In one of my Bible Studies we were discussing temptation. All of us go through life being tempted at one time or another; some of us are tempted every day. Temptation is among us especially today. We are tempted to open our phones and play a new app, or open our tablets and do all kinds of searches instead of opening our Bibles. We are often tempted to send a text to check on a friend instead of picking up the phone and actually calling and hearing the distress in one’s voice. We are often tempted to buy a new house when the realtor ads on TV come on and tell us our house is not big enough or spacious enough or we aren’t in the right neighborhood or we want to buy a new car when we see the latest gadgets a car has and all the things a car can do (like parallel park something I can’t do.) I am overweight, but not by a bunch, but I am tempted to run out and have surgery just because I see all of these skinny, beautiful women in these gorgeous gowns. Then I realize the doctor wouldn’t agree to do surgery on me so, then I am tempted to join all these weight loss programs and take all these pills and eat all these foods just so I can be skinny and get into a gown I have no place to where. Finally, I am tempted to have cataract surgery so I can do all those things I haven’t been able to do for years (I never could sew…umm).
Temptation is prevalent. So, what is the solution? Max Lucado tells us this, “having a personal strategy to handle temptation remains a central component to healthy spiritual growth.” (Taken from Life Lessons: Book of 1 Corinthians). As I began to think about this I thought about how we often have a strategy to lose weight. We often go on a diet, we count calories or we change our diets. We have a strategy to keep us motivated to exercise. That strategy might be to engage a friend to keep us accountable or we might belong to a gym that has a fitness trainer that we use. If we are in school and want to get better grades we come up with a strategy to study harder, more serious or to get tutoring. We prepare well for a lot of things. We prepare for accidents by buying insurance on our homes and autos. We prepare for storms by stocking up our pantries.
Are we as well prepared when temptation comes along? Do we have strategies to fight off temptation? Do we have plans to keep us from harm when we are tempted? Most of us and I am included in this don’t plan on temptation. When it happens I deal with it. I am thinking that is probably not a good plan. If we are prepared when temptation hits we can handle it a lot better knowing we are prepared. I see people in the hurricane areas plan ahead for when the hurricane hits. They have a strategy to have boards on hand to cover doors and windows, they have a plan on an escape route, and I would imagine they have a strategy about who is to do what when the time comes.
One of the things we can do to deal with temptation is when temptation strikes have a pencil and tablet nearby. Ask yourself this question what triggered your temptation? What were the warning signs? What can you do next time to prevent this kind of temptation from happening again? Write the answers to these questions in a tablet and have it ready to pick up and read when it happens again. If we know what the problem is we can often (not all the time) avoid going through it again.
When we are tempted we often go to the Bible and that is good, but how better prepared would we be if we had scriptures memorized that would scare Satan off? What if we are tempted and we don’t have a Bible around, just saying. We would need to fall back on our memory and recall what we have studied about temptation. Quoting scriptures often makes Satan run the other way.
We often pray when temptation comes our way, that is another good solution too. What if we prayed ahead of time asking God to help strengthen us when temptation does come along? What if we were prayed up? When we are weak we can’t often fight temptation, but when we are strong then temptation is no biggie, but it is God who gives us that strength. Being prayed up ahead of time will often help us detour around temptation.
Confiding in a friend is often another way we fight off temptation, but what if we confided in our friend about our biggest temptations before they hit? What if we clued them in on what we struggle with? If we did that our friends would know what tempts us and could help us avoid those areas. They might be able to see the warning signs before we do.
These are just some of the strategies I have come up with. Strategies are a plan to help you in those areas you need help with.
My daughter was sharing with me her strategy for dealing with temptation. When it shows up she asks herself this question: What would I do if Jesus was sitting next to me? Would I say something I am tempted to say? Would I do something I am tempted to do if He was next to me? Maybe we should visualize Christ being with us a little more than we do.
One of our other study buddies added this to the conversation: temptation is a difficult subject and not always comfortable to talk about. I like verse 6 from our reading: We need to learn from the failures to avoid the temptation and learn how to better avoid it in the future. “These things were examples for us, so we won’t crave evil things like they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6) Studying the bible and seeing examples of how others dealt with temptation is another good strategy. They may have failed and we can learn from their mistakes or they may have been successful in heading off temptation and we can learn how they did it.
One of the more important things to remember is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.” We also know that Jesus while on earth was tempted with every temptation we encounter. He stood the test and we can too. Planning ahead and having a strategy just makes it a little easier.
I encourage you to get a notebook, place it somewhere it is visible and then begin writing your strategy for when temptation strikes. Temptation will never cease until we take our last breath, but it won’t be as much of a challenge if you are prepared.
Father, your word says that no temptation will be too strong for us to bear and that you will always show us a way to resist sin. We claim your promises and ask you to give us strength to use the escape routes you provide. And we pray that in our hours of desperation and weakness, you would help us feel your presence. (A Max Lucado prayer from the same book) Amen.