When you think of temptation, do you regard it as a good thing or a bad one? Probably a bad thing right? But that may not always be the case, as we will see in this article as we look at growing through temptation.
What is Temptation
Temptation is an enticement or invitation to sin against God, with the indirect promise of greater good to be derived from following the way of disobedience.
The very first temptation was in the Garden of Eden, when
Satan, through the serpent, tempted Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of good and evil which God had specifically forbidden with the penalty of death. The indirect promise of greater good was that she would be like God knowing good and evil and that she would not die.
Satan lied in order to persuade Eve to sin and He has been doing it every sense.
Temptation: Good or Bad?
In this article, we’re going to take a good look at temptation. Usually, when we think about temptation it’s in the context of a negative nature, something bad, something to avoid, something with a dismal outcome. But t a closer look sheds light on the fact that temptation is not all bad.
As a matter of fact, temptation can have a positive effect. How? Well, each and every temptation is an occasion to do good; to do the right thing. Just because we are faced with temptation doesn’t mean we have to give into it. We always have a choice to give in to it or reject it. Just know that every time we overcome temptation, we become more like Jesus.
This is one of the ways we reach maturity. Every Christian has to walk a path of maturity and we must continue to grow spiritually. To be in stagnation is to be in danger, as our enemy (Satan) is sure to come calling. [1 peter 5:8] So we are either moving forward or we are falling backward.
There are several ways to grow spiritually, read the Word, listen to the Word (preaching and teaching), and doing the Word by applying it to our lives.
Also, on the path to spiritual maturity, even temptation becomes a step toward maturity rather than an obstruction when once we realize that it is just as much an occasion to do the righteous thing, as it is to do the unrighteous thing. Temptation simply presents the choice. Every time we choose to do right
instead of doing wrong we are growing
in the character of Christ.
According to Gal. 5:22-23, “When we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control NLT
God develops the fruit of the Spirit in our lives by allowing us to experience circumstances in which we are tempted to express the exact opposite quality.
For example, God teaches us to love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and loving to us. Jesus addresses this point head-on in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43-47:
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
According to verse 46, Jesus stated that our reward comes by loving the ones that don’t love us. For a Christian, when faced with some unloving folks, is when the rubber hits the road because it is very tempting to not love them. It is one of the major avenues of temptation.
The thing to remember is God allows the opposite situation of each fruit to allow us a choice.
When we resist that temptation and trust God we grow. We can’t claim to be righteous if we have never been tempted to be unrighteous.
When we can love our enemies; that is a major step in reaching spiritual growth and maturity.
To possess the fruit of the Spirit is to be Christ-like.
How Temptation Works
In order to overcome and grow through temptation, it is important to know how it works.
There has been an ongoing debate to answer the question, does Satan know our thoughts. Well, he does know our thoughts as well as our desires, both the sinful and the righteous ones. Satan begins by injecting a thought in our
minds to give in to an evil desire or to fulfill a righteous desire the wrong way or the wrong time. He covers the whole spectrum.
Temptation comes from within as an internal desire. This is the only way for us to be tempted. We can’t be tempted without an initial desire to begin with. Let’s look at what Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
It is very important to note that temptation always begins in the mind as a thought. Satan uses these thoughts as a trigger for temptation. This is why it is known that the mind is the battlefield. For more on that, please read the article, All about Spiritual Warfare: The Mind is the Battlefield on this website.
Have you ever had an ill-thought and wondered where in the world did that come from or something in your past that you thought was buried forever suddenly comes to the surface? Simply put, Satan is on the job! And He’s injecting those thoughts with the hope that you’ll take the bait.
Next, he attempts to place doubts in our minds about what God says about the thought or desire. For example in Gen 3:1 Satan said to Eve:
“…Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? NIV
He uses this same method today on us. For example, could God mean this disallow for someone else or at some other time? Doesn’t God desire me to be happy and content? These are examples of the thought Satan can inject into our minds. This is why it is so important to control the thoughts that we allow to dwell in our minds. We are so warned in the Scriptures, Heb 3:12:
12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. NIV
If we don’t heed this warning, we ultimately proceed with the thought we’ve been toying within our minds.
What starts as an idea gets manifested into behavior. We give in to whatever got our attention in the first place. We believe Satan’s lies and fall into the trap.
James warns us about this very crisis in James 1:14:
14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. NIV
Eve’s mistake: she had a conversation with Satan. When we toy around with the wrong thoughts in our minds, we are inadvertently having a conversation with Satan. This is why we must cast “ down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 cor. 10:5).
Evil and ill thoughts will come (that’s Satan’s job) but we must allow them to pass through, not reside. We can’t stop birds from flying over our heads, but we can certainly prevent them from making a nest.
As I mentioned in the onset, a temptation is an opportunity to grow by using the occasion to do good by overcoming the temptation. So how do we conquer temptation?
Be Ready – Whether we like it or not, the temptation is going to come. This is part of the warfare Satan uses against us. If you’re a Christian expect a war! The closer we get to God the more Satan will tempt us because we are an enemy to his camp. So, they are coming and will continue to come. Scripture reads, “…But when you are tempted…” [1 Cor. 10:13 NIV] not if.
On the other hand, if you’re professing Christianity and not experiencing any temptation to do wrong, check your walk; you may be unwittingly walking in the wrong direction! Satan doesn’t need to tempt his own.
Therefore, there is no sin in being tempted. It is only a sin if we submit to it. It’s almost like owning a losing stock in that you don’t lose any money until you sell.
Also, we must understand that we individually are not the only ones being tempted. 1 Cor. 10:13 states, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” NIV
Be honest – We must be honest, recognizing, and knowing our vulnerability. Certain situations are riper for temptation than others. We all have weaknesses in different areas and we must identify them, as Satan unquestionably knows them! He knows precisely what causes us to stumble, and he is relentlessly working to get us into those situations. This is why we are warned, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” He is relentless and sleeping at the wheel is dangerous.
Therefore, we must self-examine and ask ourselves, when are we most tempted, where are we most tempted (home, bar, work, church, etc.), by whom (alone, co-workers, relatives, neighbors), and how do we feel when we are tempted (tired, hungry, angry, lonely)? It behooves us to identify these conditions so that we may avoid them when at all possible.
Prevention is better than cure and it’s best to prevent temptation when we can. For example, perhaps if Eve had stayed away from the tree she may have not been so easily tempted. We must stay away from situations that we know can cause us to fail. Temptations will still come but this will narrow the chances of being tempted.
Ask for God’s help – Last but certainly not least, seek God’s intervention. The Scripture reads in James 4:7-8, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…”
We simply cannot resist Satan’s schemes on our own. Satan is might, but God is all-mighty!
The remainder of 1 Cor. 10:13 reads, …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 stand up under it.” NIV
We request God’s help through prayer. Prayer is one of the weapons of our warfare that must be used. God says in Ps 50:15, “Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
Pride can take us down (Prov. 16:18). So we must put pride aside and cry out for help when we need it.
Temptations will come and they will either help us or hurt us. For sure it is one or the other. In terms of Christian growth, we are either moving forward (growing) or we are falling backward.
But it is so important to grow. Here’s why; the Scripture in James 1:12 reads:
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. NLT
It doesn’t get any clearer than this. We must keep our eyes on the prize. So let’s keep growing!
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