Updated: May 1, 2021
A man was given strict prescriptions for diet on sugar and calories due to health issues. But on his way to work, he had to go downtown and his route would take him by the doughnut shop - his weakness. As he got closer, he thought he'll just get a cup of coffee but that would tempt him to get a doughnut as well. That’s when he prayed, “Lord if You want me to stop for a coffee with a doughnut, let there be a parking place in front of the shop.” Sure enough, he found a parking place right in front of the shop—on his seventh time around the block.
“Most people want to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch” - Reader's Digest
Our text on this week's Message is found in James 1:12-15
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
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.
As Christians, we know that we have been delivered from the curse of sin and death. But it doesn't take away the fact that the enemy is still our to kill, steal and destroy and temptation is one of those things that we will always face while we are still in this world. Giving in to temptation will not just hinder our spiritual growth. It also has the potential to delay or worse, abort the plan of God in your life. The reality is, You will not make it far as a Christian if you do not learn to overcome temptation.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that some make a profession of faith and begin to show signs of growth, but the heat of trials or the more subtle thorns of worldly desires cause the plant to die (Luke 8:11-15). As I understand that parable, it is only those plants that endure and produce fruit that represents true believers. Because the enemy is strong and the lusts of the flesh are powerful, you must learn to recognize and overcome temptation. If you do not, James says, you are on the path that leads to death.
Temptation can be likened to the woman described in Proverbs 7. The man lacking sense succumbs to the loose woman’s enticement. His first mistake was that he passed near the corner where she lived (Prov. 7:8). Temptation can be seen in how the woman has been described and the end of a man who gives in to it:
“With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life” (7:21-23)
Proverbs 7:26-27 concludes,
“For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.”
1 John 2:16 gives us clarity on how three major forms of temptation appeals to us towards sin:
Lust of the Flesh (e.g. Gal. 5:19-21)
Lust of the Eyes (e.g. 2 Sam. 11:2)
Pride of Life (e.g. Isa. 14:14)
These three tactics has always been the same way the enemy tempts us and appeals to our sinful desires. As with the fall of Adam and Eve, the same deceptions has been his modus. operandi to see God's children fall and abort their mission:
"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband who was with her."
This was the same approach that the enemy used towards JESUS, in an attempt to hinder Him to fulfil His mission of saving us (Mark 4:3-10):
Stones to be turned to bread (lust of the flesh)
To prove His identity and worth as Son of God (pride of life)
Shown the glory of the world's kingdoms (lust of the eyes)
In all three temptations, Jesus answered back with what's TRUTH in the Scriptures. In all these, thanks be to God that "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. (Heb. 4:15) The Letter to the Hebrews encourages us to: "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16)
The Scriptures does not leave us clueless or defenceless against such schemes of the enemy and arms us with wisdom and strength to understand and overcome temptations. James 1, for example, offers such insight to the SOURCE(v.13-14) , the FORCE (v.14) and the COURSE (v.15) of such temptation: We should be encouraged as well that all temptation comes to all people in all its different forms, shapes and sizes. Even the Apostle Paul was tempted and. he describes this internal battle in Romans 7 i.e. verses 18-20. To be tempted is not a sin. To give in to temptation is.
Two outstanding narratives from the Old Testament gives us a profound insight into what we should and shouldn't do with temptation: The stories of David and Joseph. Both were tempted but each had a different approach in the face of temptation. What can we learn from them?
After David gave in to temptation, it resulted in deaths, literally, physically, relationally, etc. The grace of God will always be there but so are the consequences of sin.
After Joseph resisted the temptation, it looked like there was no good fruit. Instead, he was imprisoned and was wrongly accused. One might ask, where is God and where is Justice? But sure enough, in the process of time, his destiny was fulfilled. Life flourished through his obedience.
Deuteronomy 30:19 calls us to do the same thing:
"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live."
Whenever we resist temptation, we choose life. Whenever we resist the devil, we have already overcome. So how do we overcome temptation? We offered six practical steps to do so:
KNOW YOURSELF & TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
AVOID TEMPTING SITUATIONS
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
CHOOSE LIFE; LOOK AT THE END RESULT
COMMIT TO A LIFE OF DISCIPLINE AND PRODUCTIVITY
KEEP THE ARMOUR OF GOD ON AT ALL TIMES (Ephesians 6:13-17)
I used to think when I was a young Christian that these armour of God were invisible, intangible armour that I can put on as a Christian. Later on, I thought, they were just symbolic and poetic encouragements that Paul used to encourage and inspire faith unto the early believers. But recently, the Lord revealed to me that each piece of this Armour of God described by Paul is no less than JESUS CHRIST Himself for us. He is our belt of TRUTH, our breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS, our shoes of PEACE, our shield of FAITH and the sword of the Spirit - He is the WORD made flesh. So we put on CHRIST - He Himself is our armour. Paul states:
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." - Romans 13:14
The LIFE of God in us and through us is so precious to throw away in exchange for momentary pleasures and seductions of the world. Let us continue to live our lives in light of eternity and overcome the allure of temptation with a far greater pleasure - the legacy and fulfilment of a life lived for the glory of GOD through JESUS CHRIST - our TRUE ARMOUR.
QUESTIONS for DISCUSSION:
1. What is the difference between trial and temptation? Give examples. 2. What are the three major areas of temptation as stated in 1 John 2? Give examples.
3. What can we learn between the temptations of Adam and Eve versus Jesus?
4. What insights and lessons can we gain between the temptations of David versus Joseph? 5. Enumerate the six practical steps to overcome temptation and share insights to some of them.
6. Which ones are you most impacted by or in need of?
7.How can you personally apply this Message to your life?