The Purpose Driven Life
THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE
GROWING THROUGH TEMPTATION
Temptation is actually an opportunity to do good, it provides a choice. Temptation is used by Satan to destroy you, but God wants to use it to develop you. And the best way to grow is to imitate the character of Jesus in the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.”
To have the fruit of the Spirit is to be like Christ. But fruit always matures and ripens slowly. And God develops the fruit of the Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you are tempted. For instance, God teaches us to love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and loving towards you.
God teaches us real joy in the midst of sorrow, when things look hopeless. But when we turn to Him, He will give you real joy. This is not the same as happiness, which depends on external circumstances. Real joy is knowing that you are a child of God forever and that nothing can change that, not even those terrible things that are happening to you right now. Not sickness, not even death can change God’s love.
God develops peace within us, not by making things go the way we planned, but by allowing times of chaos and confusion. Anyone can be peaceful by watching a beautiful sunset or by relaxing while on vacation. So external things can bring momentary peace, but what God can do is provide inner peace. That happens when we choose to trust Him in those circumstances that are fearful and worrisome.
Similarly patience is developed in circumstances in which we are forced to wait. Normally we would become angry if our order at a fast food place takes a long time because we are used to being served quickly. God uses situations that test our fruit of the Spirit. You can’t claim to be good if you have never been tempted to be bad. Integrity is build by overcoming the temptation to be dishonest.
You can’t claim to be faithful if you have never been tempted to be unfaithful. Humility grows when we refuse to be prideful. Endurance develops when you reject the temptation to give up. Self-control develops when you are out of control and only the Holy Spirit in you can give the will power to control yourself. You cannot do this all by yourself, you need help from the Holy Spirit who lives in you.
Temptation starts when there is a desire inside of you. Desire itself can be normal and not evil like the desire to be loved and appreciated. And there is the desire to feel pleasure. Temptation starts when you give in to an evil desire or a legitimate desire in a wrong way or at the wrong time. Many times Satan, who knows your weak points, whispers, “You deserve this! Surely i will make you feel better.”
Temptation always starts in your mind. Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” James 4:1 says, “Quarrels and fights come from the evil desires at war within you.”
Hebrews 3:12 says, “Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.” And Satan will tell you lies and half-truths. Satan offers his lies to replace what God has already said in his Word. Typically Satan says, “You can get away with it. No one will ever know. It will solve your problems, your lust, and your desires. Besides it’s only a little sin.”
James 1:14-15 says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” Actually temptation can be considered a compliment. Satan does not have to tempt those who are already doing his evil will because they are already his. That is why it looks like unbelievers have no problems.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
You can’t keep the Devil from suggesting evil thoughts, but you can choose not to dwell or act on them. There is a difference between sexual arousal and lust. God made everyone of us a sexual being, and that is good. Attraction and arousal are the natural God-given responses to physical beauty. However lust is a deliberate act of the will. Lust is a choice to commit in your mind what you are going to do with your body.
You can be attracted or even aroused without choosing to sin by lusting. Many people feel guilty that their God-given hormones are working. But attraction is not lust until you begin to dwell on it. The closer you grow to God, the more Satan will try to tempt you. The moment you become God’s child, Satan puts out a “contract” on you. You are now his enemy and he is plotting your downfall.
We need to recognize our pattern of temptation. There are situations that make you more vulnerable to temptations. These situations are unique to your weaknesses. You need to identify them because Satan surely knows them. He knows exactly what trips you up, and he is constantly working to get you into those circumstances. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Watch out for the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
Ask yourself, how do I feel when I am most tempted? It may be when you are tired or lonely or bored or depressed or stressed out. It may be when you have been hurt or angry or worried, or after a big success or spiritual high. Where am I most tempted? Who is with me when am most tempted? You should identify your typical pattern and then prepare to avoid those situation as much as possible.
A wise plan reduces temptations. Proverbs 16:17 says, “The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe.” Proverbs 4:26-27 says, “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. 27 Do not get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” And request God’s help. Psalm 50:15 says, “Call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
When temptation strikes, you don’t have time for a long conversation with God, you simply cry out. King David, Daniel, Peter, Paul and millions of others have prayed this kind of instant prayer for help in trouble. Jesus is sympathetic to our struggle, becaue He faced the same temptations we do. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “Jesus understands our weaknesses. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.”
Verse 16 continues, “There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Sometimes we don’t want to be helped. We want to give in to temptation even though we know it is wrong. At other times we are embarrassed to ask God for help because we keep giving in to the same temptation over and over. But God never gets angry when we keep coming back to Him.
God’s love is everlasting and His patience endures forever. Ask Him for power to do the right thing and then expect Him to provide it. Temptations keep us dependent upon God. When you stumble, which you will, it is not fatal. James 1:12 says, “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.”