I recently read a journal article which had done a study where a big group of women were offered a fictitious candidate partner who had been tailored to match their interests exactly. The photograph of “Mr Right” was the same for all women participants Half the participants were told their ideal mate was single, and the other half that he or she was already in a romantic relationship.
Out of the women was told he was single, 59% were interested in pursuing a relationship. From those who was told he was attached, 90 per cent said they would pursue a relationship!
As soon as we are told we can’t have something, we always want it so much more right?! We all have this instinct to do what people tell us not to. This can sometimes seem funny but it’s actually incredibly serious. If we keep giving into our temptations then we are not walking into the freedom that Jesus offers. So how do we resist? I want to look at 6 ways which can help us fight temptation:
1. Watch your mind
So often we see the final action as sin but not the process. We see sin as beating someone up but conviently forget about the hatred in their heart. We see sin as having an affair but conviently forget they lusted after them as they walked down the street.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous journalist, tells a story of an occasion when he was working in India and he went to a nearby river for a swim. There was a woman bathing naked. Temptation stormed his mind; should he cross the line of an extra-marital affair, something he had dreamt of for years? He struggled just for a moment before swimming towards the woman. His mind fed him the fantasy that the stolen waters would be sweet before he realised
“She was old and hideous…and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper.This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask.” The experience left me trembling and muttering under my breath, “What a dirty lecherous woman!” But then the rude shock of it dawned upon me—it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was my own heart.
Muggeridge didn’t have an affairbut he realised that his heart was disfigured simply because he allowed himself to dwell on the temptation that arose.
When you sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and it reaps a destiny- and it all started with your thought.
We need to be careful with what we think about and what we are filling our minds with because the more we dwell on things we know are no good for us, the more likely we are to succumbe to temptation.
2. Be radical
The first step to being radical with your temptation is to know what and where. What temptations are you particulary vulnerable to? Where and when are you vulnerable to it? Do you struggle to watch a film without thinking lustful thoughts? Do you struggle with overspending when you go shopping?
When you have thought about what and where, think of these words from Jesus.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
Jesus stressed the point that one must be willing to sacrifice in order to defeat temptation. If part of our life is given over to it, it is better we cut it out then than to condemn our whole life.
In practical terms, this means you may need to stop watching certain TV shows or films,stop reading certain magazines or books, stop listening to certain songs or bands, you may need to stop carrying credit cards. You may need to clear your phone or your computer or even get rid of the completely. It may seem too radical but if we aren’t radical, we aren’t taking temptation seriously enough.
When Josephis tempted by Potiphar’s wife, in Genesis chapter 9 he doesn’t say “ I won’t sleep with you but let’s just a 3 course candle lit meal, put some mood lighting on, stick my love songs playlist on”. No he ran out at such speed, he left his coat in her hand. Joseph knew you had to be radical if you wanted to take seriously.
Be aware of what sins you’re vulnerable to and where so you can radically take them out of your life.
All throughout the bible we see the confession of sin to God. This is a vital part of a person’s relationship with God. However we should, where appropriate, to confess to others as well. Whilst this isn’t a necessity for salvation, we see in James 5:16 We are to confess our sin so we can be healed. As the old saying goes, ‘we are only as sick as our secrets’. So often we want our private problems to have a private solution. The bible never offers a private solution. It offers a personal solution but not a private solution. Therefore I urge to find people you can be brutally honest with, so that you can find healing.
Jesus gives us the great example of this. In Matthew 4, we see that Jesus is tempted in the desert.
Charles Spurgeon, regarded as one of the best preachers that ever lived, wrote “Jesus used Scripture to battle Satan’s temptation, not some elaborate spiritual power inaccessible to us. He could have spoken new revelations, but chose to say, ‘It is written.”
Jesus knew scripture off by heart, he didn’t have to get a big piece of parchment out of his pocket to read through until he found something vagely relevant. In the same way, we must spend time letting the bible go deep into our hearts so it is ready to pull out at a moment’s notice.
But it’s not enough to know the words.
Anyone can memorise scripture. Satan did. In verse 6, he too uses the phrase ‘For it is written’ The difference is that Satan is an expert at quoting it out of its context to confuse and defeat those he tempts.Jesus on the other hand used the Bible with correct context and application and thus stood firm in temptation.
It is imperative that we know the Bible for ourselves. Paul called the Bible the sword of the spirit and just like warriors who practice with their swords before going to battle to enable effective protection, we must learn how to read it properly in order to resist temptation.
In the garden of Gethsemene before Jesus went to the cross. Jesus spent his time praying. The disciples spent time sleeping. On the surface, it may seem like the disciples are actually more trusting of God, peacefully resting whilst Jesus is sweating blood but we see that Jesus wins the battle of temptation; he takes his place on the cross whilst the disciples deny him or run away.
Jesus warned Peter to stay awake and pray because, although his spirit might be willing, his flesh was weak. But he fell asleep again, and, by the time the soldiers had come to arrest Jesus, it was too late to pray for the strength to endure the ordeal to come.
By instructing him to pray, Jesus lets him know, that it was not in his own power but God’s that they resist temptation which is obtained by prayer.
Jesus found victory at the cross by succeeding in the struggle in Gethsemane. We, like Peter often have a willing spirit yet fall to temptation because we don’t keep watch and pray. So often the battle is won or lost before it starts.
We must pray regulary if we want to remain strong in temptation
And finally worship. This may seem strange. What does worship have to do with fighting temptation?
It’s like if you offer a dog a bone, they will begin to chew at it, if you then offer a steak, it will drop the bone and go to the steak because it knows that the steak will offer far more sustenance then the bone can.
The same is true of us When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we see how good he is and we see sin as A fleeting pleasure with no long-term fulfilment so we drop the sin and head straight to Jesus.
Some of the things I’ve talked about like being radical, accountability etc are vital and we should be doing them. But with whatever our struggle is the key to overcoming it is to have a transformed heart and hearts are transformed as we worship. These things which seem so good but are actually bad for us, will fade into insignificance as we seek and worship Jesus.
What steps can you take right now in order to help you resist temptation?