“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NAS
“Temptations to sin are sure to come,” Jesus warns. (Luke 17:1 ESV) Recognizing the commonplace nature of temptation, in a previous blog post I outlined eight conditions that weaken us in our ability to resist it. (See “Recognizing Temptation’s Opportune Time.”) In the article I shared some compelling findings cited in a book titled “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.” The authors Roy Baumeister and John Tierney drawing from voluminous social science and brain research confirm many Biblical principles about the nature of temptation and how to resist it.
Reading that book provoked me to take a fresh look at what the Bible, the most authoritative source available, says about resisting temptation. My study produced six proven ways to resist temptation. They are by no means an exhaustive list and you might want to add your own insights to it.
- Determine that you will live a Holy Life that pleases God. Holiness is God’s will, His goal if you will, for each of His children. He declares “you shall be holy for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 & Leviticus 20:26) The researchers who wrote “Willpower” underscore this by stating “the first step in self-control is to set a goal.” What higher goal or purpose than to be holy as He is holy? When Paul declares reckon yourselves therefore “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” he is basically saying make the determination to be holy. (Romans 6:11) Holiness like salvation is appropriated by a decision to receive God’s free gift of grace through faith.
- “Watch and Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41 ESV) This exhortation from the master Himself, is the most critical advice of all. Given by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to His disciples we find the result of not watching and praying was their forsaking and denying Him in the hour of temptation. Vigilance coupled with prayer is the most effective way of combatting temptation. This advice takes on even greater significance when we consider that Jesus said literally the same thing when He taught His disciples to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)
- Know your Weaknesses and Vulnerabilities – This is a critical aspect of being watchful, as mentioned in point 2 above. The Bible, both in the Old and New Testament, exhorts us at least12 times to “watch yourselves.” We are told to be on our guard against those things in us, like weaknesses and vulnerabilities, that could position us to fall into sin. There are a number of things that bear diligent watching in our lives. Research has confirmed that will-power to resist temptation is depleted by such things as repeated temptation, fatigue, discouragement, stress etc. A person who knows their weaknesses, and their susceptibility to the particular temptations that beset them, will be positioned more effectively to resist them when they come. Being watchful and alert to times when the flesh is weak, and praying for wisdom and strength in those times, is critical to resisting temptation. Being conscientious about getting sufficient sleep, recreation and stress relief will also go a long way toward building resistance to temptation.
- Take a Combative Posture against the Devil who is the author of temptation. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8 NIV) When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness He battled against the lying temptations of the Devil by actively quoting Scripture. In a similar manner the Bible encourages every believer to put on the full armor of God and to take a stand against the Devil’s schemes by taking up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17) The Word of God, wielded as a mighty offensive weapon against the enemy of our souls, enables us to defeat temptation just like Jesus did.
- Look for a Way of Escape. One of the most familiar and oft quoted verses regarding temptation is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. It contains an amazing promise. “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NAS) It is as if God has the Devil, like a junk yard dog, restrained on a lease. It is our responsibility, should we wander into his territory, to get out of there, beyond his reach, as soon as possible. That is our way of escape, even though he is threatening us and trying to intimidate us.
- Remember who you are in Christ Jesus. In reading the exhortations of Paul to holy living we see him repeatedly reminding his readers of who they are in Christ. “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” (Ephesians 5:8 NLT) Remembering that we are a son or daughter of the most high God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, no longer our own, but redeemed, cleansed and sanctified by precious blood of Jesus makes a huge difference in battling temptation. It fixes our minds on things above, while enabling us to ignore the glitter and allure of earthly enticements. It has the same effect, found by the will-power researchers, that a mirror had on unattended children who were tempted to take more candy than they should. Whenever a mirror was employed in the room, the children’s reflection in the mirror proved to be a deterrent to temptation. When we choose to see ourselves as a reflection of who we are in Christ, it affects us the same way when we are tempted. We see ourselves and cannot help but think “I am better than this. To succumb to this temptation is beneath me as a child of God!”
What have you learned from the Bible that you have found helpful in resisting temptation?
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