Temptation is often misunderstood. We often confuse temptation with sin or a sinful lifestyle when in fact temptation comes to everyone. Temptation, in and of itself, is not an indication of evil in you. We know that because Jesus was tempted. He was tempted in every way just as we are; yet He never sinned (Heb 4:15). It is important that you remember this truth. Some people give into temptation thinking they are spiritually weak just because they are being tempted. They also give in too easily believing they will fail because the have not understood how temptation works.
Learning to resist temptation is a key walking in victory as a believer. From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, temptation has been the means to draw men into sin. To be tempted means to experience a solicitation of evil or to be enticed to sin. The same word for temptation may also be translated “to try” or “to prove.” There are times the scripture mentions that God tests or tries us. His testing is different than what comes from the flesh, the world, or the devil. God will never solicit us to evil or entice us to sin. As the scriptures declare, “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (James 1:13-15).
Temptation to sin comes from your flesh, the world, or Satan. However, all temptations begin with your own desires. Even if Satan brings temptation, he must work with your desires. Even with Eve in the Garden of Eden without a sinful nature, Eve was still enticed through temptation. Satan cannot make you do something that you do not choose to do. Satan and his demons have been around for a long time. They know your weaknesses by watching you. Satan knows where you have fallen in times past. Once a weakness has been established, it becomes a stronghold in your life. James wrote about how temptation works. “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
When temptation is strong, you may think that you must give in; however, nothing is going to happen to you if you resist except victory. No matter how weak you think you are, YOU ARE NOT TOO WEAK TO PASS THE TEST. God will not let that much temptation come to you. And, you are not the only one to have this same temptation. Paul wrote, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The promise is that God will give you His ability to go through the temptation. Jesus suffered temptation and He is able to help you knowing what you are going through (Heb 2:18).
Where Is the Influence?
When you are being tempted, take a moment and examine from which of the three areas your temptation is coming. Is it primarily your flesh, demonic, or the world?
The Flesh – If you have a pattern of sin you will have both the flesh and demonic influence in your life. Satan has an entrance through sin. If that is the case, it will be important for you to deal with both. Temptations gain more power the more you give into them. When you submit the members of your body to sin, it will eventually become your master (Rom 6:16). The more you starve your temptation of the flesh, the weaker it will become.
Examine your environment. Are you seeing TV, movies, or pictures that are influencing your flesh? Are you reading, talking, or thinking on subjects where you are vulnerable? Are your friends making your walk with God harder? Your environment both mental and physical has a lot to do with the temptations of the flesh.
The World – Like temptations of the flesh, your struggle can be influenced by what you think about. The foundations of your life may be shaky because of a lack of principles that are based upon God’s word. If you are weakened by the world, you might want to ask yourself some questions. Are my ideas and philosophies of life based upon God’s word? Am I assured that my decisions in life are reasoned from the Bible? Can I show a verse or concept from scripture that will support my behavior or decisions? If you answer no to the above questions, you will be vulnerable to temptations from the world.
The Devil – The devil works against your flesh because wherever there is sin he can have influence. It is possible for temptation to seem to come out of nowhere. You might find yourself tempted in an area in which you have no sinful pattern. This is truly a temptation of the devil. That is what Jesus experienced. Even though you do not have a sinful stronghold in that area this temptation can be real. This type of temptation will not be constant, but rather, the devil will look for the best opportunity. When Satan had finished with his temptation against Jesus, he left for a more opportune time (Luke 4:13). Satan is looking for an opportunity.
Keys to Victory
Pray – Jesus taught us to pray that we would not be led into temptation but be delivered from evil (Matt 6:13). Every day that should be in your prayer. Pray for God to show you when temptation is approaching.
Watch – We are told also to “watch and pray” that we not fall into temptation (Matt 26:14). It requires that we be diligent in our Christian walk. Watch out for temptation before it arrives. Know your battle plan in advance. Which scripture will you use against the temptation? What will you say or do when you are tempted? What environments do you need to avoid? What hurts or disappointments were you experiencing the last time that temptation came along? Do you know your three greatest weaknesses? Is there a sinful pattern in your life that is opening the door to further temptation?
Grace – Depend upon God’s help. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you strength. Do not try “will power,” but try dependence upon God. Prepare to suffer and put forth a great effort even though God will be helping you. He is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24). Jesus knows your weakness, and he still loves you. If you do fail, picture God loving you and accepting you while you are in your sin and snared by the tempter. Your victory begins with God’s goodness even though you know you have displeased Him. Knowing that God still loves you will motivate you to obey Him.
Once strongholds and on going sinful patterns are removed from your life you will discover what true temptation is about. Temptation can be overcome.
About the Author:
Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.
Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.