Summary: Temptations have a very positive side to them, that we often overlook.
Temptations and Growth
Purpose Driven Life #26
February 14, 2004
"My temptations have been my masters in divinity." So said one theologian, who recognized the important place of temptations in the process of Christian growth. Most of us are not too keen on being tempted and would rather we were never tempted to do something we should not do. However, as we consider the entire idea of growing up to become more like Christ, this is one subject we must consider. As we do, we need, as well, to think of the fact that temptations are not such a negative thing. For some reason, we tend to see them in that light, but here’s something to think about: every time you are tempted to do something you ought not, what is the other side of the equation? It is that every occasion to do the wrong thing is also, and equally, an opportunity to do the right thing. Do you see only the negative? Well, this may be the beginning of an entirely new relationship between you and temptations in your life. Every time you choose to do the good instead of the bad, or sin, you are growing in the character of Christ. That is what each of us here today wants to do.
The apostle Paul describes what the character of Jesus Christ is, at its best.
Ga.5.22-23- these nine qualities are the way Jesus is. To have this fruit in your life is to be like Christ. But if these are what you want, how does God put these into your life? Do you want the answer, even if I say that it isn’t all that easy of an answer? Well, God develops the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances where you are tempted to express the exact opposite.
Say, you recognize a need to grow in love. What happens? God allows, or puts, people near you, around you, and in your path, who are hard to love. We all know people who are harder to love than others. They might be opinionated. They might be judgmental. They might be wishy-washy. There are as many ways for them to be unlovable as we are individuals wanting to be loving.
What if you want to grow in patience? What do you think happens, as you are working, with God, on the curriculum He has developed, personally, for you? You will be put into situations where your patience is tested to the greatest degree. Your children will be particularly difficult sometimes. Your spouse might be demanding. You might have a noisy neighbour. Whatever helps you to develop patience will happen.
God uses the opposite situation of each fruit to allow you, and me, choice. You can’t claim to be loving unless you have been tempted to be unloving. You can’t claim to be joyful unless you have been tempted to be joyless. You can’t claim to be faithful if you haven’t been tempted to be unfaithful. This is the way it goes, and each time you defeat a temptation, you become a little more like Jesus.
This matter of choice is important in our lives. I’m in the midst of reading Victor Frankl’s "Man’s Search for Meaning". He was a man who survived the concentration camps of the Second World War, and who is a noted psychotherapist. He wrote:
"…Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?
"We can answer these question from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.
"We who live in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."
We’re familiar with the expression, and excuse, oftentimes, that says, "The devil made me do it." Sometimes it sounds funny, but we have to realize that many temptations come from him. Who tempted Adam and Eve? Who tempted Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness? It wasn’t you or me, but it was Satan. He still works, and as you seek to align your life with God, Satan goes to work in you because he hates you and he wants you back. Particularly, if you are a new Christian, or a newly recommitted Christian, he works, to try to get you back at your youngest and weakest. This is something to know. But Satan is not hard to figure out.