Whether I’m climbing every mountain or tumbling down every open manhole on the street - God still loves me. He knows “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) Some of us get into trouble more easily than an alpine goat can jump a low fence. I’ll admit it - struggling to stay alert and strong in temptation is a constant battle. Knowing we are overcomers in Christ is an easy fact to assert; actually living as an overcomer is hard!
How many times have we quickly worn a path leading to 1 John 1:8-9? “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” As the song says:
I'm forever grateful, Lord, to You
And I'm forever grateful for the cross
And I'm forever grateful to You
That You came to seek and save the lost
His forgiveness, power, and grace is always available and sufficient in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I’m thankful as well that He doesn’t leave us without resource to stare down daily temptations. We cannot forget how Jesus instructed His disciples to pray asking God to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Brother Paul even chose transparency for the sake of making the connection in Romans 7:21-23, “So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God’s law. But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner.” The Psalmist gives us the warning stages of companionship with sin when he writes, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers…” (Psalm 1:1) James writes of the progress of how sin causes our life in Christ to grind to a halt when he reveals: “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.” (James 1:13-15)
There are many helpful passages in God’s Word and from Christian authors on how to avoid temptation and the downward spiral of sin. I can speak to some of them, but I think it more honest to share with you those that have been beneficial to me.
The most powerful and restorative gift God gives us in in His Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed for the Father to be uniquely with us in John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” By His presence God is more aware of the temptations in your path than you are. Ask Him for alertness, strength, and conviction to choose His path of righteousness for His name’s sake. He provides the clear way to move forward or retreat in His providence.
I also cannot overstate the important of having your own personal copy of God’s Word … and not just on your iPhone or Android. There is no substitute for the Bible in your battle with temptation. Saturating your faculties with God’s Word will dilute the toxins of sin and replace it with the good things of God. Remember, even Jesus quoted Scripture when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. When temptation whispers to your mind, body, or spirit read God’s Word aloud - shout it if needed. Elevate God’s Word above any worldly counsel or testimony in your life. Psalm 18:30 confirms for us, “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.”
I have found that visualizing suiting up in God’s armor from Ephesians 6:14-17 helps me handle temptation. “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.” God’s truth fortifies the will - allow Him to speak it into your situation.
Although this list is certainly not exhaustive, I also need to mention the example of Jesus as a guide in times of temptation. When suffering we are told to, “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3) Besides the temptation to escape pain for the sake of our salvation, or even immediate retaliation instead of entrusting Himself to the Heavenly Father I find comfort knowing Jesus never gave in to temptation. No one understands me better than Jesus. Hebrews 2:17-18 tells us, “For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”
If I face temptation on my own - I will fail every time. I cannot will myself enough to be good, pure, or righteous. Only Christ in me can steer me clear of snares and temptations. Those who know me have heard me quote more than once my love for Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
I need Thee every hour
Stay Thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh…