Temptation, or giving in to temptation, has been a serious problem since the beginning of time and is still a very real part of our lives today. Like it or not, we all have to deal with it. Most people may not really understand temptation and its purpose. In Luke 17:1 (AMPC), Jesus said, ...Temptations (snares, traps set to entice to sin) are sure to come....
Why do we have to deal with temptation?
It strengthens our faith, our spiritual muscles. If we didn't have to stand against temptation, we'd never know our own spiritual strength. Facing temptations will either bring out the best or worst in us. Sometimes God allows us to be tested because He's preparing us for promotion. Facing temptations increases our confidence in our ability to recognize and resist the lies of the enemy.
The Many Faces of Temptation
Temptation comes in many forms. Too often we think of being tempted as being enticed to do big things like stealing, murdering or committing adultery. But most often we're tempted to be impatient, stingy, jealous, greedy or any number of other things that we consider lesser sins. Satan strikes at our points of weakness.
To develop spiritual strength, we must pass all kinds of tests of temptations both large and small. In Luke 4, we find that Satan also tempted Jesus, hoping to find an area of weakness to invade. But Jesus stood strong and defeated the enemy. I believe God knew ahead of time that Jesus would pass the test, and I believe He has confidence in us that we'll pass many of our tests too.
Stay One Step Ahead of the Devil
I believe that understanding temptation and aggressively resisting it is the only way to stay one step ahead of the devil. James 1:12 (AMPC) says, Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life... To endure temptation means to go through trials without giving up...to outlast the devil. Enduring also means going through a time of temptation without letting it change your attitude or commitment. Jesus never treated people differently when He was being tempted, and when we have Christian maturity, we can follow His example.
Jesus understands exactly what we're facing in temptation. For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:15 AMPC).
Sometimes Jesus allows us to face temptations so He can bring attention to areas of weakness in our lives and help us overcome them. He knows how important it is for us to know the truth about ourselves. Even though it may be painful to acknowledge that we have tendencies to be jealous, greedy or prideful, if we'll deal with it and overcome it, that truth will set us free. The only way you can have all that Jesus wants you to have is to be what He wants you to be. And that maturity comes in stages.
So be determined to resist the enemy and take authority over him. Trust and obey God, and rejoice in the promises found in Psalm 94:12-13 (AMPC): Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked. Through Christ you can remain steady in the storms of temptation.
Don't Ignore the Warnings
For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him (Romans 12:3 AMPC). God has chosen many anointed preachers to give us warnings and instructions about how to handle certain situations we may face.
We usually don't like it when someone tells us that we're headed for trouble unless we change our direction. We mistakenly believe that when we attend church or do good things, the preacher should encourage us, and certainly this is true. However, our spiritual leader is also responsible for exhorting or warning us about impending dangers.
"Tempted" to Do Good
One thing that draws us into temptation is thinking too highly of ourselves and trusting ourselves too much. This is an attitude planted by the enemy, but 1 Corinthians 10:12 (AMPC) warns, Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. We need to realize that Satan tempts us to do evil, but God tempts us to do good. God says, ...I have set before you life and death...therefore choose life...(Deuteronomy 30:19 AMPC).
The Bible warns us about thinking we can hang out with ungodly people and not be affected. Pride causes people to ignore warnings; they think they won't be the ones to get caught. But this prideful attitude has damaged many lives. We must choose to separate ourselves from people who could poison our temple.
God is trying to save our lives. He wants to strengthen us so that no matter what happens in these last days, we'll be preserved and protected under His covering.
How to Win the War
We tend to get too much of our information from the world instead of listening to the inside information from the Holy Spirit that's available to us. There's a war going on between God and the devil for the use of your soul. ...the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do (Galatians 5:17 AMPC).
Temptation is not a once in a while thing; we deal with it day in and day out. But God has provided us with tools to fight: ...the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God...(2 Corinthians 10:4-5 KJV). These verses indicate that we need to keep increasing our knowledge of the things of God if we're to stay ahead of the devil and win the war.
Sometimes we try to make Christianity too complicated—we think we have to follow certain formulas to stay out of trouble. Psalm 37:3 (AMPC) says, Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed. This verse makes it pretty simple: Trust God and do good. That's it!
Resist, Then Receive the Reward
So often God prompts (tempts) us to do something good, and immediately Satan attacks our mind, causing us to reason it out. When we fall for that, Satan steals from us the opportunity to do good and be blessed. It seems that we're better at resisting the temptation to do right than we are at resisting the temptation to do wrong. It's time to give in to God's temptations. He will never guide you wrong. James 4:7 says, ...be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. It's a twofold thing. You can't resist the devil without submitting to God. And you can't submit to God without resisting the devil.
Ephesians 5:18 tells us to ...ever be filled...with the [Holy] Spirit. When you're full of the Spirit, you can drive the spirit of depression out of your house before it attaches itself to you. But never forget that you're in a war, and you must use the tools God has given you to fight and resist the devil.
Get a grip and face reality—the devil is alive and well. He wants to steal everything you have, but through the Spirit of God, you can resist the devil and win the battle! But now since you have been set free from sin and have become the slaves of God, you have your present reward in holiness and its end is eternal life (Romans 6:22).
When we serve God, we receive the reward of holiness. That doesn't mean we'll do everything right. I still have my share of "mess-ups," but I am so happy and peaceful. I love my husband, and although he still does some of the things that used to drive me crazy, they don't bother me at all anymore. I'm enjoying the benefits of a holy life, and I'm peaceful and fulfilled.
The High Cost of Low Living
Satan tempts us to live a low life, but God tempts us to come up higher. One of the worst mistakes we can make is to get complacent, thinking that what we have right now is okay. A mindset of low expectations holds us back because God can only do through us what we believe for.
Be careful that you don't get in an "okay place" spiritually. I don't want to be average because I don't serve an average God. God is a God of excellence, and I want to follow His example. Matthew 16:25-26 says, For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessed life in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]?
Low living has a high cost. Nothing is worth giving up the wonderful, peaceful, joyful, righteous, holy life here on earth and the promise of eternity in heaven. If your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, yet you spend your life resisting the will of God and living according to your mind, will and emotions instead of operating in the mind of Christ, you are living the low life.
God wants you to be blessed, but He doesn't want you trying to provide it for yourself. He doesn't want you to seek things or put things ahead of Him. He tells us in Matthew 6:33 (KJV), ...seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
So know yourself and know your problems. Recognize your strengths and ask God to take care of your weaknesses. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor's] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).