Topic: Victory Over Temptation
MEMORY VERSE: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).
TEXT: Luke 4:1-12; James 1:12-16; Jeremiah 35:1-10
God saves from sin and empowers the redeemed to live a righteous lifestyle. Satan does not want anyone to be saved through Christ. He wages war against everyone who is regenerated to make sure he loses the experience and thus, forfeit enjoyment of its benefits here and in heaven. Since he cannot force the Christian to sin, he takes advantage of the free moral agency of man to make choices. He coats sinful practices in living and attractive colours and urges man to choose and damn the consequences, which he hides from him.
God, however, urges the Christian who seeks to enjoy abundant life to align his choices with His (Deuteronomy 30:15). This is because, in His goodwill, He has ordained that believers be conformed to the image of His dear Son and walk according to the guidance of His all-knowing, powerful Spirit. Unfortunately, most believers are “blind” and “deaf” in a sense that they do not see and know who is behind some subtle suggestions that appear to be good. “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S servant?” (Isaiah 42:19 with Job 33:14). Note that temptation is not sin; it is when the believer yields to temptation that he sins.
Temptation is a common experience of all men – saints and sinners alike. In the lead text, our Saviour was not spared. Just as it was with the Lord, temptation is an enticement or a suggestion (in thought, feeling or action) to sin or do evil. It cuts across age, race, social class, colour, spiritual level or estate in life. No saint lives long enough or grows enough in grace to get rid of it.
Pitiably however, sinners and backsliders do not have the power and strength with which to overcome temptations. This is because they, by their lifestyles, are of and controlled by the devil (1 John 3:8; John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2). Sin weakens and robs the sinner of spiritual energy to resist continued indulgence in it. The only way to receive the initial deposit of divine strength with which to live and maintain a righteous life is salvation through Christ.
The sinner/backslider must repent of his sins, confess them to God and receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord (John 1:12). Although temptations, like the circumstances around them, may differ from one person to another, the believer needs to know the different sources of temptation to be able to overcome them.
1. SOURCES OF TEMPTATION (Luke 4:1-3; James 1:14; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Genesis 3:6; 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Corinthians 2:11)
Satan is the source of temptation. He and his spirits or human agents delight in bringing temptations in the pathway of Christians with the purpose of making them to fall.
God is never the author of temptation or sin. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:13,14). God can never be blamed for sin; though men, in their desperate attempt to break loose from responsibility for their actions, often heap blame of their failure on God. What then is God’s place in the spectrum of temptations? The Apostle James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, posits that temptation begins with man’s desire which may be perfectly legitimate by itself, but which leads away from God-appointed goals to baser, inferior and transient ideals.
Indeed, the devil tempts the believer with what he craves. It, therefore, means that the first and greatest source of temptation is the heart. The enemy within – pride, lust, revenge, envy, etc. – is greater, fiercer, more ravenous than the enemy without. No wonder the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). And Christ in the New Testament notes: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts… All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Temptation comes when one “is drawn away of his own lust…” And when Satan sees the propensity to sin in the heart, he then fans the smouldering coal into a full-blown flame. This is the first source of temptation.
Second, inordinate cravings of the flesh in the areas of appetite and immoral urge lead men to temptation. Undue closeness to the opposite gender, especially amongst young people, often sparks unholy, carnal feelings of lust and uncleanness. Third, apparently close and indispensable pals like neighbours, relatives or even parents can be sources of temptation. Non-Christian parents, can lead us into wrong marriages, get us into unscriptural or even sinful work environment, gently blow the breeze of spiritual coldness on our heart and make us lose grip of our consecration.
Fourth, overconfidence or being self-opinionated more often than not, proves a source of temptation. Fifth, looseness during courtship between intending couples leads to temptation. Sixth, the believer’s weakest point, his besetting sin is a sure spot for or source of temptation. Seventh, greed and inordinate ambition is another. The craze to get-rich-quick or sit tightly close with the opposite gender on a motorcycle ride is a modern source of temptation a believer must avoid.
Quest for new, higher knowledge or spiritual enlightenment and willingness to learn from any source – even from Satan – without consultation with her husband made Eve to fall. Quest for greener pasture and independence without counting the cost made Lot to pitch his residence near a city doomed for destruction. Willingness to satisfy the appetite at whatever cost was Esau’s undoing. Achan, Gehazi, Balaam, Judas Iscariot and Demas are in the same class with the covetous; their apparently blossoming life and ministry hit the rocks as a natural consequence. David, Amnon, Solomon, Samson all committed sexual immorality because of their lust-filled eyes. Aimless visitation and carelessness in the company of the ungodly led to Dinah’s rape. Besides, unequal yoke in marriage was what made Samson’s fall more terrible (Genesis 3:6; 13:10-13; 25:29-33; 34:1,2; Joshua 7:21; Judges 14:17; 16:17).
2. SATAN’S PURPOSE IN BRINGING TEMPTATIONS (1 Chronicles 21:1-4,7,14; Job 1:8-11; 2:9; Luke 22:31; 2 Corinthians 11:13,14; Daniel 8:25; 11:21,24,32; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
The word of God exposes Satan’s purpose for bringing temptations to Christians. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The devil develops strategies to carry out his devices against believers and divine purpose for his life. He hates what God loves and seeks to devalues and destroy what God appreciates and builds. When “Satan stood up against Israel”, David was ignorant of his devices. He became the devil’s target because God found him a man after His own heart. The same way, Satan hates and seeks to destroy the believer who has a similar testimony of divine approval. Rather than provoke physical warfare through another Goliath in which David would have brought his experience to bear, he came through an unfamiliar terrain. He “provoked David to number Israel”.
Through this unrecognised method, he achieved his aim of destroying seventy thousand Israelites. Numbering the people of God is not a sin if it is commanded by God. But it is Satan’s device to influence a believer to do what is good but not commanded by God.
When God testified of the godly private and public life of Job, Satan told God that Job would “curse” Him if the divinely bestowed blessings were taken away. God, knowing that the devices of Satan will not always succeed against committed believers, proved the devil wrong. He brought suffering upon Job for him to blame or “curse” God. When Job did not do that as Satan expected, he inspired his wife through a suggestion that he should “curse” God but Job held to his integrity. The point here is that Satan operates through demon-inspired suggestions. Obviously, when God exalts a man, Satan wants to pull him down; if He blesses a man, Satan wants him to lose that blessing; when God saves a man, Satan will want him to backslide.
Seeking to prevent a glorious experience such as Peter had at Pentecost and his usefulness thereafter, Satan sought to sift him like wheat. When Peter sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant and denied the Lord thrice before the little maid, he did not know Satan was subtly behind the scene. Sometimes, he comes in a cheerful way as an angel of light. Crafty and deceptive, some agents of Satan appear peaceful, generous, profitable and cheerful with the purpose of destroying the believer. They also use flatteries and miracles that originate from the devil to deceive believers.
3. CERTAINTY OF VICTORY FOR GOD’S CHILDREN (Matthew 4:1-11; Genesis 39:7-13; Proverbs 22:24,25; James 1:16,19,21; Jeremiah 35:5-10,12,14,18,19)
God wants us to overcome temptations like Christ. The Lord was victorious because, first, He did not rush with a light heart into temptation but with a sober mind. If we handle temptations prayerfully, victory is sure. The defeat of the devil, the tempter, in his encounter with the Lord in the wilderness assures us that we will overcome him if we resist him through the power of the Spirit.
The second secret of victory in temptation is single-minded devotion to do God’s will. This was how Joseph’s victory in Potiphar’s house and in prison was secured. Essentially, victory in temptation is obtained through knowledge of and obedience to the word of God (Psalm 119:9,11). Besides, there must be a strong passion for Christ, to keep a vital, living relationship with the Lord and to always exalt and honour Christ in word and deed. Genuine enduement with the power of the Holy Ghost gives us victory over temptations that will lead to doctrinal pollution, worship adulteration and false fellowship.
Victory is secured as we carefully and prayerfully follow some biblical principles especially the ones derived from the acrostics: v.i.c.t.o.r.y. – vigilance, integrity, circumspection, trust, obedience, righteousness and yieldedness. In summary, the Christian pilgrim on his way to heaven will have victory over every temptation as he rejects evil (Proverbs 1:10-15), lives righteously (Proverbs 4:20-27; Isaiah 33:14-17; Titus 2:11,12), obeys God (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 27:10; Acts 5:29), lives by faith (Hebrews 10:38), endures in times of temptation (James 1:12) and depends on divine help (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Dallying with the devil is disastrous. To overcome temptation, we must “Resist the devil and he will flee from [us]” (James 4:7). We must “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). Above all, we should take the shield of faith with which we can quench all the fiery darts of the devil (Ephesians 6:16). To take sides with the devil or his agents is to invite defeat. It is important to note that the spiritually lame or sick cannot muster enough strength to fight or resist evil; so is the spiritually sin-sick. Thus, it is the pure in heart who triumphs.
The Scripture offers some practical helps on how to overcome temptations and the tempter. One, abstain from all appearances of evil – do not go to places (brothels, bars, etc.) where you can be tempted. Two, reject legitimate offers/favours that lead or predispose you to sin, like the Rechabites did. Three, flee outrightly from persons who want to coerce you to sin, like Joseph and Christ did. Four, like Christ, quote relevant Scripture verses to counter those who misinterpret and misapply the Scriptures to lure you into sin. Five, part with sinful friends because they can influence you to do evil. Six, depend on the Spirit of God to show you God’s way out of temptations.
4. SAINTS’ PRESERVATION FROM TEMPTATION AND THE OVERCOMERS BENEFITS
(Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16; James 1:2-4,12; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 4:18)
The devil designs temptations to destroy God’s children but God’s grace is abundant to make them overcome. The saints who were most used by God were also those who were most severely tempted. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and Paul all had their fair share of severe temptations but they overcame by the grace of God.
When we overcome temptations, our Christian character is developed and strengthened. If there were no temptations, we would lack the toughness of spiritual fibre needed to forge ahead. It takes the heat of fire to refine gold.
God permits temptations as a trial for the perfecting of the Christian’s spiritual life. But He limits Satan in the temptation he thrusts on His faithful servants (Job 1:12; 2:6; 1 Corinthians 10:13). He also overrules those temptations, which are permitted to fulfil His own glory to the edification of the saints and the humiliation of Satan.