However, some people write to say that they are making little or no progress in their Christian walk. They are struggling along, showing little evidence of conversion. They want help so that their Christian lives may be joyous and victorious.
Let me remind you that the Scriptures teach that the moment you receive Christ as your Savior you have His power for spiritual growth. Conversion is not the end, it is the starting point. You are to go on into a fuller and richer Christian life.
The Apostle Peter wrote, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). The Apostle Paul commended Christians at Thessalonica, “Your faith grows exceedingly” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Is this your experience? Are you full of joy because you are filled with Christ? Salvation is certainly not something to be endured–it is something to be enjoyed! And you will enjoy it only as you discover God’s will–His purpose and plan for your life.
The people who are the most miserable are those Christians who are living outside the will of God. They cannot grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you wish to live a joyous and victorious life, one of the most important things you will want to know is what to do with temptation.
There is nothing unusual or abnormal about a Christian being tempted. Indeed, we should expect it. People who think they are never tempted should question whether they are spiritually alive! Say to yourself, “Christians are tempted. I am now a Christian; therefore, I shall be tempted. What provision does God make for me?”
In seeking to help you answer that question, I would suggest five things:
First, recognize that temptation is a normal experience. The Bible says that temptation has not overtaken you in any way that is not common to humanity in general (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Christ, as the only perfect man, was in every respect tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). Moreover, He felt deeply the spiritual and mental anguish that accompanies temptation, for it is written that “He Himself has suffered, being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
God never tempts any person (James 1:13); that is the devil’s business. Satan is the tempter, and he tempts us along the lines of our natural desires. Many of our desires are good, such as the desire for food, rest, fellowship, self-preservation and so on. But because we are members of a sinful and fallen race, we also have certain wrong desires; for example, we may be tempted to cheat, lie, hate and seek revenge.
Some desires are not sinful in themselves, but they lead to sin if they are abused. Concern about the necessities of life and taking care of one’s family is essential; but this can degenerate into anxiety, and then, as Christ reminded us, the cares of this life choke the spiritual seed in the heart.
Money is necessary for daily living; but money-making is apt to degenerate into money-loving, and then the deceitfulness of riches spoils our spiritual life.
Here is a formula to use when in doubt. Ask yourself: Does it glorify God? Can I do it in the name of Christ? Can I offer a prayer of thanksgiving over it? Does it make me more preoccupied with the things of the world, or does it draw me nearer to the feet of Christ? Does it build me up in my Christian life, or does it hold me down? Will it help others, or will it cause them to stumble?
If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you will be able to recognize temptation when it comes. The Scripture teaches that God always makes a way out of temptation, so that you will be able to endure. The moment you are tempted, call on God for help.
Second, know that Christ lives within every one of us who has accepted Him as Savior. No enemy is too powerful for Christ. Every temptation can be resisted. You can have glorious, daily victory.
The Scripture says: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Paul wrote in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then he answered the question: “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). In Romans 8:2 we read, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Third, recognize the place of the Word of God in Christian growth and in meeting temptation.The Scripture says, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. … Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9,11).
We grow in grace and tap the source of spiritual strength by reading and studying the Word of God. We are actually changed by the Word.
The Word of God is “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). To the Christian, the Bible is not just a holy book to be placed on the shelf. It is a mighty weapon to be taken hold of with both hands and used in defeating the enemy.
Study it. Memorize it. Determine that you are going to read the Bible every day from now on. You would not expect to lead a healthy physical life unless you ate your meals regularly! Show the same amount of common sense about building up your spiritual life. Daily Bible reading is essential to victorious living and Christian growth.
Fourth, learn the secret of prayer. Throughout the days of His life on earth, Jesus was conspicuously a man of prayer.
He prayed with His disciples. He prayed in secret. Sometimes He spent all night in prayer. Let Him be your example. If He, the holy, sinless Son of God, could not live His earthly life without constant fellowship with God, you and I certainly cannot expect to do so.
Perhaps you are thinking, But I don’t know what to say when I pray. God does not mind your stumbling and faltering phrases. He is not hindered by poor grammar. He is interested in your heart.
Have a time for secret prayer each day, when you can pray alone. It should be a regular habit and become as vital and necessary to you as your daily food. Another thing I would suggest is that you learn to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In other words, all day long you are to be in the spirit of prayer.
That does not mean being solemn and having a long face. It means that in all situations you are aware of leaning upon God and inclining your heart toward Him.
Fifth, yield and consecrate your life to Christ. The Bible says, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord” (Exodus 32:29). Paul wrote, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2).
Get on your knees before God and ask Him if there are any areas of your life that are still unyielded to Him. The searchlight of His Spirit will probe the inner depths of your soul and reveal things that you think you have already yielded, but you have not.
Spend time praying and thinking about the things your eyes look upon, your ears listen to and your tongue utters. Ask God to take your eyes, ears, tongue, hands, your social life, your friends–every area of your life–under His control. Yield yourself to Him, completely, unreservedly. This is pleasing to God.
The Scripture says, “To obey is better than sacrifice”
(1 Samuel 15:22). God wants your obedience and love more than anything else. The consecrated life is the victorious life. d: ©1960 (renewed 1988, revised 1994, 1999) BGEA