Summary: Sermon on the Sixth Petition: Lead us not into temptation.
We all know how dangerous drinking and driving is but did you know that texting and driving is even riskier? Car & Driver magazine found that it took an impaired driver traveling 110 km an hour, 5 meters longer to stop than when he was sober. Five meters is more than a car length. When they ran the same test while the driver was sober but texting, how far do you suppose it took him to stop? It took him almost 100 meters farther to stop than when he wasn’t texting! (caranddriver.com) I have one thing to say to you smart phone users: put those phones away and keep your eyes on the road, otherwise the distraction is going to kill you and others!
“Keep your eyes on the road,” is the same kind of advice that Jesus gives in the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation describes anything that would take our eyes off the goal of believing and living for Jesus. This distractedness can lead to loss of faith and therefore eternal salvation. So stop thinking about what you’re going to make for lunch today or what you’ll do this afternoon and focus your attention here as we discuss the importance of keeping our eyes on the road to heaven.
The Sixth Petition has always puzzled Christians. Why do we need to ask our heavenly Father NOT to lead us into temptation? Is he like one of those fathers who uses his kids as drug runners and pickpockets? Do we need to beg that he wouldn’t do this to us? Of course not! James 1:13, 14 is clear: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” With the Sixth Petition we’re not asking God to stop leading us into temptation because he never does so in the first place. On the other hand, neither are we asking God to keep all temptation away from us since he often allows temptation as a way to exercise our faith and refine it. What we’re asking with the Sixth Petition is that we don’t succumb to temptation when it comes.
Consider how Jesus told his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. Jesus wasn’t asking that they pray for temptation to stay away, for if it had, Judas and the soldiers never would have arrived to arrest Jesus and usher in the events of Good Friday. But Jesus didn’t want the disciples to fall into sin while this was happening. He didn’t want them to take matters into their own hands and try and fight the soldiers, nor did Jesus want his disciples to abandon him out of fear for their own lives. As it turned out, the disciples did both.
Likewise when we pray: “Lead us not into temptation,” we’re not asking God to take away everything that may lead us to sin. If that was the case, God should never grant us success in sports, music, school, or business because that might lead to the sin of pride. Praying, “Lead us not into temptation,” is like asking your piano teacher to give you a piece of music that’s not too challenging so that you despair and can’t make progress on it, but neither do you want music that’s too easy because then you won’t grow as a musician either.
But doesn’t God often seem like a music teacher or a coach who thinks we can really do more than we can? It must feel that way for a member in a neighboring WELS congregation who was just diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. This woman has two children, one in high school and the other a third or fourth grader. Her husband is not a Christian. Just a couple of years ago she survived cancer. Now this! Lord, isn’t this too much for her and her family to handle? Won’t this lead her to doubt your love for her? Won’t it cause her children to turn away from the faith if this is how you treat their mother? And what will her husband think of Christianity now? It’s often a struggle for us to understand God’s ways. But that’s why Jesus taught us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation.” What we’re saying is, “Lord, don’t let this be an occasion for me to doubt your ongoing love for this individual and her family. Don’t let her despair of your promises either, for you have said that you won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, and will give us the strength to stand up under testing” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Sixth Petition is a request that God would keep our eyes on the road, that is, on his promises and not on how frail we are and how big the challenges seem. When we keep our eyes on the road we’ll keep moving forward in faith no matter how steep the incline.