What do you do when you feel tempted to do something you know is wrong?
Imagine there’s a bunch of cupcakes in the kitchen for your sister’s birthday and they look tasty. You want to lick a little bit of frosting off the top of one of them but you know that would ruin them. What should you do?
I’ll tell you what I might have done in that situation when I was younger. I would have stared at the beautifully frosted cupcakes and set my teeth and chanted. “I won’t do it!” “I won’t do it!” “I won’t do it!”
That strategy never worked very well. More often than not, “I won’t do it” turned into “Just this once.” Why didn’t it work? If that didn’t work, what does?
Myth: temptation comes out of nowhere
Everyone wants to believe they’re a good person, particularly Christians. We don’t like to hear that we are sinners because we seem like good people. But when we don’t address our sinful nature, we’re playing right into our enemy’s hands.
Temptation is when you want to do something you know you shouldn’t do. The key word is want. Temptation is not something that jumpscares people or sneaks up on us, it’s an evil desire hidden in our hearts.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”Colossians 3:5 (NIV)
Notice anything about the list above? Many of the things on there are, by definition, things we want. Greed is an intense and selfish desire for something, especially money or status. Our sinful earthly natures have these selfish desires.
How are these things desirable? The answer is that you cannot be tempted to do something you don’t want to do. I cannot tempt you to eat the dirt out of the vacuum cleaner unless you want to eat dirt out of the vacuum cleaner. However, if you like cupcakes, I could tempt you to eat a cupcake.
To be clear, temptation itself is not sin. Even Jesus was tempted (read the story in Luke 4), but if we feel tempted to do something that we know is sin, it’s because we want to do it. I know we don’t like looking at this part of ourselves. I know it offends us, but if we keep pretending that we’re good people, we miss out on the grace of God.
So, how should we face temptation?
The reason it’s so hard to deal with temptation is because we’re fighting against our own desires. But we don’t have to fight because the Almighty will fight on our behalf. He only needs our surrender.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (NIV)
God has been faithful to me in struggles against temptation and I know He’ll always provide a way out. It might mean walking away. It might mean turning off the device. This is why I say not to fight temptation, but run from it. Look for the way out of the tempting situation.
Other ways to face temptation
The Bible is a weapon against temptation. Reading its verses help me to focus my mind, and when I feel tempted, I read 1 John 2:15-17:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
This verse is powerful because it reminds me that any pleasure I get from this world is temporary, but through Jesus I’ll have eternal life. With that perspective, it’s easier to say no. I remind myself that Jesus is better than (fill in the blank).
Prayer is also powerful. The enemy wants to get between us and God because he knows he can’t fight God but he can beat us. That’s why it’s so important to run to God for help. Armed with both these spiritual weapons, including God’s promises, temptation starts to fade.
Temptations are desires, but there is One is greater than all of these desires and He will provide a way out when we are tempted.