What an interesting word. If you say the word and draw it out slowly, it almost has a sensual, luscious feel.
In church we say it when we recite the Lord’s Prayer so that we not be led into temptation. My typical response, however, is to let the phrases of the prayer roll off my tongue with hardly a thought to the meaning behind them, instead of focusing on their specific, deliberate meaning that Jesus blessed us with.
Those two dichotomies with our response to the word temptation seem to be one of the reasons that it is such a dangerous phenomenon. We either see the sensual possibilities to indulge ourselves in temptation, or we almost shrug off the real, devastating impact temptation can have on our lives.
Instead of those polar opposites, I’d suggest a different approach: clearly knowing what temptation truly is and being diligent in guarding against it.
God created us each with unique DNA, and with that comes unique temptations for each of us. You might not be tempted by gambling or alcohol, but a sister in Christ struggles with those same temptations. We can put a name to temptations that we think are sinister and dark – drugs, pornography, adultery, illicit behaviors – but we can dismiss others that might not sound so horrible. Did I spend too much time on Facebook checking updates that I forgot to do my devotion this morning? Is my workout time taking precedence over time that needs to be spent nurturing a child?
For ourselves and for our families, let’s be clear at what temptation truly is. Temptation is any thing, behavior or action that takes us away from a focus on Christ and how He wants us to be in relationship with Him. If we look at that definition, our world is full of real temptations every single day that we have to guard against.
Let’s go to God’s Word for a few principles to help guard our hearts and our minds against the temptation in this world that swirls around us.
- God doesn’t tempt us; our own selfishness drives us. James 1:13-15 makes it clear: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
- Don’t open the door a crack to allow temptation to come in. It’s easy to watch that movie with the themes that isn’t totally appropriate…but it’s also easy for temptation to gain a foothold and grow from that small starting point. Our spirit and flesh battle on this when we know what we should do but don’t do it, as Matthew 26: 41 points out: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
- Little compromises lead to big falls – but God provides a way out. Just one time…nobody will know. We compromise on small things and it leads to major problems battle temptation for us. Praise God, however, that he provides a way out for us! “So, if you think you are standing firm,be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:12-14
- When you are making the biggest kingdom impact, temptation will increase – but so can your perseverance. We will face temptation and trials when we are walking in relationship with our Creator. The fruit that we develop is perseverance to truly grow mature in that relationship, as James 1: 2-4,12 say: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
I love the way 1 Peter 5 gives us an example of how to live and deal with those temptations:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Today, I’m taking humility, time with God, prayer, and standing firm with sisters and brothers in the faith to help me be strong against temptation. I pray that you stand strong today.
- Jen Clark