Overcoming Temptation: We Have the Tools

Temptation isn’t talked about a lot anymore in church. In fact, we honestly don’t talk about sin a lot. And yet, this is something we need to talk about because it is woven into the very fabric of our lives. We may want to ignore it, but the fact is, we sin. We are sinners and we sin. Just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist.

Hebrews 2:17-18 NKJV
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Ben Witherington writes:
“One recent poll shows that 51% of all ministers admit to having at least occasionally looked at pornography on the net, and some 37% admit to having a problem with this matter.” (http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2006/09/pastors-and-pornography-dirty-little.html)

Most of us would say that looking at pornography is a horrible sin, and yet, my guess is that everyone who’s been on the Internet has seen inappropriate pictures at one time or another. Would we call it a sin? How about talking about that person who made us mad? Would we call it gossip? How about eating to the point that we hurt? Would we call it gluttony?

The fact is, if we don’t admit that we sin, then we don’t need salvation. But the Lord Jesus didn’t just die for “sins” in a general sense. He died for each sin that we commit, the sins that we could (and should) name. As a human being, He Himself was tempted and through that temptation suffered.

To be tempted can be painful and it can be long lasting. Paul writes:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

“That you may be able to bear it.” The Greek word translated here “bear” means to undergo hardship, to bear, to endure (Strong’s 5297). Temptation isn’t something that is quick, but may actually be something we must endure. I know that I often think, okay, here’s the temptation, now it should go away. And when it doesn’t, I give in. The Lord Jesus told His disciples (and us):

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 NKJV

In other words, we can avoid even getting close to temptation by watching and praying. For me, the watching is keeping tabs on my own emotions, expectations, and behavior. I know the things that often lead me into sin (self pity, boredom, envy, anger). I have the choice to go to the Lord in prayer as soon as one of those begins! I have the choice to even avoid the temptation. But even when I’m tempted, I can still go to the Lord in prayer and endure the temptation without sinning. Only I have to choose to pray rather than to give in.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. . . . praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Eph. 6:13, 18, NKJV

If I want to avoid sin, I need to learn to watch and pray. And in my prayers, I can also pray for you to avoid temptation. The key to conquering sin is prayer.