Overcoming Temptation: A Matter of Choice
A little boy had been compelled (unwillingly) to go grocery shopping with his mother. (What an exciting way to spend an afternoon.) While she was busy gathering the broccoli and cabbage he entertained himself by drooling over the sweets in the aisle where the bulk candy was offered. Those jelly beans looked so good. It would only take a second to reach in, get a handful, and pop them into his mouth. As he contemplated his dilemma the store manager happened by. “Hi son, what are you up to today?” “Nothing,” answered the boy. “Well, it looked to me like you were trying to take some jelly beans.” “Oh no,” the boy insisted, “you’re wrong, I was trying not to.”
Every man faces temptation. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:13 that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:” Temptation comes without warning, from unanticipated sources, exercising powerful influence. It creates significant spiritual discomfort and generates unpleasant battles in our heart, which we would prefer to avoid. Too often the result is a wrong choice causing great remorse and leaving us to deal with consequences that are far more distasteful than the pleasure we derived from yielding. Defeat in this area can be costly.
Paul’s reminder also contains an important promise: “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” How encouraging is that? God will not allow us to face irresistible temptation, nor will He leave us without a path to victory. In essence, we can have complete mastery over every sinful challenge we face. There is, however, a condition: we must choose to obey scriptural principles that lead to victory.
Choosing to Avoid Temptation: Romans 13:14 – “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Most believers know exactly what their weaknesses are (as does their enemy, the Devil). It is understood that the promise to provide victory is invalidated by our choice to entertain the temptation. We must consciously choose to avoid temptation whenever possible.
Choosing to Flee Temptation: II Timothy 2:22 – “Flee also youthful lusts:” When temptation occurs as a result of unexpected events, the Scripture commands us to run from it. The word translated “flee” means literally to “escape to safety.” The idea is to find a place of refuge where the temptation will not be an issue and get there as quickly as possible.
Choosing to Resist the Tempter: James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When all else fails, and we are in a place where we are unable to flee, we can overcome the temptation by resisting the tempter, provided we have first submitted ourselves to God. The promise is that the devil will flee.
Here is the important truth: Each principle builds on the previous one. Fleeing will not work if we did not avoid the place of temptation at the start. Nor can we successfully resist the devil if we were unwilling to flee the temptation when it first appeared.
Victory is not always easy, but it is always available to every child of God who values it enough to follow biblical guidelines to gain it!
All it takes is making the right choice!