Summary: How do we deal with temptation?
Think how many temptations you and I face in an ordinary day. Staying in bed late - the temptation to laziness. Growling at the breakfast table - the temptation to unkindness. Arguing over who should change the baby this time - the temptation to selfishness. Starting work 10 minutes late - the temptation to slothfulness. Losing your temper when a co-worker crashes your computer - the temptation to impatience. Flirting with that good-looking woman, taking a second look at the good-looking man - the temptation to lust. Refusing to speak to a person who has hurt you - the temptation to malice. Repeating a juicy story of your neighbor’s misfortune - the temptation to gossip. Lying awake at night thinking sensual thoughts - the temptation to impurity. Taking your anger out on the children after a hard day - the temptation to cruelty. Going out to eat when you can’t afford it - the temptation to self-indulgence. Having a second helping and then a third - the temptation to gluttony. Firing off a hasty letter to a friend who hurt you - the temptation to revenge.
Struggling to make ends meet on a first-call salary, the pastor was livid when he confronted his wife with the receipt for a $250 dress she had bought. “How could you do this?!” he asked. “I was outside the store looking at the dress in the window, and then I found myself trying it on,” she explained. “It was like satan was whispering in my ear, 'You look fabulous in that dress. Buy it!'” “well,” the pastor replied, “You know how I deal with that kind of temptation. I say, 'Get behind me, Satan!” “I did,” replied his wife, “but then he said, 'It looks fabulous from back here, too!'”
We want to live Christian lives, but find ourselves tempted to do what we know is wrong, and often acting on those temptations. It's frustrating isn't it. The Apostle Paul had the same frustrations and expressed it like this (Romans 7:14-15)
'I can see that God's law is good and that I should obey it. But I find that the things I determine I should do I cannot do. I try but I fail. In fact, the very things I don't want to do, those things forbidden in the law, those are the very things I end up doing. If I understand that I have no power to do what I know I should do, but rather I do the things I know I shouldn't, then where am I going to find deliverance from myself? Who's going to deliver me from this body of death?' I am sure that everyone here will have to agree with Paul and say "AMEN Paul that’s exactly how I feel".
How do we deal with temptations like these?
Let's take a little trip all the way back to the garden of Eden.
Here are Adam and Eve living the good life. They have prosperity – there is sufficiency for every one of their needs. They have pleasure – it's all there for their fulfillment. They have power – they have influence over every creature. They have prestige – God regards them enough to walk and talk with them in the cool of every evening. They have prominence – God has made them the pinnacle of creation, and has created them in His own image. They are in the garden and they have the 5 P's – prosperity, pleasure, power, prestige and prominence. There's nothing to tempt them with, they already have everything that could be desired. That's how God created it to be. Life was good. And God declared it so. What happened?
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
God provided everything Adam and Eve would ever need or want. Satan came along. Did he tempt them with power, pleasure, prosperity, prestige and prominence? He couldn't, because he didn't have those to give and Adam and Eve already enjoyed those to the fullest. The serpent said, “You can't trust God for everything. You need to go after what you want on your own. Here, take a bite.”