Temptation is something we all must face, even for the Christian. In fact, a Christian may struggle with temptation more so than others because of the simple fact that the Christians want to please God and not themselves. In this article, I hope to give some helpful tactics to dealing with temptation from a Biblical perspective and offer some very practical help.
Before we move on, let me define what temptation is. A temptation could be defined as anything contrary to God’s best for us. It could be found in the form of disobedience, a struggle or rebellion against God and His plan and purpose for us. In James 1:14, we see a clear definition of temptation: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14 ESV). Temptation being that desire inside of us which draws us away from God. When we yield to that desire, or temptation, that is when we sin. Temptation itself isn’t sin but when we give in to the temptation is when our relationship with God and others suffers.
Here are a few practical things to consider when being tempted.
Pray. Yes, pray! I know it seems so basic and elementary and yet it is so necessary when we are being tempted. The scripture is clear that we are to always be in prayer. Temptation often comes to break our fellowship with God. It’s when our minds and flesh are being drawn to satisfy itself with something other than God’s provision. Ephesians 6:18 tells us to be praying always. When we remain in a posture of prayer, temptation can be lessened.
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18 NKJV)
Prayer needs to be our first line of defense. Not our last. Call out to Jesus immediately when you sense temptation rising because according to 2 Peter 2:9: the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…
Resist. Part of our problem in dealing with temptation is that we don’t fight very hard for very long. It can be hard to say no but say no the first time. The second time. The third time. Keep saying no each and every time until the temptation is gone.
I think of Jospeh in Potipher’s home when considering this point. To recap a little for you, Joseph is a good looking, young man with a bright future. He is in the house with Potipher’s wife continually, who is constantly tempting him to have a sexual relationship. You can read the story in Genesis 39. Part of the story informs us that this was a daily temptation for Joseph. Look at his response though:
7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. Genesis 39: 7-10
One can clearly see that Joseph had to resist day after day, time after time. He said “no” once, twice, every time. We have to say “no” once, twice, every time, if we are going to overcome temptation. The scripture tells us that it’s when we resist the devil that he flees from us. James 4:7 says: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Even as we resist the devil and he flees, there are times when that temptation may continue from other people or even within. What should we do then?
Run. As the story of Joseph continues, we see another crucial step in dealing with temptation and that is running! There may be instances when resisting means running out of a situation. Getting away from and removing ourselves from the situation that could cause us to fail may be the optimal thing to do. Look at this part of Joseph’s story:
11 But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. Genesis 39:11-12
When the temptation doesn’t go away, we may need to get away…far away. Develop an escape route for yourself. Make a plan on what you will do when you are tempted with various things or in sundry ways. Then follow through with the escape plan. If your house is on fire and you have a fire escape plan, it does you no good if you don’t take it!
Fill Your Mind With the Right Things. There is no doubt that our minds are often filled with slogans, lyrics, sayings and even self-talk that is not God-focused. It is imperative for Christians who desire to please God to know God’s Word. How can we do what God wants if we don’t know what He wants? One of the best ways to know what God wants is to read and study His Word.
God has given us His Word to help guide us in life with decisions and with accomplishing His plan and purpose. When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted, Jesus used scripture to combat the devil. Matthew 4:3-4 gives us this important insight:
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
Notice in that passage and others further along how Jesus says “It is written”. Jesus relied on The Word of God when He was being tempted by the devil. Jesus quoted scripture and it worked for Him; it will work for you. Memorize scripture that has to do with the temptations and struggles you naturally face. Then quote them and pray them when you sense the temptation being presented to you.
Part of overcoming temptation is having our minds renewed and refreshed by God’s word. Romans 12:2 gives us this admonishment: 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. When we choose to meditate and fortify our minds with God’s word, we have a much better chance in dealing with temptation properly.
Get help. Having a friend you can call or text when temptation is strong is a great asset. Some struggles are too much to handle alone. Find someone you know and trust and maybe just have a key word that you can share that lets them know you’re having a hard time. Remember this verse from James 5:16 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
When we reach out to others we will often find that the temptations we face are some of the very things others are dealing with also. It’s better to fight temptation together.
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
George Lockhart is the lead pastor at New Vision Church and president of Vision 2 Hear Ministries.