The Way Through
Purpose Driven Life #27
February 21, 2004
Sometimes, in spite of what we considered together last week, temptations seem overwhelming and seem that the only answer is to give in to them. Even though we might know that each temptation provides and equal opportunity to do the right thing as to do the wrong, the wrong can seem too appealing and it can appear like this temptation is simply too much for us to bear. The idea that a temptation is too much to bear and that you ’have’ to give in to the wrong is a lie from Satan.
God gives you and me a promise about this. This is a promise that I’m asking you to not only remember but to memorize so that it is with you in such times. There is always a way out and a way through these times of intense temptation.
1 Cor.10.13- "There is not temptation that comes on you that is not common to people. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear but will, with the temptation, provide a way to escape, that you may bear it."
This is a promise I have come back to many times in my life and one that I want to urge you to put somewhere that is readily available to you, too. Temptations will be a daily part of your life, and they are a sign that you’re both human and that you are one of God’s children. They are a part of life we might rather not have, but they are in our lives as opportunities to grow. There are actions you can take in order to maximize what God does in his work to provide your way of escape, which often is by taking right on through the temptation to the other side of it, victorious! He does sometimes take the temptation away, but not always. He knows what ’stuff’ you are made of and the resources he makes available to you, and his permitting a temptation to remain for awhile can be his expression of great confidence in you, as his daughter or son! See the positive- stop always seeing the negative in such times!
Last week, I urged you to not be intimidated by Satan’s stirring of temptations in you, and I asked you to understand your own pattern of temptations, and to ask for God’s help. Today, I want to give you four further keys to assist in becoming victorious over temptations.
1. Refocus your attention on something else. So often, we become products of our focus. People think that the best way to overcome something is to focus on it and the actions necessary to get it out of life. But that can only stir up the desire. If you want to diet and have to focus all the time on what you are eating or that you are not to be eating, what does it do? It makes you want to eat more, right? So, the answer is to focus on something else. The battle for sin is won or lost in your mind. We’ve been talking a lot about the mind, of late, and that change begins there, but that’s because we are cerebral. This is something God has built into us, which makes us greater than the other creatures of the earth. We are able to think and to reason and to focus. We are to use that ability and what better way to use that ability than to rebuild ourselves, or allow God to rebuild us, after God’s image? That’s what he wants.
Psa.119.37- David prayed that he would be kept from paying attention to what is worthless. We focus on so many things that are worthless so much of the time. Focusing on something that will take you away from God is focusing on something that is worthless. Put the focus elsewhere. Temptation begins by capturing your attention, which arouses your emotions, which lead to behaviour that has you acting on the temptation. The more you focus on "I don’t want to do this" the more you will move toward doing it.
Ignoring a temptation is more powerful than fighting it. Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. This may mean hanging up when it calls. This may mean walking away when it approaches you. This may mean declaring a strong ’no’ when it comes near you. This may mean getting up and turning off the television. This may mean asking someone else to stop talking when they are gossiping. This may mean leaving the theatre in the middle of a movie. Do whatever is necessary to turn your attention to something else. Get your mind occupied with something else and see the victory come to you- God’s victory, of course!
Heb.3.1- fix your thoughts on Jesus.
Phil.4.8- a powerful and necessary concept. Put your mind on the right things, rather than on the low and unworthy things, and enjoy the victory. If you’re serious about defeating temptation, you must manage your mind!
2. Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. Groups can be of immense help to you. I watched a bit of television on Monday night and saw one ad for, of all things, ex-lax. The concept was about a group of ladies who met for breakfast weekly and that you wouldn’t want to miss such a great time because of a ’problem’. However, the image given was of something that was immensely enjoyable and helpful- the group, that is.
Eccl.4.9-10- we’re not meant to live our lives alone. We need others in our lives in order to have the strength we would like to think we have ourselves. We’re all just reeds waving in the winds of life and are so very easily shifted. God’s plan for your growth and freedom includes other Christians. We are not meant to live alone.
Jas.5.16- this is not something you’d do with everyone. This is not something to do here, in this gathering. This might be something you do in a small group of trusted people, where you have assurance of confidentiality. This is something you might do with a very trusted friend. You and I don’t need to go through life with masks and pride keeping us from overcoming our temptations. The reason we haven’t overcome a persistent temptation already shows our person weakness in the matter and our need for others. However, we’ve learned to not trust others. This is very sad, and many people have betrayed secrets. People don’t know, anymore, what secrets to keep and what to share.
I saw a small play, given to a Grade 8 class, this week. The point was that you always have someone you can talk to when you have problems in school. It might be a principal, vice principal, counselor, social worker, friend, parent, and Kids’ Help Line. But there is someone. At one point, a girl was on the phone with a girlfriend, who asked her to share a secret about someone else in the play. She said simply, "I’ve learned that there are some secrets to share and some secrets not to share." This is an important line, and once a confidence is broken, it’s hard to win back the trust.
Prov.18.19 says it all. Keep the confidences of your friends. Now, of course, we cannot guarantee this when someone confides something to us that can hurt them or others. At camp, when someone confides something that might involve suicidal thoughts, abuse, or the like, law obligates us, to report. We tell the youth this, though, and work together on the matter.
The value of close friends and accountability groups is immense!
3. Resist the Devil. As I discussed a bit last week, he’s not as strong as some make him out to be.
Jas.4.7- says simply that we need to resist him. People worry about this because some people make such a deal out of Satan. They go on about casting him out, breaking his bonds, and the like. It’s rather theatrical oftentimes, and highly unnecessary most of the time. James, brother of Jesus, writes simply that we need to resist him. Think about salesmen you encounter and how they back off quickly, normally, when you simply resist their push. Satan is no different. We simply fight back by resisting, or by pushing back.
How do you resist the Devil? First of all, you have to say ’yes’ to Christ and accept God’s salvation. You cannot say no to Satan unless you’ve said yes to Christ. Without Christ, you are defenseless against Satan, but with Christ, there is nothing that has to overcome you. If you are a believer, Satan cannot force you to do anything- he can only suggest.
Then, you need to use the Word as your weapon.
Eph.6.17- take on salvation, then use the Word of God. There is power in God’s word. Do you remember what Jesus did when tempted? I’ve referred to this a couple of times, but let’s look there together.
Matt.4- see the three temptations and Jesus’ answer each time! Amazing, really. You and I need to know the scriptures and to memorize scriptures. How many have you in your arsenal right now? Satan fears a scripture quoting person. Become one of those. Memorize- even to memorize a verse a week will increase your power immensely. We’ve begun with one today- 1 Cor.10.13. Let’s go back to it together. Scripture is like bullets against Satan!
4. Realize your vulnerability. Take a realistic viewpoint on yourself.
Jer.17.9- We can be very good at fooling ourselves. Don’t get overconfident. Given the right circumstances, each of us is capable of sin. Given a different background, each of us is capable of being the worst of humans. Let us not fail to remember this. We have to keep up our guards, knowing this to be true. Don’t carelessly place yourself in tempting situations. Avoid them.
Prov.14.16- be cautious. Be realistic. It is easier to stay out of temptation than to get out of it.
Notice the verse that comes before the one we’re memorizing today:
1 Cor.10.12- don’t be overly confident. God warns each of us, and we need to take his warning seriously, and need to understand how he’ll support us and help us through to the victory he wants each of us to know.
Remember that there is a way out of temptation. It doesn’t have to overpower us. It provides an avenue for incredible spiritual growth.
1. Memorize 1 Cor.10.13. Write it on a card- I have some available for you today.
2. Think about who you can have as an accountability partner- someone you can share with knowing you will get support and not betrayal, and plan to talk with that person this week about a new and deeper relationship between you.
3. Know that God will lead you to greater and greater victories as you use your temptations as opportunities for building and growing rather than as opportunities for destruction. They will be steps to victory in your ongoing quest for greater spiritual maturity and growing up to become more like Christ!