Several years ago Discipleship Journal conducted a survey of its readers asking them to share temptations that caused them the greatest spiritual concern.
Here are the top 9 ranked in order of their readers’ responses.
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
Interestingly 81% of the respondents noted that their temptations were the most potent when they had neglected their time in God. 57% said they were most often tempted when they were physically tired.
How do you view temptation? What are your temptations? How do you deal with temptation?
The apostle Paul offers this insight into our temptations.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1Cor. 10:12-13).
(1) Never think that you’re immune to temptation.
Temptation is a fact of life. Becoming a Christian does not eliminate temptation. Neither do we reach a place in life either by chronological age, or the years of spiritual maturity where the Devil abandons us and we’re no longer tempted. Preachers, pastors, and long-time faithful Christians can fall prey to Satan’s schemes. Take heed. Be aware. Stay alert.
(2) Temptation is the common experience of all people.
We should not feel guilty when we are tempted. We’re all tempted to sin. Even Jesus himself was tempted directly by the Devil.
There is a commonality to our temptations. Just like the Devil tempted Adam and Eve, he tempts us with the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). Time passes, technology changes and the techniques may vary, but the basic temptations are still the same.
Greed. Gluttony. Lying. Lust. Adultery. Fornication. Dishonesty. Anger. Envy. Jealousy. And intoxication. These have been around forever. Whatever temptation you are experiencing is not uncommon. Unheard of. Or unconventional. You are not alone. Others have experienced it too.
(3) God is faithful, even when we are not.
What a wonderful assurance and a precious promise! Even when we become unfaithful and are under the influence of sin’s allurement, God is still there. Ever waiting. Still blessing. Ready to forgive. And offering healing and hope for the future.
People may give up on us. Abandon us. Or join us in our folly. But the Almighty is always available. His power is accessible to help us subdue temptation. And his grace and mercy are extended to welcome us home after we’ve succumbed to sin’s seduction.
(4) Your temptation is not more than you can endure.
Too often we give in to temptation with the justification, “It’s more than I can handle.” Or the rationalization, “I couldn’t help it.” Or the silly excuse, “Well, after all, I’m only human!”
Yes, we are human beings made in the image of a Holy God. He made us with the ability to choose right over wrong. The resolve of will to engage in good instead of evil. And the strength of character to subdue temptation with the power of Christ in us. You can endure. You can overcome. You can say, “No!”
(5) God provides a way of escape.
Those responding to the Discipleship survey said resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (86%), avoiding compromising situations (76%), Bible study (65%), and being accountable to someone (52%).
The way may be different for each of us. The apostle Paul found it necessary to engage in spiritual warfare to fight the wiles of the Devil (Eph. 6:10-17). Jesus put the Tempter to flight with words of Scripture, each time saying, “It is written.” (Matt. 3:1-10). Joseph literally ran from the sexual enticement of Potiphar’s wife.(Gen 39:11-12) And Daniel dealt with many challenges in captivity with a vigorous and vigilant prayer life (Dan. 6:10).
What will be your way of escaping from temptation? I don’t know. But I do know that God will provide it.
Finally, consider this challenging thought by William Barclay: “Temptation is not meant to make us fail; it is meant to confront us with a situation out of which we emerge stronger than we were.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman