By Roland W. Keith
Much is written about temptation in the Bible. Jesus taught His followers to pray not to be led into temptation, but to be delivered from evil (Matthew 6:13). And, shortly before His crucifixion He told Peter, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26: 41; see also Luke 22:46). Considering that it was succumbing to temptation that led to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, it is easy to understand why it is one of the focal points of New Testament teaching. In fact, it is so important that one of Jesus’ responsibilities as Messiah was to lead by example in the fight against temptation, as Paul wrote: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). And also, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Victory over temptation and sin was summed up by James when he wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It is a simple matter, but as we all know a difficult goal to achieve. According to various dictionaries temptation is: 1. the act of tempting or the state of being tempted. 2. something that tempts, entices, or allures. 3. a person or thing that tempts. 4. the fact or state of being tempted, esp. to evil. Humans are tempted by a person or thing that has some influence on them. Regarding this James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). We cannot blame God for our situation when we are caught in sin, or even when we find ourselves in the crossfire of someone else’s sin. God created the heavens and the earth, but man created the world we live in and we must take responsibility for it. James went on to say, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14). God allows us to be tempted because He has given us free will, but He desires us to choose Him. He allowed Satan to test Job in the Old Testament account, and he desired to test Peter as well. According to Luke, Jesus informed Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).
It is important to understand, however, that even as we are being tempted God is there for us. He gives us guidance and warnings in how to avoid the pitfalls of everything from sexual desire to the allure of money (I Corinthians 7:5; I Timothy 6:9), two of the greatest temptations that seem to plague man. The bottom line, as summed up by John? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:15-17). The dictionaries say that temptation comes from without us— “a person or thing that tempts.” The Bible teaches that temptation is conceived from within (again, James 1:14). In his first letter John stated, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (I John 2:16). Sin is in the world— it permeates every place and time. But only because we allowed it in through through our own pride and desires. Yes, the devil and his servants are tricky (II Corinthians 11:15), still they cannot lead us where we do not want to go.
Fortunately, God enables us to overcome and be victorious over sin, as Paul explained it, “No 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” (I Corinthians 10:13). God provides us with a plan to defeat sin. Peter wrote, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (II Peter 2:9). So sure is God’s Plan and guiding hand that James said we should “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Today we might say, “Bring it on! What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger!” And even if it does kill this body, I have eternal life in Christ (Matthew 10:28; John 3:16, 36). Not matter what our earthly fate our eternal one is vouchsafed by our Creator, as noted by Peter: “who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (I Peter 1:5-6).
Each of us, as Christians, have God’s promise that if we faithfully obey Him we shall overcome the world and receive His eternal blessings, as James wrote, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.