I think many of us lay in bed broken-hearted before we fall asleep because we have fallen short to temptation…again. Before you run off to the comment section, I’m fully aware of the fact that we are saved by grace. I also know that our works are a demonstration of our faith and love for Jesus. I’ll save that debate for another article. That’s not quite the topic I want to discuss today.
There are no two ways about it. Temptation sucks.
Yes, it produces endurance and leads to an increase in intimacy within our relationship with Jesus once we’ve learned to fight it. But that’s a lesson that’s rarely learned overnight. We reach a point in our faith when it hurts to realize we are giving in to the same issue repeatedly. While Jesus still loves us anyway, there’s a certain level of distance created every time we allow a specific sin to control us.
I’m almost too afraid to put it in print, but I’ve experienced a ton of growth in the last couple of years regarding resisting temptation. This is nothing I have done. It’s all been the Holy Spirit working in and through me. I know this because I tried to “not do it” for years. I don’t think there’s anything worse than waking up every day with a specific goal and failing miserably within a few hours.
I’ve spent a lot of time these past few days thinking about temptation.
Not because I have been fighting it. My wife and daughter went to visit family for Christmas, and I’ve had some free time on my hands. It has led to me going through a couple of Bibles I’ve had the last few years and has brought back a ton of memories. Some good. Plenty of bad.
In the fall of 2012, I began using my Bible as a journal. While I don’t think it was intentional, this has led to me buying a new Bible almost every year to start with a fresh notebook. I’ve also developed the habit of dating everything I write inside of them. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this has been huge in helping me realize exactly what God has done in my life. Anyway, back to the point.
Related Post: The Journey of Obedience
Over the last few years, I’ve written some pretty intense notes in my Bible. Some were messages I wanted Jesus to see. There have been many questions I’ve jotted down for him to answer. When I have struggled with temptation during the seasons, I’ve noticed something my writing has in common. There’s a lot of blaming God for what I’m experiencing.
“You created me. You knew I wouldn’t be able to handle this. Why would you make me this way? Don’t you care about what happens to my family? What am I supposed to tell my wife? How will I ever explain this to my daughter? Why won’t you make these thoughts go away?”
As humans, we tend to try and find someone else to blame when we fail. At least for a while, it seems, especially with something as major as trying to fight sin. In my case, when I ran out of other people, I naturally decided to point the finger towards God. I know very few people reading this will be honest enough to admit it’s the same for them. But for those of us who play the blame game, God’s been through it before. Even Adam and Eve tried to blame others, including God, when they gave in to temptation. Realizing this made it even worse for me. Once I allowed this to enter my conscious, it became easier and easier to give in to temptation.
However, once I was finally to the point where I could no longer stand my weakness, I could finally look deep inside myself. When guilt had put me in such a dark place that there was no longer anyone else to blame, I was finally able to see my struggle for what it was.
But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. – James 1:14
Learning how to fight
As I mentioned earlier, temptation no longer controls me the way it used to. This verse has taught me that as soon as temptation begins popping up its head, I have some soul searching to do. What is going on inside my head or my heart that is bringing this on? What changes have taken place within my daily schedule? Is there a specific activity that has been part of bringing this on? Most importantly, what changes do I need to make to keep this from becoming a sin?
Related Post: Staying In The Fight
If you notice, all of this has to do with me. Not someone else. I’ve also realized the fact that being tempted isn’t a sin. Giving in to it is. There’s a huge difference. While I know some may find comfort reminding me, “There’s no condemnation in Christ,” I find comfort in knowing that I am a man of God and I’m responsible for my actions, regardless of whose fault I think the situation may be. Yes, repentance is a part of my daily life not because there is something to earn, simply because it’s the only response to God’s love for me.
If temptation is a struggle in your life, it doesn’t have to be. That being said, until you are willing to look at it for what it is, the temptation will continue to win every time. Yes, you need to be spending a ton of time in prayer. You also need to be putting action into those prayers. I can’t tell you how amazing it is once testing produces endurance and begins to have its full effect.
Growing with others
Most importantly, share your struggles with another person. This not only strengthens you with more prayers, but it also gives you someone to be accountable to. This will only work if you’re willing, honest, and look at your part in the temptations. Our desires say a lot about where our heart really is, and Scripture tells us that our desires create our temptation.
There’s a great deal of freedom that comes with saying what you struggle without getting loud to get it off your chest. Keeping quiet about the matter makes the battle twice as difficult. Hearing the problem in our own voice instead of our thoughts is the first step in preparing for the task ahead.