Temptation- I seem to have tried everything in an effort to fight temptation.
I've bribed myself not to give in.
I've had plenty of revelations.
I have an accountability partner.
I've gotten a permanent reminder against temptation tattooed on my body.
...And then I got another tattoo two years later.
I've regretfully punished myself if I gave in.
I've sat in guilt and refused to accept forgiveness to try and make myself understand the depravity.
On the opposite end, I've accepted forgiveness right away (much better idea) and mourned with God about my sins.
I have heard people say that they struggle with temptation...but only sometimes do I hear of their fight AGAINST the sin. I'm speaking as someone who knows what it means to STRUGGLE with temptation. I want to be rid of the sins that seem so helplessly present, but my flesh revels in the temptation ...and my flesh wins sometimes. I have had certain temptations in my life for what seems like forever and have prayed for God to take the temptations away. But while I've been waiting for Him to relieve me of these, I've learned how to become a fighter for His glory...and I've been given invaluable lessons about how God uses temptations to show Himself.
This issue is particularly close to my heart, so this blog is long. I didn’t want to skimp on the truth that has freed me from hopelessness. So, here it goes: some of the things I wish I knew earlier about temptation-- A few ways to fight it, and WHY I think temptation hasn't disappeared from my life completely.
PART 1- Temptation- a few things to know in order to fight it
1. The Bible says 'no'.
For the rule-followers, this reason could be enough. Good for you. God loves your obedience and I wish I had more of that quality all of the time. For me, I only began to really listen to the Bible's words when I truly believed that...
2. God knows better than me
When God says not to do something, He does so with full knowledge and wisdom. One time, God was clearly telling me not to date this one boy... But I argued and tried to convince Him of how brilliant I was for thinking of the idea. I eventually listened to God, knowing that He knew best...and what do you know, a few months later, the reasons that I should never date him are undeniably clear. God knew best. Similarly, with temptation, he tells us "keep out, back away, do not touch" when he knows more than us. We are like the children that have to touch the flame before we realizes that it burns. He knows what burns us and he tries guiding us away from it. Gosh- what hard lessons I could have learned the easy way!
3. God has something so much more beautiful for me
God told me this in Thailand. My team was confessing a particular sin and God revealed to me that He has something so much more beautiful than the sin we had all been indulging. When we see God as our protector, we begin to realize that He tells us to keep away from some things because he has ABUNDANT life for us. He wants to give life that screams freedom...the kind of freedom that is Godly and glorifying. He doesn't want us to feel bogged down with anger, guilt, hurt, etc. Being in Satans hold, addicted to a certain sin doesn't scream 'freedom' to me.
I put this status on my facebook a few days ago. I listened to a sermon that preached this--
"Imagine if i came to you as a job recruiter
'I've got a job for you.
You can't eat what you want .
You can't work when you want. You will work holidays.
You'll be moved around a lot.
You will work out like mad, go to gym all the time.
You will only get 10-15 productive years in and then you'll be replaced.
But the same job could be phrased this way-
You'll make millions,
You'll be a celebrity.
You'll be famous everywhere
You'll be able to live wherever you want in the off season
The job is a professional athlete.
We talk about Jesus in the same way- the secondary stuff first. The costs first. Is it going to cost us to follow Jesus? Yes."
Sometimes, Jesus wants us to stay away from things that our flesh desires. And that feels like a cost for us. We don't like anyone telling us what to do.
But what if the person telling me what to do cares more about me than I care about myself? What if He wants better for me than I want for myself? And what if He knows more than me about the situation and everyone involved? What if He knows what gives us abundant life?
"We'll get to heaven and think that we never sacrificed anything that we wouldn't give a thousand times over. He came to give us abundant life! He tells us to get rid of the things that keep us from it."
4. Satan wants me to fail. Stick it to Him.
I don't write this to scare you, but do you know how much Satan rejoices when we give up fighting for God? He will always want to tempt you away from your Father.
His career started with tempting. Lets look at Genesis 3:1-6
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?" The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Look at Satan's tricks. How typical! First, he tries to get the woman to doubt that God has said something. Today, he WILL try to make you doubt. One example: How often I've heard people say, "I don't think God reallllly disapproves of sex before marriage." Lets keep refreshing ourselves on what God says.
And then, Satan basically refutes God with a "No, You won't." Why would we believe Satan in this scenario? Satan does not stand for truth. God does. DO NOT believe Him or let him minimize the temptation for you. He wants you to be trapped in sin, and then feel so much shame. God will never distance Himself from you, so Satan employs the next 'best' thing: making you feel shameful and distant from God. He uses sin to do this.
Seriously STICK it to Satan. Enough is enough.
5. I CAN stand up against temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13
"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."
"And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you."
These two verses give us a great picture of how we CAN resist temptation. Lately, this has been the strongest weapon in my fight against the devil. Regardless of how hopeless the situation feels, I CAN do the impossible because Jesus lives in me. He provides a way for us and He has given us His Spirit. We have all the tools we need. It is our choice if we want to use them to fight. Knowing that I can use the same power that rose Jesus from the dead to defeat Satan has empowered me to fight when I feel hopeless.
So... that’s great that we can fight temptation, but I don't want to stop praying that God would fully take from me this specific temptation. It reminds me of Paul asking for God to take away his thorn in his side.
For me (like Paul), God hasn't taken it away...but here are some lessons I have learned:
PART 2- Why I think temptation is present/ the good God has made from the bad:
1. Because of God's help through my temptations, I now have a better understanding of the world. I got to learn all of those points above!
2. I get to practice my authority over Satan. I get to say 'no' when he is not used to hearing it. I get to claim my authority. Satan has no power and it's just a taste of what the war will feel like at the end times. He'll be defeated in the war...and I get to be a part of these battles now- where I have to power to defeat Him in these tempting moments.
3. I have free will and a lot of my struggles are self-inflicted. I expose myself to more tempting things than I should. Not to say I should live in a cardboard box, but I know that I'm doing a lot of it to myself. I watch/listen to some things I shouldn't and I justify it.
4. Because of temptation, I'm trained to walk in a more Godly way. When I'm tempted, I can realize that the things in #3^ probably aren't ideal for my heart. It's like in the example I gave before-- when you touch an oven and there's a burn...you know not to touch the oven anymore. If God knows that some things are not good for our hearts, I'm glad there's something like temptation to show us that we're probably exposing ourselves to things that are burning us...that aren't healthy for us. Ideally I could listen to God the first time when He says that it’s hot, but personally, I'm thankful for the burn that sends me back to God with a humbled heart.
5. This is the world... And even if we live in a box (which I don't think is what God meant when He said to go to all nations...) there will still be temptations. It's crazy how much sin is in me- some that I'm only realizing now- way after it has festered in my heart. So, being in a sinful world...we are tempted. Jesus was tempted for crying out loud...but it brought Him and others closer to the Father and showed power over Satan...and I believe Jesus can use all temptation to bring us closer to Him. What Satan thought would bring us further, God uses to bring us closer to Him.
6. To show us that we can't do it on our own. The thought that we can be completely pure without Jesus is a delusion. I think the opinion that we are sinless is a delusion as well. There is sin born IN us. Disgusting...but completely humbling. I KNOW that I am nothing without His saving mercy and grace...and I'd have it no other way. When we have temptation and cry out to The Lord, He will "he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.". One thing: He can do this and we can deny the help...but that doesn't mean He didn't provide a way. Temptation helps us realize how much we need Him. For the people I love most, i hope for this the most: "regardless of anything, I pray that they know they need you and they can see you in all your glory as the Savior."
7. To better understand His mercy and grace. I don't think God wants us to purposefully disobey Him so that we can understand grace, (Read beginning of Romans 6) but I know that that has been one of the biggest ways God has used my disobediance in my life. I come to Him with my tail between my legs, feeling so ashamed. While I sit before Him, bawling my eyes out, He announces His forgiveness and love for me. Without His mercy, I'd be dead inside. But thank Jesus that He is so forgiving. I love Him for that and I don't deserve His constant kindness. Its all a gift. One note though- we shouldn't keep ourselves in the prison of sin just so that we know His mercy. Escape from the jail cell. The door is unlocked. You will see His mercy and grace every day...even if you aren't sinning in this same way.
Thats all I have for now. But God brings wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
I have a feeling that there is much more insight to be gained in how to fight temptation. And let us fight- use the armor of God that He gives us! (Ephesians 6:10-18). Lets not allow shame to distance us from God. We will get back up and try again. Thank you God for using even our disobediance to show yourself. Relieve us from constant temptation and thank you for your grace and mercy when we fall.