How to Handle Temptation
Do you struggle with temptation? I heard of someone who said, “I don’t struggle with temptation, I just give in to it!” That is not the answer!
But the fact is, there isn’t a day that goes by that we are not tempted in some way. Temptation comes in many forms; we are tempted not to tell the truth, to take something that does not belong to us, to take advantage of someone, to gossip, to over eat, to hold a grudge, or to withhold from the Lord that which rightfully belongs to him.
The magazine “Discipleship Journal” asked its readers to rank the areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them. The results came back in this order:
5. (tie) Anger and Sexual lust
Those who responded to this survey also noted that temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God and when they were physically tired.
The truth is that temptation is everywhere. How do you handle the temptations in your life? Can anything be done to help you win that struggle? Is it even possible to successfully resist temptation?
The Bible tells us that yes we can. In our text tonight, James gives us insight into just how to better handle the temptations that come our way. Tonight we are going to learn three steps to follow.
Read Scriptures: James 1:13-18
I. Don’t be Surprised by Temptation
Vs. 13 “When tempted…”
The first step we must take to handle temptation is to take a step of preparation. If we are going to successfully handle temptation, we can’t be surprised when it shows up on our door step.
Notice what James said, “When tempted”, he did say, “If tempted.” We should never be surprised when temptation shows itself. We need to understand some things about temptation.
1. Temptation is universal – everyone is tempted
The only person that is not tempted is the person that is dead.
2. Temptation is inevitable – it will come
You are either in temptation right now, heading out of it, or getting ready to be hit by it.
3. Temptation is personal – everyone has their own temptations
All of us a vulnerable in different ways. What tempts you might not tempt me and vice versa. Satan tailor makes temptations just for you, to fit your weaknesses. Temptation will come to us all, so we need to be prepared for it when it comes.
II. Don’t be Confused about Temptation.
Vs. 13-15 “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
After we have properly prepared ourselves for temptation, we must understand where temptation comes from.
Some would argue that God is the source of temptation. Shifting the blame actually began in the Garden of Eden. Adam excused himself for his disobedience to God by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” And the woman said, “the serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Gen. 3:12-13)
James quickly refutes the whole idea of God being the sender of temptation.
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, not does he tempted anyone.”
Unless we understand that real source of our temptation, we will respond to it incorrectly.
Satan is the one to blame when temptation comes our way. But let’s not give Satan too much credit. For us to be tempted by Satan there must be something there for Satan’s temptation to be effective.
Each person is responsible for their own temptation, and James is quick to point out that temptation is not a event, but a process.
“But each one is tempted by his lusts, being drawn away and seduced by them. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin. And sin, when it is fully formed, brings forth death.”
1. First, temptation beings with desire
James tells us that it is “each one is tempted by his own evil desire”. This is the beginning of the process that can only be described as a downward spiral toward sin.
The desire to sin is in us all. If it weren’t, sin would not be attractive to us.
2. Temptation leads to deception.
James tells us that because of our desire we are “dragged away and enticed” Enticed, means to literally be lured by bait, like in fishing. The purpose of the bait is deception.
If you bait a hook in fishing to lure fish, you are doing two things. First, you are luring fish. If you want to pull fish out of there hiding places you need to use a bait that will peak their interest, one that they can’t resist. Second, you are hiding the hook.
We are enticed by sin, because we don’t see the consequences that come along with it. The hook is always there, even if we don’t see it. We are simply deceived into believing that it is not. The consequences of sin are real, and when you get hooked it is hard to break free.
3. Temptation, when given into results in disobedience
Sin is disobedience to god. But it doesn’t end here.
4. Temptation when given into ends in death
“And sin, when it is fully formed, bring forth death.” (v. 15b)
Even though sin sometimes brings a temporary period of pleasure, it always leads to death, although this is not immediately apparent. We have all sinned and God did not strike us dead that very moment.
But we must not be misled about the ultimate result of sin because of God’s mercy. Just because God has not immediately judged us, it doesn’t mean that he will never judge our sin. What we have been experiencing is God’s mercy. If we continue to sin and do not respond to God’s mercy by forsaking our sins, death will follow.
James is not referring here to a physical death, if so none of us would be here. Nor is he referring to spiritual death, for then no one could be saved.
The fulfillment of our lust brings about in the believer’s life a death-like existence.
1. We will die to the things of God.
2. We will die inside.
If you want to handle temptation successfully, take a good long look at it. Analyze it and see what is causing it. Look at where it is taking you. Look at the consequences. Look at where you will end up. It simply is not worth it.
III. Don’t be deceived by Temptation.
Vs. 16-18 “Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”
The final step in the process of handling temptation is to reject it. “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” (v. 16)
In other words, don’t fall for the temptation, reject it. Once you see it for what it is, get away from it. The key is seeing it for what it is. We need to see that it is not good no matter how it appears. Satan does not give good gifts, he only gives nice wrapping paper to make it look good.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down form the Father of light, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (v. 17)
Remember that James began by saying that God did not cause temptation to come to us.
God is not the source of our temptation.
1. Temptation is not a good thing and never will be.
2. And God does not give bad things to us.
The good news is that those who are born of God can resist temptation. You can win over temptation. Temptation doesn’t have to defeat you. You have been set free by the power of the life of Christ within you. You no longer have to be a slave to sin. You now have the power to resist and reject sinful practices.
“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” (v. 18)
In other words, it is the new birth that provides us the power for living that we need. Everything that we need is given to us through the life of Christ within us. It is that life that makes the difference.
So, don’t be surprised by temptation - expect it! It comes to everyone. It will come to you. Don’t be confused by temptation - understand it! It may seem desirable, but it leads to deception and disobedience, and eventually death. Don’t be deceived by temptation – stand up to it! It may seem good, but it is not.
At the beginning of the message I shared with you a survey from the “Discipleship Journal) on what was the greatest spiritual challenge to them. That same survey also asked the respondents what their greatest asset in resisting temptation was, here are the results.
2. Avoiding compromising situations
3. Bible study
4. Being accountable to someone else
Remember the presence of temptation is not a sin, in fact the struggle itself is proof that God is very close to us. Our sensitivity to sin is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of our salvation. There would be no inner battle if we were lost.
(thanks sermoncentral.com contributors)