It is impossible to disobey God and avoid suffering.
Matt. 4:1 - 11
Many times when God challenges us to obey Him, Satan offers an alternative. This was evidenced in his temptation of Christ. Warren Wiersbe writes: "It is important to note that Jesus faced the enemy as man, not as the Son of God. His first word, was 'Man shall not live by bread alone.' We must not think that Jesus used His divine powers to overcome the enemy, because that is just what the enemy wanted Him to do!
"Jesus used the spiritual resources that are available to us today: the power of the Holy Spirit of God (Matt. 4:1), and the power of the Word of God ('It is written'). Jesus had nothing in His nature that would give Satan a foothold (John 14:30), but His temptations were real."
Each of us will face temptation. And each time we do, we can be assured that the enemy has sought to deceive and blind us to the truth of God. This is what he did in the Garden of Eden. (gen. 3:4) And it is what he seeks to do today.
If God has given you a direction to follow, do not be deceived. If you feel as though your faith is waning, ask the Lord to strengthen your heart with His Words of truth. Be determined to do the will of the Father, and He will give you the courage you need to obey.
Obedience begins with an uplifted heart that seeks only one thing, and that is to please the Lord.
<>Obeying God: The Learning Process
Often when the word temptation is mentioned, we immediately think of sexual temptation. But temptation is a broad subject. It has to do with the deeds of the flesh and is most often associated with self-will and self-desires. A cruel, short response to someone's question can do temptation's bidding. Gossip, anger, or yielding to feelings of unworthiness all lead along temptation's pathway.
Anything that separates us from God–habits, desires, feelings–is evidence of the tempter's handiwork. Each of us is vulnerable, but no one has to yield to temptation. Believers have God's Spirit living within them–a force that is much more powerful than any attack from the tempter's hands. Therefore, you do not have to yield to temptation. You have a choice. You can say no!
Temptation is an opportunity for obedience. And obedience always leads to blessing. Pray that you would be made sensitive to God's Spirit whenever you feel the attack of the enemy threatening.
Realize there is a learning process involved in obedience. Times of spiritual failure are not wasted when we ask God to teach us how to be strong in our faith. This is how we grow and learn to avoid future temptation.
When We Say Yes
Let us continue to say yes to our relationship by doing the right things.
Abraham said yes to God, and the Lord provided a way for him to receive his greatest desire: a son. Moses said yes, and he became the deliverer and leader of the nation of Israel. Joshua said yes, and the Lord used him to establish Israel in the Promised Land. Caleb said yes and was given the hill country of Hebron. it was the very land he had dreamed of owning for 40 long years. David said yes and became the kind of Israel. There are countless people in the Bible who have said yes to the Lord and received a wondrous blessing. God uses our obedience to accomplish great and mighty deeds. He could work independently of mankind, but He doesn't. He uses each one of us. One reason He does this is so we can have a part in His work here on earth. In heaven, our days will be filled with worship and praise to our King, but we will also have work to do. There will be no idleness in heaven!
Our obedience on earth is preparing us to live with God for all eternity. When you face temptation and your obedience is challenged, ask the Lord to give you the strength to obey Him, especially when you feel hard-pressed on every side. He answers the prayers of His children, and He will rescue you.
The best way to avoid temptation is to say no.
The War Within: Who's To Blame?
Mention the word temptation and more than likely the minds of the people you are speaking to will go to the obvious temptations of our world today. According to James, temptation has a much broader effect. Anything that carries the potential to turn us away from God's will is a temptation. The desire to talk badly about another person is a temptation. So is uncontrolled anger or sarcasm. A desire that builds quickly and goes against the principles in God's Word is a danger. How can we avoid falling prey to temptation? Begin by asking the Lord to help you understand what temptation really is. His Word teaches that even Jesus was tempted in all ways. This means that Christ faced the same temptations we face. But Jesus remained sinless. He said no to temptation and thus said no to sin. All temptation begins in the mind. If we hang on to a tempting thought, it turns into a desire. If we allow the temptation to continue, it will demand to be satisfied physically. Temptation is not sinful. Jesus was tempted. But if left unchecked, it leads to sin. You can stop temptation in its tracks by saying no. If necessary, ask the Lord to help you imagine a huge red stop sign that reads: No to sin and yes to freedom in Christ.
We are always on the anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.
Henry Ward Beecher
The War Within: Who's To Blame?
If you were to request a spiritual prescription for handling trials, it would probably read something like this: "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). Much of our time is spent worrying about things we cannot control. When trouble comes, we often cry out under its emotional weight. But God has a better way of dealing with the trials and temptations of life, and that is through perseverance. When we persevere under trials, we achieve something more precious than any material reward—an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Endurance in times of extreme temptation is the only way to victory. Nothing checks our spiritual progress the way tribulations do. When hard times come, never think God has left you, because He hasn't and won't. In times of testing, His greatest concern is your response: Will you continue to trust Him or be tempted to drift in your devotion? Every adversity that touches your life has a purpose. God allows it for some reason. And each time you can be sure that even the gravest error or sin will be used to mold you into a person of worth and value through Jesus Christ.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The War Within: The Appeal
The dark side of temptation is that when we do not refuse its entry into our thoughts, it leads to sin. Only Jesus has the power to save us from this peril. He is our only source of strength in overcoming temptation. It is not unusual to hear people talk of how they can resist certain temptations through self-will and discipline. Both of these can be effective, but there is a limit to their ability. In the end, there must be a power stronger than ourselves, motivating us to say no and to turn from evil in order for there to be lasting peace and victory. Many of the support groups available do an outstanding job at exposing deep-seated problems and offering methods of treating them. However, much of the mental and physical energy exhibited goes to maintaining the process. In Christ, you can receive complete healing. He is your unchanging strong support. When temptation gains a foothold in a person's mind, it becomes a battle for control. We must continually submit our minds and thoughts to Christ for His cleansing in order to remain free from sin's entrapment. For true spiritual victory, God wants your heart focused only on Him and not on sin. Resist the tempter by seeking God's protective presence for your life.
No one knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.
The War Within: The Peak Of Pressure
Most temptation comes when you are at the peak of pressure. Immediately following Jesus' baptism, the devil came to Him and began tempting Him to rely upon self-ability and not upon the strength and faithfulness of God. This is the same type of temptation the enemy sets in front of us on a regular basis. He is constantly trying to get us to rely on our own abilities and knowledge. God calls us to surrender to His will, while Satan whispers that we can do anything we want to do on our own apart from God. Another lie that Satan uses to trick us is the thought that God has forgotten us. For example, those who have never married may find themselves doubting God's ability to provide a mate. Instead of continuing to seek Him and His contentment, they rush into a marriage that is not God's best. Commit yourself to waiting for God's timing. If you do this, you will never be disappointed. Jesus stood firm when faced with temptation. His heart was not focused on His personal needs but on the will of the Father. Christ gained the victory because He was more concerned about pleasing God than satisfying His physical needs. If you are in a trying situation, make it your goal to seek God's wisdom. Pray for His strength and discernment and He will make your pathway straight. (Proverbs 3:6)
Jesus told His disciples to "Keep watching and praying," so they would not be tempted.
The War Within: The Peak Of Pressure
No one is immune to temptation. Even committed Christians can become spiritually prideful, arrogant, and self-assured. Often the more intimate our fellowship with the Lord, the quieter and more discreet the temptation is. God provides spiritual discernment to believers. However, the enemy is very sly and crafty in his assault. The disciples believed they would never fall to temptation, but they did the night Jesus was arrested. Oswald Chambers writes: ³Always remain alert to the fact that where one man has gone back is exactly where anyone may go back. . . . The Bible characters fell on their strong points, never on their weak ones. Kept by the power of God‹that is the only safety.² The evening of His arrest, Jesus asked His disciples to watch and pray, but they did neither. Instead, they fell asleep. Their spiritual laziness cost them greatly. When you face temptation, stop and ask yourself, ³What am I about to do? Is it worth the consequences I will face?² It is dangerous to think that you can outwit the tempter. Many mistakenly believe they can stop the temptation anytime. Jesus is the only One who can give you the strength you need to say no to temptation. He knows the pressure that comes, and He will step into your situation with heaven¹s power and mercy when you call out for His help.
Temptations discover what we are.
Thomas A' Kempis
The War Within: Playing With Fire
You've surely heard the old tale about the best way to cook a frog. You place the live frog in a pot of cold water on the stove and gradually turn up the heat until the water boils. The frog's body continues to adjust to the discomfort until suddenly it is too late for him to escape. Temptation operates in much the same way—a little bit at a time until it holds us tightly within its grasp. It is obvious that Samson was "cooked alive" by Delilah's charms. His pursuit of her was totally outside of God's will. She was a Philistine who worshiped pagan gods. Yet Samson did not see the obvious danger. Finally, her continual questioning wore Samson down to a point where he readily disclosed the secret of his strength. Sin broke in and seriously damaged the relationship Samson shared with God. As a result, he lost his strength and ability to do what God had called him to do. Temptation in and of itself is not sin, but it can definitely lead to sin. Samson had the ability to say no to the tempter. Instead, he chose to place himself in a very vulnerable position through his association with Delilah. As children of God, we know when we violate one of God's principles. There is only one way to deal with temptation and that is to "Flee immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18a). You can avoid the consequences of sin by avoiding the temptation.
If you would master temptation, you must first let Christ master you.
The War Within: Playing With Fire
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
In the Greek the word temptation has a varied usage. James writes, "Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2). The Greek word trial or peirasmos means a trial with "a beneficial purpose." However, when peirasmos appears in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man," it means, "a trial definitely designed to lead to wrong doing." (Expanded Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) In both situations the word trial or temptation (peirasmos) also presents an opportunity for good. In times of difficulty, there is an opportunity to rise above the adversity by believing that God is able to strengthen you to endure it. When the trial is set in circumstances that lead to wrongdoing, the same opportunity is available. By saying no to temptation, we rise above the tempter's plan and find spiritual victory. But how do we do this? We do not play with fire. Proverbs 6:27 asks: "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" Frequent places where sin is practiced, and you'll get burned. If you purchase pornography, you will get burned. Certain television programs, books, and movies will burn your life with sinful thoughts and enticements. Say no to temptation and God will reward your obedience with hope and peace.
Satan tempts us to use our God-given gifts to satisfy God-given needs but outside God-given boundaries.
The War Within: The Key Question
It was the perfect setup. His boss was away, everyone else was busy, and he was left in charge. No one would have noticed a moment's indiscretion. This is the thought process that could have preceded Joseph's downfall. But the circumstances or Potiphar's wife did not tempt Joseph when she came to him. Instead, he answered her tempting plea this way: "Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. . . . How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?" Joseph's first response was one of responsibility to God and to his earthly master, Potiphar. He would not sin against either. But Potiphar's wife became angry at Joseph for denying her affections. When her husband returned home, she falsely accused Joseph, and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. Some may think this was a horrible reward for such an act of nobility. But God used the trial to season Joseph's life. He grew in wisdom and developed a tenacious spirit when it came to his devotion to God. And at the right time, God delivered him and then used him to save Israel from famine and destruction. Obedience is key to blessing. Joseph obeyed God but he was also disciplined and prepared for a great and mighty future.
"Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
1 Peter 5:8b
The War Within: The Key Question
Bill Gillham describes some of Satan's strategies of temptation in his book Lifetime Guarantee: "Satan's kingdom is here on planet earth. After the Fall, he was given the right to wage war against God and His people. His goal is to destroy God's plans and to usurp His kingdom and His glory for himself. He's an egomaniac. . . . "God created you with needs. These are very good things. The idea is for you, the created, to turn to Him, the Creator. . . . He promises to 'supply all your needs' (Philippians 4:19). "But Satan's strategy is to get you to opt to live to get your needs met. He wants you to be deceived into making this your goal. Thus, he offers you 'Plan B' for getting your needs supplied—your 'old ways.' That's what sin is all about. It is independence from God." Eve was blind to the consequences of sin when she accepted Satan's invitation. Be assured the enemy was clever in his presentation. He told her that what he offered was good and that her eyes would be opened so she could see good and evil just like God. There always is a small degree of truth in every sin. Eve did "see" what wreck and ruin sin brings. God has sent a Deliverer. Jesus is our sin Advocate before the Father. His love is eternal. When we seek His forgiveness, He cleanses our lives and restores our purity.
The truly humble person helps to build up others, not to tear them down.
The War Within: The Tool Of The Tempter
A humble person is "a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block," writes Warren Wiersbe. "Humility begins with self-examination, and it continues with self-denial. Jesus was not suggesting that we maim our bodies, for harming our physical bodies can never change the spiritual condition of our hearts. "Rather, He was instructing us to perform 'spiritual surgery' on ourselves, removing anything that causes us to stumble or that causes others to stumble. The humble person lives for Jesus first and others next—he puts himself last. He is happy to deprive himself even of good things, if it will make others happy." Humility is as necessary to the Christian life as air is to breathing. Pride is the opposite of humility. It seeks to raise one's self up to a higher level. The tempter's favorite tool in the life of the believer is the very stumbling block that led to his ruin. Pride is at the root of all sin because its focus is only on self and not on God. An even darker side to pride is the fact that once we become entrapped by it, we cause others to stumble. Pride is like a deadly virus: it spreads quickly. The best end for pride is a swift death to self. Ask the Lord to help you understand the seriousness of this subject. Turn your eyes toward Him and He will free you from the isolating bondage of pride and temptation.
Learning To Live With Life's Loads
We don't know the nature of Paul's affliction, but it wasn't a pleasant one. Perhaps it was physical. Perhaps it was emotional. But we do know it was painful. Three times Paul went before the Lord, begging Him to take away this burden. And three times, Paul was denied. Are there burdens and afflictions in your life? Do you wonder why you must experience them? Rest assured that if God allowed a trial in your life, you will be able to withstand it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) When we ask God to take these burdens and trials away, we must analyze our requests. Are they because we just don't want them around? Can we not go on anymore? Are our burdens simply uncomfortable? No matter how heavy the load seems, God is there with you. He will use the burden or trial to transform you, to change you, to use you. The answer Paul received as to why his burden wouldn't disappear was this: "'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Cor. 12:9). In his weakness, Paul was made strong, stronger than he would've been had he not suffered. In your weakness, you also will be made strong through Him.