:“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

It has been foreordained that life is a temptation! Now that is a depressing thought if I ever heard one. Foreordained? That means that no matter what I do or how I do it, ultimately I will end up adrift in a sea of temptation. The harder I paddle from one spot to another all I gain is another patch of deep water. In a way it’s kind of like the kid and the cookie jar. No matter how hard he tries to ignore the cookies, his ignorance can never overcome his understanding that the jar is full of delicious cookies. He can even leave the room where those cookies are stored high up on the shelf, tempting him to grab just one. Just because they are out of sight makes it no easier to forget that they are there. The temptation follows even when the object of that temptation is not apparent.

Is that really true? God tells us in Scriptures that He allows temptation to enter into our lives. But this is not because He desires that we should fall into them. No. God does not tempt; He only tests (James 1:13-14). It is the manner of that testing that determines the “foreordination” of sin in our lives. If God did not love us, He would likely withhold temptation from our lives altogether. If that were our fate, it is probable that we would find great merit in ourselves and, therefore, fall in love with who we are and not who made us. There is no more certain and expeditious way of stumbling on a path to Hell than this. The writer of the Book of Tobit states it this way, “And because you were acceptable to God, it was necessary that through temptation you should be proved to Him” (Tobit xi. 15). Therein lies the clue. When we “prove” something it is refined and made better. Like the smelting process in which the ore, full of impurities and waste, is “proved”; the dross removed and only the treasure remaining. Now that “refined” product can be made into something sturdy and enduring. That which is proved is destined to become more valuable than when it was in its raw form.

Refining? On the surface that doesn’t sound like much of an improvement. There’s all that heat, grinding, discomfort and pouring out. If that’s our lot in this life, perhaps we’d rather not? Perhaps we are just as well off contending with the evil around us by our own skills and ploys. Do we really need to feel the breath of evil panting down our necks in order to avoid it? Keeping it at arms length by some other means might seem more attractive.

I once read a story about a man and a tiger that bears repeating here. It seems that one night in a country in the far east a man was overcome by the heat and vowed that he would sleep that night even if he had to move his bed outside into the open air where tigers prowled and cobras crawled. He dragged his bed outside into the courtyard of his home. A pleasant cool breeze descended upon him immediately from the nearby jungle canopy. He spread his mosquito netting above his bed, resting it upon the frame of the bedstead and fell fast asleep. It was not an hour or so later that he was awakened by a feeling of dread and apprehension. He sensed that he was not alone and that danger lurked nearby. He was transfixed by the silence of the night and felt that he dare not move lest he make a noise that would attract the danger that he was sure rested in the nearby jungle. As he stared, straining into the darkness beyond he suddenly saw a shadow. He knew immediately that a tiger was prowling the edge of the jungle in search of prey. Frozen in fear, he could barely afford a breath. The shadow moved nearer and nearer to the place where he reclined in the middle of that courtyard. There was no escape nor weapon to be grasped. He simply closed his eyes and waited. Though he could not see the beast for he was afraid to open his eyes lest they reflect his presence, he knew that it was upon him. Closer and closer it came until he could feel it pressing its nose against the fragile netting. Yet, each time it pressed against the netting it retreated only to return again. Finally, after feeling its breath rushing across his frozen face, he could stand it no longer. He arose in bed and screamed with all his life and breath. The tiger retreated to the jungle and he was saved. He never again found himself so pressed by the heat to take the risk of sleeping in that courtyard again.

God places a “veil of innocence” around our souls that is meant to protect us from the evil in this world. It is as fragile as it is strong. It is the sheerest of defenses for its simplicity. Yet, when we are within it, we need fear no harm. The devil and the world will press against it, even breath down our necks sometimes. However, when we call upon the name of the Lord, crying out for His protection and mercy, we will be saved and the temptation will be vanquished. In so doing, the breath of the “tiger” will give us pause to reflect on where we ought to be spending our time; in harms way or out of it.

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