Summary: Paul was a mighty man of God but like Elijah he was a man with a nature like yours and mine (James 5:17). You may be redeemed in the Blood of the Lamb but you still carry around in your body feet made of clay.
Victory Over Temptation
It was the Apostle Paul’s practice to deliver to his hearers that which he received from the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Paul was a mighty man of God but like Elijah he was a man with a nature like yours and mine (James 5:17). You may be redeemed in the Blood of the Lamb but you still carry around in your body feet made of clay. Therefore, Paul knew well the meaning of defeat, what it meant to grieve the Holy Spirit by yielding to temptation and the battle one wages when the flesh wars against the spirit (Galatians 5:17). Paul felt oppression so great that he despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). He knew the darkness of depression and the emotional agony and pain of suffering. He was not immune from these trials and tribulations anymore than you or I. Therefore, Paul understood and identified personally with the desire and need in your own heart to be delivered from besetting sins and the ongoing lure of the enemy.
If Satan had had his way, he would have stolen Paul’s heart, robbed him of joy and left him in bondage. However, God was working in Paul’s life and causing things to work together for good. (Romans 8:28) He had a great plan for Paul as He does you and me. Therefore, God used Paul’s experiences to teach him (read Romans 7 concerning his struggles with temptation) victory cannot be achieved in your own power. Paul knew firsthand you are powerless when less than Christ’s power is working in, through and for your life. (Read Philippians 2:13) After pleading with the Lord three times concerning his thorn in the flesh, the Lord told Paul, “…"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (1 Corinthians 12:9) From these words, Paul learned through his fleshy struggles, his carnal defeats and his emotional ups and downs to look through eyes of faith and say, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12:10) That can be your prize as well: victory over temptation.
Therefore, when Paul instructs believers they can overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), be freed from bondage (Galatians 5:1) and become more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:37), he is speaking from the deliverance side of the temptation. He is a man like you or I with feet of clay but he succeeded in gaining victory over temptation. God brought Paul through the darkness of each temptation in his life into the light of deliverance – the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). God did this so Paul would not trust in himself but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9-10). But God also did this for Paul so his writings and life could teach you and me with passion that which he received from the Lord and knew first hand to be true.
When God brings you victory over temptation, you too can proclaim like Paul and Peter: “But resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:9) Why? Because if God be for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31) You can rest in God’s truth recorded in Psalm 34:19: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.” If you are a Christian, God has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14) But are you experiencing this deliverance in your life? Do you have victory over temptation? Are you still plagued by besetting sins? Are there things in your life you fear no one else will find out? Does the ongoing lure of the flesh wage war with your soul and sometimes you feel like giving up? Does the flesh with its passions and desires keep getting the upper hand leaving you guilt-ridden with feeling defeated? Then, Paul has words of hope and deliverance for you. They are words the Lord intends to use to set you free (John 8:32) so you can experience victory over temptation. Listen to Paul’s words to the churches at Ephesus:
“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:11-17)