Recognizing Temptation’s Opportune Time

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 ESV

Recently I discovered a great book about resisting temptation, which remarkably is not written from a religious perspective. It is a fascinating read. It provides a very helpful study in understanding the various factors that make people susceptible to and able to resist temptation.

The name of the book is “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.” Written by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney it documents findings from voluminous social science and brain research focused on the human ability to exercise willpower, self-control and resist temptation. Truth is truth no matter where one finds it and it is always instructive to see how empirical research confirms and enlightens Biblical truth.

Baumeister cites from his research that the average person spends four hours every day resisting temptation. Wow! That certainly verifies what the Apostle Paul wrote two thousand years ago, that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” We all have to admit that temptation is an everyday reality.

Spiritual Warfare – Rule #1

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12

“You can’t defeat the enemy unless you identify the enemy.” Those are the very words I heard myself declaring in a dream I had several months ago. It was one of those morning dreams you recall just as you are waking up. All I could remember was the setting, a church, and I was preaching. Beyond that the only other fragment of the dream I retained was that phrase, and it was reverberating again and again in my soul. It impressed me as being a very important sermon and I wish I could have heard myself say more.

Being at a stage in life when I have kindly been classified as a senior, I have come to appreciate the scripture that says “your old men will dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28) It is a wonderful promise for any man whose hair is thinning, receding and/or turning gray. Check, check, check, yep, all the above. So when I dream, it could be God speaking and I’ve learned to listen.

As it turned out, it was indeed a very timely word from God for me and necessary reminder of an important spiritual principle. In the spiritual realm we have enemies and we are at war. And as in any natural war, unless we can clearly identify the enemy, we will always be vulnerable, under attack, on the run and ultimately defeated. That is rule #1 in spiritual warfare.

4 Ways to Overcome Temptation

I heard a great sermon in church last Sunday. The topic was almost as hot as the near record setting temperatures outside. It was on temptation. The message was a real eye opener for me and deeply convicting. But it wasn’t anything the preacher said. It happened that I was an audience of one listening to what the congregation was saying to me as I stood behind the pulpit. Through feedback from six interactive questions I gained some incredible insight into the insidious power of temptation and most effective ways to combat it. When Paul said that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” he wasn’t just talking through his hat. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Nine out of ten people in the room told me that they are presently battling temptations in their lives. And eight out of ten admitted that it is a reoccurring temptation that they have not been able to resist. Seeing those polling results brought home the stark realization that at any given time, most godly people are locked in a spiritual battle against an enemy of their souls.

It really should not be a surprise when we consider that from the very beginning of time a colossal war been waged between the forces of good and evil, righteousness and sin, God and the devil. From Genesis chapter three onward the devil has been scheming up ways to tempt us to eat forbidden fruit and rob us of an intimate relationship with our creator.

But his insidious strategies are not limited only to the lure and captivity of sin. He also is a relentless “accuser of the brethren” who works with might and main to keep those who confess their sin imprisoned in guilt and shame. (Revelation 12:10)

Over half of our congregation this past Sunday said they were still battling guilt and shame for a sin they had confessed and been forgiven. That is a disquieting yet not surprising fact as well. All of us at one time or other has those same struggles and we are not alone. (For more on this see “Dealing with the Stain of Sin”)

Facing sexual temptation? Keep this in mind!

“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” Hebrews12:16 (NIV)

The recent demise of the Herman Cain campaign was sobering and painful to behold. Whenever a well respected man’s reputation comes into question, as his did over charges of sexual impropriety, it triggers a gamut of emotion. We hope against hope that it isn’t true. We wonder how in the world such a thing could happen and possibly have been going on for so long without anyone blowing the whistle. We stand in amazement that someone who is so successful and seemingly so intelligent would jeopardize everything they have attained in life, and the promise of a preferred future, in exchange for some momentary sinful pleasure.

But it happens all the time. History is replete going all the way back to the days of Esau, with countless individuals who traded their inheritance for a bowl of porridge. Sadly, the cemeteries of the world have far too many people in them who went to their graves with regret over all the good in life they forfeited in exchange for the evils of sin.

Esau, the first born of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, was slated to receive both the inheritance rights as well as the patriarchal blessing. He was a man’s man, an outdoorsman, a hunter and rough cut man of passion. In his day, he was what might be termed a hunk.

Esau probably would have made a great politician. Strong, passionate, outspoken leader types have a way finding their way into places of influence. But every person considering a run for political office should keep in mind this scriptural advisory: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23 NIV) Anyone who has any skeletons in the closet or hidden sins, be assured, they will eventually be exposed and you can count on the press and media to help. Don’t kid yourself, those who find themselves in the public eye need to keep a strict private eye on their own lives.

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