Triumphing Over Temptation
Something every person faces in life is temptation. In the world in which we live we are tempted everywhere we go. From being tempted to lie or steal at work to get a little further ahead in our careers, or to gossip and spread rumors about a friend or loved ones.. However, if you are like me, you notice some people seem to be less effected by the enticements that inevitably pull us down. I think that this happens because certain people have learned to manage the many temptations that are thrown our way. To help us learn to be triumphant over temptation, I have written a week’s worth of short devotionals that I hope will both inform and help you triumph over the temptations in your life.
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Written June 11, 2012
Realize what Temptation is…
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”……….4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
Genesis 3:1 & 4 (ESV)
Here in Genesis chapter 3 we have recorded for us the very first time anyone was tempted to do wrong. Yet, in looking at this first temptation, we can also notice that it bears no difference from the temptations we face today. In this passage, the “Serpent” (Satan) tempts Eve into partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God had expressly said not to do this because when Adam or Eve partook of the tree they would die (spiritually). This was the truth God had revealed. Satan simply told a lie that said you will be better off if you believe the lie instead of what God said. To this day temptation is still built on the same framework. Temptation, at its very core, is simply this; it is the push for someone to believe something contrary to the Scriptures. The temptation was “Don’t believe what God said! Believe something different and you will be better off.” Adam and Eve both did this and plunged the entire human race into a time of death, pain, sickness, and sorrow. The lesson for us today is that we face the same type of temptation. Over and over again the whisper comes within our minds “Did God actually say?” This question comes at us when faced with moral issues, relationships issues, issues of law, issues of whether or not to lie, cheat, or if we are younger, to disobey parents, or to indulge in something that we know will hurt our spiritual life and walk with God. Where we mess up is when we believe that lie that goes against everything the Bible teaches and directs us to do. Millions have believed that it is okay to lie only to have the truth bring to light their folly and bring them trouble and heartache (ask any teenager and you’ll get plenty of stories).
But what do we do to get onto the road of triumphing over temptation? Seeing that the makeup of temptation is a lie, the only way we are able to fight against a lie is by saturating ourselves in what is true, reviewing in our minds what is true, and living in that truth. The psalmist cries out in Psalm 119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist knew the value of truth. For when we have truth filling our lives it is that much harder to be led astray by the lies of temptation. Let us commit our lives not only to know the truth of the Word of God but also to live by it.
“Dear Lord please help me to remember that Your Word is truth. Help me when I am tempted to remember what Your Word says concerning the situation I am in that I might not be deceived. Help me to learn and grow in my knowledge of Your Word that through Your Truth and Your power I may be triumphant over the temptations that I face. Amen.”
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Recognize where Temptation comes from…
14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James 1:14-15 (ESV)
I remember reading a story once of a young boy in trouble with his mother for kicking and biting his younger sister. The mother asked, “Did the devil make you kick and bite your sister?” The child thought for a while and said, “The devil made me kick her, but biting her was my idea.” Truth be told, whether it is a friend, an enemy, or the devil himself that tempts us at the end of the day we are the ones to blame for our own actions. In this world that is so fixated on shifting blame and pointing fingers at others for the problems they are in, the Word of God is clear, if we fall into temptation it is not anyone’s fault but our own. Now this might sound harsh and somewhat cruel to say to someone who is battling a tough temptation but the medicine we need is not always pleasant. If we are serious about triumphing over temptation we must be honest before Almighty God and take responsibility for our own actions. We must understand that when we fall we are the ones that need to hold up our hands and say, “God, I messed up and need forgiveness. It wasn’t my parents, my environment, or my genetic disposition; I believed the lie and acted on it.”
The silver lining of this passage comes in knowing where our weaknesses lie. The passage says that we are drawn away by our desires. This means that they are unique to us but they are also identifiable and able to be attacked. What are the desires in your life? Interestingly the word used in verse 14 for “desire” is epithumia which means desire, craving, and longing especially for what is forbidden.
In our lives, the Scriptures implore us to take responsibility for our actions and commit ourselves to attacking our temptations head on instead of making excuses for why we falter and fall. Let us give ourselves over to identifying our weaknesses and taking the steps we need to avoid and conquer those temptations that come our way.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I am the one to blame for the wrong that I do. My own desires and lusts draw me away to believe lies and fall into sin. Help me to identify my weakness and attack these temptations that I might live for You.”
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Remember Temptation has no backbone…
13No 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 ESV
In looking at this verse, two very important truths come bursting through about temptation. First, temptation has no backbone. What I mean by this is that Scripture says every temptation, big or small, is able to be overcome. There is not one single temptation that comes into our lives, grips hold of us, and forces us kicking and screaming into sin. That’s what the “overtaken” part of the verse is saying. The other truth is that God is with us faithfully through temptation. The second part of this verse comes with a wonderful truth that brings comfort and joy. When this verse states that God, “will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” it is saying that when we are tempted God has made a channel, a trapdoor, or a pathway we can take to get through the temptation. It could be as simple as the power button on the remote control, or the dial on the radio to be used so that we might avoid hearing or seeing something we shouldn’t. It could be stopping a conversation with a “gotta go” and avoid the gossip that is to come. Whatever the case, God is always faithful in providing the way of escape. The difficult part is, so many times, because of our own lusts and desires, that “way of escape” is the last thing on our minds. However, if we truly desire to beat the temptations that draw us into sin, our eyes must be sharp and looking for that way of escape, we must always remember temptations have no backbone, that they can be beat.
I remember back in elementary school my parents had a rather large tree cut down in our yard. For my sister and I, this was better than any jungle gym, as it provided hours of fun filled climbs and jumps. One day my older cousin came over and jumped from the fallen trunk of the tree to the exposed stump that lay a few feet away. This was a jump I thought I could never make. For me, small and short compared to my older cousin, this seemed an insurmountable distance, yet my cousin encouraged me and I tried and tried until one time I jumped and I got one foot on that stump. After that my mind was made up. I knew this enemy was able to be beat. The next jump was all that it took. My mind was set and I knew this foe was beatable. Today you might not be trying to jump onto a stump in your yard, but the temptation you face might be staring you down like an unbeatable foe. Be encouraged, the Word of God says temptation is able to be defeated and escaped from.
“Dear Lord, thank you for your faithfulness in placing ways of escape before me as I face temptation. Help me to see these ways of escape and be willing and ready to take these pathways that I might not give into the temptations that are before me. Amen”
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React properly to Temptation…
Today’s Reading – Genesis 39
12she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.”
But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.
(Genesis 39:12 ESV)
In Scripture there are few individuals that have squeaky clean records. David gave into temptation many times over and in the end found himself a murderer and adulterer. Jonah, a prophet of God, found himself running from God and ending up in the belly of a great fish. Even Peter, who traveled with the Lord Jesus, denied Him three times to his own shame. Joseph’s character, however, is superb and one of the reasons is that he reacted properly when faced with temptation. Here in Genesis 39, the temptation was to lie with Potiphar’s wife, a lady that probably was very attractive and used to getting what she wanted. Her priorities were simple, to get pleasure by any means necessary. This meant tempting Joseph, seducing him, and when she didn’t get her way, indicting Joseph on false charges. Joseph’s priorities were greatly different. He desired to please God and to keep his life pure. When faced with a temptation, he reacted the only way he could, he ran! In order for us to react properly to temptation, we need the same attitude in our lives. First and foremost, we need our highest priority to be Jesus Christ. Notice Joseph didn’t say, “what if we get caught?” His concern was his relationship with God (verse 9). Far too often our relationship with God is an afterthought to giving into sin. To our own demise, the first thing on our mind is “Will we get caught?” or “Who’s looking?” rather than the fact that God is always watching us and desires our lives to be pure. Let us commit our hearts to keeping on that strait and narrow path that God has laid out for us in order to keep our hearts and minds spotless before the Almighty. Let us make our relationship with God our passion, and pour our lives into maintaining that relationship, for it is more important than any other relationship we have!
Then, when we are faced with a temptation, our reaction will be proper and right as we defend our spiritual lives in such a way that it remains pure and holy. Sometimes it might be that we have to be like Joseph and run away from a person that is trying to drag us down into sin. However, we will find that keeping our life right with God is a reward far greater than any passing pleasure this world has to offer.
“Dear Lord, please help me to have a heart that puts the relationship I have with you first. Let the concern of my heart, when faced with temptation, be that I might not do anything that would harm the relationship I have with You. Help me to react properly to temptation and give me the courage even to run from temptation.”
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Return to Scripture in battling Temptation…
4 But He answered, “It is written,…
Matthew 4:4 (ESV)
One of the best ways I can show that everyone and I mean everyone, faces temptations is to open a Bible up and show how Jesus Himself was tempted in the wilderness after fasting for forty days. Along with this passage comes one of the best examples of how we are able to deal with temptations, as Christ, our example, demonstrates how we can fight temptation head on. When Christ was tempted He quoted Scripture to the face of the devil shooting down the temptation that was placed before Him. In the same way, we are to take the truth of the Scriptures and defend our lives when it comes to temptation. As we learned earlier, temptation’s framework is made up of lies. We also saw that the best way to combat those lies is with the truth of the Bible. When we are faced with the temptation to believe that God doesn’t love us or that He is not near, we claim the promise of Isaiah 41:10, that He is with us and that He will help us. When we are tempted to believe that our prayers are worthless we claim James 5:16. Whatever the situation, we draw the truth from the Word to combat the temptation to believe the lies of this world. I know what is probably going on in your mind right now. You’re saying, “There is no way I can ever know that much Scripture. I’ll never know enough to battle the temptations in my life like Jesus did.” Nothing could be further from the truth! We learn and excel at those things we work hardest at, the key is perseverance. You might currently be just like I was in middle school when it came to the Bible. I knew what a Bible was and that the words Jesus spoke were in red. I didn’t know Peter from Paul, but what little I knew I built from. Over the years, little by little, my knowledge grew. Yours can too. I would recommend grabbing hold of a single verse and branching out from there. Psalm 27:1 is good or Isaiah 41:10 or Galatians 2:20. Learn one verse and know it by heart, claim the truth that it tells you, and learn a little more. Also, don’t think that because you can’t quote chapter and verse that you can’t claim the promises of Scripture. Live your life by the truth of the Word and continue studying the Word. Don’t worry, soon you’ll find yourself looking a lot like Jesus when temptation comes your way!
“Dear Lord, I need to know Your Word. Only by Your help will I have it placed within my heart. Today, with your help, I will learn more of Your Word by reading, memorizing, and hearing Your Word preached. Help me build that knowledge that I need and help me as I continue to know more. May You place within me the riches of the knowledge of Your Word, that I might have a storehouse of truth to defend myself against the temptations that come my way. I praise you Lord for the gift You have given in Your Word, let me cherish it and use it for Your honor and glory.”
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Red flag points in your life that Temptation hits you hardest
Today’s Reading: Genesis 19:1-29
26But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26 ESV
I remember back in high school when my church’s youth group had a night where we played capture the flag in a large barn. We played it a little bit different that night as we had one team defending a wooden shield that we used as a team flag, and one team trying to capture it in a twenty minute time frame. I was a senior then and president of the Sunday School class, so my mission was clear, be the first one to lay hands on that shield. Well, try as I might, I could not get to it. Defender after defender was in my way, and even when I got close to the shield the opposing team shone flashlights in my eyes, held me back, and did everything they could to stop me. Needless to say, I never got to touch that shield and we ended up losing the game. However, in looking back, that game taught me the importance of safeguarding the weak parts of our lives. You know, when it comes to temptation we usually fall where we are weakest. In the passage you have already read, we see Lot’s wife looking back upon the place she loved, Sodom and Gomorrah. She did this after she had been warned not to look back, nevertheless, for some reason she gave in to that want to see her city one last time. Her weak point was that she wanted to stay even though it was filled with wickedness and debauchery. Even to the point where, as the city was being burnt up with fire and brimstone, the city was able to call “look back one last time,” and she gave in and turned into a pillar of salt.
Friends, we all have weak spots and they are unique to each and every one of us. Your weak spot might be shopping and buying that unneeded and unbudgeted item that will end in debt and arguments at home. It could be that you love to be lazy and when the couch cries out, procrastination kicks in. Men, it could be when your eyes are tempted to look at things you should not or saying things that are not Christ honoring. Ladies, it could be that you have a weak spot for needing everything perfect, in giving into the temptation of overworking, you hurt the relationship you have with your family, friends, and Heavenly Father.
What should we do in the midst of all this? We should all take a lesson from playing capture the flag, shield, yes I know. The one thing the opposing team did better than anything else was guarding that shield. They knew that was their weak spot and the game would be lost if it was captured. So their strategy was to build as much of a barricade around that shield as they could. You know what? It worked. No matter how hard I tried, even with my team behind me, I could not get to that shield. It was protected with blockades of people, it was hidden from sight, and it even had kids with flashlights blinding others from seeing it. Whatever your weak spots, put a red flag on it, and build a barricade around it that temptation will have to fight to get to it. If you spend way too much money inside the convenience store every time you pay for gas, refuse to go in and pay at the pump. If you have a tough time controlling your tongue around certain people, get away from them! If you have to be around them speak as little as possible. Identify and protect those weak spots so that you might be triumphant over temptations.
“Father, I confess I have weak spots in my life that are attacked by temptation, and I need to guard myself so that I might not give in to them. Help me Lord, to identify them and show me the way to put a defense against these temptations. Help me to have a willing heart to give up, throw away, and rid my life of things that give power to the temptations that attack my life, so that by your strength these temptations may be overcome.”
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Rejoice in the Lord to reduce Temptation’s power to tempt…
Today’s Reading: Psalm 34
8Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8 ESV
I am North Carolina born and North Carolina bred. In fact, I have lived within the same 40 mile area all of my life except for the three years I spent at Liberty University. Needless to say I am a pork barbecue, Brunswick stew, Duke’s mayonnaise, Stan’s pimento cheese, Texas Pete, and Pepsi person. That was what I was raised on, it is what I know, and love to eat. On the other hand my beautiful wife is from Texas. There the barbecue is not pork, everything is called coke, and there is not a bottle of Texas Pete to be bought in the entire state (last time I checked)! However, I am thankful to say, I have never starved or been close to being malnourished while visiting the greater Dallas, Fort Worth area. In fact, I found some things that werte quite good. One particular place comes to mind is a Restaurant by the name of Tia’s. I must say it was the best Mexican food I had ever had, in fact, if had a choice that would probably be the only place I would eat while in Texas. You know what broke me of that desire, coming back to North Carolina and having a wonderful meal of good home cooking. Biting into a nice barbecue sandwich with Texas Pete and Cole slaw and washing it down with an ice cold Pepsi took away all desire for chips and salsa. When we indulge in sinful temptations, we dull our senses to the taste of the wonders of Almighty God. When we find ourselves worshipping the Lord and growing in Him, the tempting power of our own lusts and desires will have little power as we feast on the riches that God has for us. When the psalmist proclaims “taste and see that the Lord is good” it is an invitation to know God, to be surrounded by the presence of God, and to know all the things He has done for us and has for us. My encouragement for you today is to be a part of what God is doing, to worship Him will all your heart, and actively serve Him. One of the greatest support groups and places of opportunities in which we have to do this is the local church. The local church gives us an outlet to work together with fellow believers and allows us to have a deeper relationship with God. In serving God we will find this that the temptations we face will be less powerful and easier to fight as we do it with help of our Heavenly Father as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Lord, please help me to know You more and be active in serving You. I know the temptations I face are more difficult to fight when I am away from You, but when I am close the battle can be won with hardly any effort. Lord guide me to your church that I might worship You there, serve you with my life, and be active in the fellowship of other believers. Lead me in my pathway of life, that I might be triumphant for You.”