Everyone knows what it feels like to be tempted, but what exactly is “temptation” and how should people deal with it? Well, today our task is to tackle the threatening theme of temptation and target those thorny tests that can torture and torment today’s teens…
“Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love him.
And remember, when someone wants to do wrong it is never God who is tempting him, for God never wants to do wrong and never tempts anyone else to do it. Temptation is the pull of man’s own evil thoughts and wishes. These evil thoughts lead to evil actions and afterwards to the death penalty from God” (James 1:12-15).
While it may take many different forms, a “temptation” in the Biblical sense refers to an attractive opportunity to do something that doesn’t honor God. A temptation provides a kind of test to see if it’s possible to cause someone to do something wrong. In fact, one of the Biblical definitions of the word “tempt” means to try and see whether a thing can be done. (1)
One big reason why people sometimes fail the “temptation test” is mentioned in the Scripture quoted above- it’s the pull of man’s own evil thoughts and wishes. These “evil thoughts and wishes” refer to those internal desires that people often have to do things that are wrong or forbidden. (1)
You see, people would never act on a temptation to do something wrong if they didn’t already have an inner desire to do so. Scholar-types refer to this internal urge to do wrong as the sin nature. This is just another way of describing the natural tendency that people have to do things that are God says are not right. Another version of the Bible says it like this: “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death” (James 1:14 NLT).
As we see in the Bible passage quoted above, people act on temptations whenever they choose to fulfill their own wrong desires instead of making choices that honor God. Of course, once someone allows a temptation to open an opportunity to act on an evil desire, then doing something wrong is sure to follow. This eventually leads to the ultimate punishment which is a permanent death sentence as seen in the Scripture that we just read.
Now as much as people might like to blame all their wrong-doing on someone or something else, the truth is that no one is ever forced to yield to a temptation- there’s always a choice involved. While God may certainly allow you to experience difficulties or troubles for various reasons, a temptation to do something wrong never comes from God, “…for God never wants to do wrong and never tempts anyone else to do it (James 1:13).
When it comes to dealing with temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God’s response is this…
“…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, that you may be able to endure it” (NIV).
This means that God is always looking out for you even during those times when you may feel tempted to something wrong. The Scripture quoted above also reminds us that God always provides an “escape hatch” that is available whenever you’re dealing with temptation. This way of escape can take many forms depending on the situation, but the best one usually involves making a decision in advance to stay away from situations that provide an opportunity for temptation.
For example, a dating couple might decide to avoid any situation where their physical attraction could have a chance to express itself in an inappropriate way. For someone else, it might mean staying clear of movies, music or video games with themes that provide an opportunity for temptation. For others, it may even mean terminating friendships or relationships that provide a source of temptation. The point is that you can go a long way towards avoiding temptation if you make the decision to stay away from potentially tempting situations in the first place.
But what about those situations where temptation simply can’t be avoided? Well. Jesus Himself gave us a good example to follow in situations like this…
“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River, being urged by the Spirit out into the barren wastelands of Judea, where Satan tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry. Satan said, ‘If you are God’s Son, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ But Jesus replied, ‘It is written in the Scriptures, ‘Other things in life are much more important than bread!’
“Then Satan took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time; and the devil told him, ‘I will give you all these splendid kingdoms and their glory– for they are mine to give to anyone I wish– if you will only get down on your knees and worship me.’ Jesus replied, ‘We must worship God, and him alone. So it is written in the Scriptures.’
“Then Satan took him to Jerusalem to a high roof of the Temple and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say that God will send his angels to guard you and to keep you from crashing to the pavement below!’ Jesus replied, ‘The Scriptures also say, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to a foolish test'” (Luke 4:1-12).
Jesus overcame temptation by holding firm to the truth of God’s Word and applying it in the face of temptation- and you can do the same today. Knowing what the Bible says and means will definitely help you beat temptation and choose what’s right. In fact, Psalm 119:11 implies that we should do this very thing…
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (NIV).
Finally, there’s a little phrase that The Doctor learned a long time ago that can help you deal with temptations in your life. The next time that you’re faced with a temptation to do something wrong, just remember this little saying: “If you feed it, it grows; if you starve it, it dies.”
How will that help you deal with temptation? Well it’s easy- whatever that area of temptation is in your life, don’t feed it. Don’t encourage it, don’t support it and don’t mess around with it. If you feed a temptation, it will only grow and become more difficult to overcome. But if you starve that area of temptation by following the advice we’ve just talked about, then it’s sure to eventually become a whole lot easier to deal with.
(1) Thayer’s Greek Lexicon