“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good…Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.” — C.S. Lewis
Every temptation is an opportunity to do good. Temptation becomes a stepping stone instead of a stumbling block when we realize that it provides the choice to do the right or wrong thing. God allows us to experience circumstances in which we’re tempted to express the exact opposite quality. Character development always involves a choice, & temptation provides that opportunity.
God develops real peace within us, not by making things go the way we planned, but by allowing times of chaos & confusion. We learn real peace by choosing to trust God in circumstances in which we are tempted to worry or be afraid. Patience is developed by circumstances in which we’re forced to wait & are tempted to be angry or have a short fuse. You can’t claim to be good if you’ve never been tempted to be bad. You can’t claim to be faithful if you’ve never had the opportunity to be unfaithful. Integrity is built by defeating the temptation to b dishonest; humility grows when we refuse to be prideful; endurance develops every time we reject the temptation to give up. These are among the 9 qualities, the fruit of the Spirit, that describe Jesus.
How Temptation Works: Temptation follows a 4 step process.
1. Satan identifies a desire in us. It may be a sinful desire, like revenge, or a legitimate, normal desire, like the desire to be loved, valued or to feel pleasure.
We think temptation lies around us, but God says it begins within us. If we didn’t have the internal desire, the temptation couldn’t attract you. Temptation always starts in our minds, not in circumstances.
2. Doubt: Satan tries to get us to doubt what God has said about sin: Is it really wrong? Did God really say not to do it? Didn’t God mean this prohibition for someone else or some other time? Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
3. Deception: Satan offers his lies to replace God’s Word. He tells us: “You’ll be wiser than God. You can get away with it. No one will ever know. It will solve yr problem. Besides everyone else is doing it, its only a little sin.” But a little sin, like a little pregnant, will eventually show itself.
4. Disobedience: You finally act on the thought you’ve been toying with in your mind. What began as an idea gets birthed into behaviour. You give in to whatever got your attention. You believe Satan’s lies & fall into the trap.
Overcoming Temptation: There are specific steps needed to overcome it.
-Refuse to be intimidated. Consider temptation a compliment since Satan doesn’t need to tempt those already doing his evil will. Be realistic about the inevitability of temptation; we will never be able to avoid it completely. We can’t keep the Devil from suggesting thoughts, but we can choose not to dwell or act on them. In explaining the difference between physical attraction or sexual arousal, and lust, Warren tells us attraction isn’t lust until you begin to dwell on it.
The closer we grow to God, the more we will be tempted. Warren advises us that while we pray, Satan will suggest an evil thought just to distract us. We shouldn’t be alarmed, but realize he fears our prayers & will try anything to stop them. Instead of “How could I think such a thought?” we immediately refocus on God.
-Recognize your pattern of temptation & be prepared for it. Some circumstances causes us to stumble immediately, while others don’t bother us too much. These situations are unique to our weaknesses, & we need to identify them. Warren advises us to ask ourselves: When & Where am I most tempted? Who is with me? How do I usually feel when I am most tempted? Identifying our typical pattern of temptation, we can avoid those situations as much as possible.
-Request God’s help. Heaven has a 24 hour emergency hotline. God wants us to ask him for assistance in overcoming temptation. Why then don’t we turn to Him more often? Because sometimes we don’t want to be helped, we think we know what’s best for us, or we’re embarrassed to ask God for help because we keep giving in to the same temptation repeatedly.
Warren tells us if we have to cry out for God’s help 200 times a day to defeat a particular temptation, He will still be eager to give mercy & grace. Ask him for the power to do the right thing & then expect him to provide it.
Temptation keeps us dependent upon God.
Question to Consider: What Christlike character quality can I develop by defeating the most common temptation I face?
The fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Christlike qualities, are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self control. Kindness is the Christlike quality I can develop—because in this hectic, brash world of ours, I often find myself responding equally tough. Being patient before responding, pausing & taking self control, I can focus on responding with kindness—as the saying says, kill them with kindness. I was tempted to be angry recently while waiting 2 ½ hours for a doctor, but instead choose to be patient—I appreciated the experience of patience in myself.
* We will be writing about what inspires us from each consecutive chapter of Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. If you read along with us, please share your inspirations. There’s no need to catch up, just jump right in.