I struggle with temptation just as you do. Overcoming it is hard; it’s a constant battle. But whether I succeed or fail, God still loves me. When I forget that amazing fact, overcoming temptation is harder and often impossible.
I’m thankful that God promises forgiveness and that His grace and power are always available and sufficient to enable me–and you–to stand against the temptations we face every day.
The Scripture is replete with instruction on the subject of temptation. Jesus said “temptations to sin are sure to come” (Luke 17:1). But Jesus said that when we pray we should ask God to “lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). The Apostle Paul was embarrassingly clear about his own struggle when he wrote, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23).
We should understand that the process that leads to sin is progressive. James 1:13-15 describes the progression this way: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
It could be likened to a person driving by a bank and first wondering what it would be like to rob it. Next, the person imagines it would be very easy to hold up that bank because it doesn’t have many alert guards or smart tellers. Then, the person delights in all of the money that he or she would get if he should rob that bank. Finally, he commits the act by storming up to the teller and demanding, “Stick ’em up!”
Always remember that God is aware of the temptations you face. Not only that, He is compassionate about your struggle with sin.
One of the most amazing and wonderful statements in the Bible is Hebrews 2:17-18: “Therefore he [that would be Jesus] had to be made like his brothers [that would be us] in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
And just to make sure that we understood, the writer repeated the truth in Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Anyone who has tried to be good, pure, righteous and loving in his or her own strength knows that it can’t be done. But, through the Holy Spirit, God is making you like Jesus, and what God begins He always completes. The Bible says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). And Paul made a statement of fact about us that provides comfort: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
When you are aware of sin in your life, don’t assume your struggle is over. The battle has just begun. Ask Christ not only to make you aware of temptation, but also to empower you by His grace and strength to overcome it. The Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
It’s also vitally important that Christians remember that Satan, our enemy, is a defeated foe (Colossians 2:15 and Revelation 20:10). We are playing in a ball game whose outcome has been determined, a contest that’s already been decided! The victory has already been won. Satan will come out on the short end of the stick. You can count on it because on the cross of Christ, Satan’s end was secured. You and I have access to One who understands and who can do battle with the enemy and win. So avail yourself of that access.
When temptation comes, the Christian’s prayer should always be: “Father, I don’t understand the power that is against me for evil, but You do, and You have promised help. I now claim the victory that You have already won for me on the cross.” As you encounter temptation, get on your knees and pray.
In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, Paul gives the Christian a list of weapons he will need when doing battle with Satan. When Paul is talking about how a Christian ought to resist Satan, he says, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14-17). In other words, Paul is saying that there is a way to counter lies and that is with God’s truth.
There is no substitute for the truth, and there is no truth more useful to the Christian in his battle with Satan than the truth of Scripture. Just as Jesus quoted Scripture when Satan tempted Him, I, too, quote God’s Word when I think that the temptations I face will be so strong that I will not be able to overcome them.
In my battle with Satan, no matter how strong he seems, I will remember: “He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [Christ]” (Colossians 2:15). That’s a fact, and I will stand on it! ©2011 Stephen W. Brown
Steve Brown, founder and President of Key Life Network, is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor. He will be teaching at The Cove, Nov. 7-9, on “Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit.”
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.