Summary: Temptation comes in varied and subtle ways. But we can resist in rather than give in.
“Temptation--Only a Question, Not an Answer”
INTRODUCTION: Desserts have sometimes been named “seduction” or “temptation” because there is something “delicious” and full of promise offered.
Oscar Wilde said, “The only way to get rid of temptation is to give in to it.” We laugh about temptation and most of us do give in at one time or another to something. Sometimes it is only a 500 calorie piece of chocolate cake, and it doesn’t leave too severe of consequences unless we give in to the temptation again and again. Other times the stakes are high and consequences are not as beautiful as the promise. Some temptations become cumulative in their build up of consequences until it becomes very difficult not to give in time after time. People who have given in to the temptation to try drugs or alcohol sadly find this to be true. We would think that undesirable consequences would cause us to deal with temptation in such a way that would produce the kind of results we want, but we often fail over and over again.
Scripture has quite a lot to say about temptation and how to deal with it. Let’s take a look at this topic and see how it applies to our lives.
1. Don’t Be Surprised By It: Many Christians feel that once they become a Christian that their problems are solved and that the devil will leave them alone. They are surprised when they are tempted by something. Scripture doesn’t teach that we will be temptation free when we come to the Lord. One woman in all sincerity told her Sunday school class, “I’m not tempted by sin. I only have Christian friends.” One person might be tempted by something and have a real struggle whereas it wouldn’t bother us a bit. We may pridefully say, “I would never do that” and yet there would be another temptation trap that we could easily fall into.
STORY: There were some preachers, a priest, and a rabbi sitting around a table discussing things, and they came to the subject of temptation. One asked his friend, “What tempts you?” The preacher said, “Sometimes, I like to take a little nip of Jack Daniels.” Another said, “Sometimes when I go out of town I like to step out on my wife.” Another said, “I like to watch X-rated movies once in awhile.” His friend said, “Sometimes I like to read adult rated magazines.” They got to the end of the table. “Brother Joe,” they asked, “what tempts you?” He replied, “One of my worst problems is that I am tempted to gossip, and I can hardly wait to get home to call someone on the phone.”
Don’t be surprised when temptation comes to you. I Peter 5:8 says, “Like a lion your adversary the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour.” We need to open our eyes and realistically prepare for his onslaughts when they do occur. We may feel the temptation more when we are tired or under stress, when we are alone or away from home, after a spiritual high, when we are not expecting it, or when we withdraw from church attendance.
Some people take the view that they should isolate themselves from every temptation and therefore they will be successful. This could be good in some cases such as if you are tempted by alcohol, don’t go sit around in a bar. This is especially true for new Christians whose friends drag them back into sinful practices. However, victory comes not through the avoidance of the assault but through the resources of Jesus. We can have victory in the middle of temptation as we grown in the Lord and become strong Christians. Scripture tells us, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
In our scripture about Jesus’ temptation, we find that after the temptation, Satan left him and the angels ministered to him (Matthew 4:11). What is interesting to note in the parallel account of this in Luke 4:13 is that when the devil had ended all temptation, he “departed him for a season--until a more opportune time.” We need to realize that throughout our faith journey we never “arrive” at a place where we are temptation free. We are never so spiritual that something can’t get to us--to test us to see what decisions and choices we will make.
Not only should we not be surprised when temptation presents itself to us in various forms but realize that temptation is not necessarily bad because it allows us to test our convictions. It has been said that “your convictions are only strong if they hold up under pressure. A person has not shown true obedience if he or she has never had the opportunity to disobey.” Temptation is not meant to weaken us but to make us emerge stronger from the ordeal. How do we know this?