Saturday, April 9, 2011

Keys to Overcoming Temptation

It seems like temptations are always there. It’s almost as if you can never get away from them. They are like the old school bully, lurking around the corner…waiting…ready to pounce on you.

Overcoming temptation—whether it is guarding what comes out of my mouth, turning the television off when there is something on I shouldn’t watch, or even saying no to an extra helping of food—can feel like a constant battle.

I used to wish that the temptations wouldn’t be there. “It would be so much easier God, if You would make them all vanish.” While that is certainly true, it would do nothing for my spiritual walk. I could never learn how to mature in Christ. I would never understand what real dependence upon God means.

Now I see temptation differently. I view it as an opportunity to be more like Jesus. I am reminded of the time that Jesus stood in the face of temptation. There is something really powerful, yet quite simple about the way He handled temptation.

Remember that Jesus was taken into the wilderness and was tested. I used to think this was all about Satan’s attempt to deceive and trick Jesus. But it isn’t. Matthew 4:1 tells us that “Jesus was led by the Spirit” into the wilderness (NIV).

The Spirit was the One leading. He wasn’t being led by the devil. The devil didn’t have any control over Jesus. He was not alone and He had the help of the Holy Spirit. We are never led into temptation by the devil. He doesn’t have that kind of power over our lives. He makes himself to be more than he is and so we give more credit to him than is due.

He might dangle a carrot in front of us (or a piece of chocolate cake or that need to set someone straight) but the Spirit is over us. We have the ability to take the help the Holy Spirit offers us. This is the first key to overcoming temptation, remembering that no matter what we face, we are being led by the Holy Spirit.

The second key to overcoming temptation is to understand when we are most vulnerable to give in to temptation. In “The Message” version it says that “the Devil took advantage of” Jesus’ extreme hunger. Jesus was in a vulnerable position when the devil offered Him the opportunity to turn stones into loaves of bread.

Recognize your most vulnerable times—that “time of the month,” when your schedule is overloaded, you haven’t been getting enough sleep, the kids are driving you crazy—and know that this is when the devil will try to come in and get you to fall for his tricks.

How did Jesus respond to this test? He responded with the Word. You can’t respond with the Word unless you know it. So read it daily and get it down deep inside of you.

The third key to overcoming temptation is to counter with the truth of God’s Word when the devil tries to twist things. The devil knows Scripture and he tried to use it but he twisted the truth of it. Jesus brought it all back to reality when He countered with the undeniable truth.

One of the last ways that the devil tried to tempt Jesus was to tempt Him with the things of this world. Now we know that He really holds the world in His hands but for a time, the devil has been allowed free reign. He had a tempting offer for Jesus. Don’t we just bask in the possibility of fame, fortune and power?

When you are tempted with the things of this world, the last key to overcoming temptation is the way Jesus responded. He rebuked the devil…put him in his place and then once again, used the Word to speak truth.

I love the way this all ends in “The Message” Bible. “The test was over. The Devil left.” That was it. No more testing. Jesus had done all He needed to do. Simple, yet powerful. The real key is in the Word of Life.

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