Temptation…..Is it Real???
Please read with me: Luke 4: 1 – 13:
Luke 4:1-13 (NKJV)
Satan Tempts Jesus
4 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
Someone once said, “I wouldn’t be tempted if temptation wasn’t so tempting.” Sam Levenson said, “Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it.” Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it the first time, but ever since then I’ve been doing it on my own.” Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist anything but temptation.” We all deal with temptation. If we don’t face temptation, we should CHECK OUR PULSE.
It seems that temptation seems to find us, often at inopportune times. We can be in a shower, eating dinner, talking to a friend. It doesn’t matter what is going on in our lives – temptation is always lurking in the background if not in the foreground, right in front of our faces. And Temptations come in a variety of forms. It can come through the newspaper, television, a friend talking to us, in our dreams, even in our prayers.
Jesus, as the Son of God, faced temptation. If he faced it, how can we expect to avoid it? Well, we can’t avoid it. It’s not a matter of avoiding all temptation. It’s a matter of overcoming it and then defeating it.
So, let’s discuss for a moment, the reality, the art of “Overcoming Temptation.”
Unlike Oscar Wilde’s quote, “I can resist anything but temptation,” we can overcome temptation. One thing we can do, and I want you to always remember this – REFUSE to be sucked in. We don’t have to let the devil push us around. Jesus didn’t back down, when he was tempted.
Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” Tempting thoughts will come; and go. LET them go. Just like the birds flying over your head. If they try to land, swoosh them away. It may not be easy but it is definitely possible. All it takes is the power you DO possess already to swoosh, swoosh. I make this sound funny, but it is meant in all seriousness. You do have the power; and that power comes from above – no not the birds, GOD.
Temptation is really a compliment. It means that you are living for God and headed in the right direction. Satan has a contract out on you. Remember that fact, and hold your head up high. Be proud that Satan has his eye on you. It means you are doing something right.
So now, RECOGNIZE your pattern of temptation and be prepared for it.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Know where your weakness is, and prepare that area. Figure out the patterns and times in which you are most tempted and brace yourself for those times. Jesus was tempted to turn the stones into bread because he was hungry. When are you hungry and for what are you hungry? Find the answer to that and you can be prepared for those times. When does that time hit you the most often, where? What are you doing when you feel the weakest? Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer and walk away or turn away. But you will need help so..
REQUEST God’s help.
Psalm 50:15 says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
This is the most important thing in overcoming temptation. We cannot merely use our willpower or courage. The temptation is stronger than we are, but God is stronger than the temptation. Jesus used the Word of God to refute his temptation. “Temptations keep us dependent upon God.”
Now let’s see what happens next – Well, now we begin Defeating temptation.
We may feel overpowered by temptation. This is not something we can do on our own. This is with the help of God. There are four things we can do to help defeat temptation. Again, with God’s help.
REFOCUS your attention on something else. The Bible doesn’t tell us to resist temptation. It doesn’t tell us to just give in either. Dwelling on the temptation will only make it more tempting. When we try to think about not thinking about it, we drive it deeper into our mind. It’s like trying to think you’re not hungry. Diverting your attention is a much more effective way of dealing with temptation than fighting it. We should occupy ourselves with godly things. Jesus refocused his attention on God by going to scripture.
REVEAL your struggle to a godly friend or support group. You don’t have to tell the whole world. But you should be able to tell someone whom you trust. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says in so many words, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” It would appear that Jesus shared this episode with someone at some point in time. He was alone in the wilderness. For us mere mortals, spiritual friendships and groups are so important. Reach out.
RESIST the devil. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Don’t just stand there and let the devil punch you. He can’t make you do anything, contrary to Flip Wilson’s assertion. He can only suggest. Don’t argue with the devil. He’s a better arguer. Jesus didn’t say, “I’m not hungry.” Of course he was hungry. He had been without food for 40 days.
REALIZE your vulnerability. No one is exempt from temptation. We all have vulnerabilities. We have to watch out what we do and where we go. Recovering alcoholics are often counseled to stay away from places that promote and serve alcoholic beverages. Jesus’ temptations were to use his God-given power for selfish motives: food, power, and protection. He was tempted to dazzle people. The devil is not all knowing. He goes back to where we were weak in the past. Shore up those areas. Develop those areas in your life where you feel you could be stronger.
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Are you battling temptation today? Turn it over to God. You can’t do it on your own. You must ask for God’s help.
Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.” We have power EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE SIN; THANKS BE TO CHRIST. Now is the time to use that power. Now is the perfect time, right now to strengthen it, tone it, develop it.
You are here for a reason; it doesn’t matter what the reason, Each of you yielded to temptation and ended up in “blue.” Now, get ready to wear yellow, pink, green, red again. Use your time here where you can focus and become strong. Now is the time. There is no better time. So begin right at this moment in time. Ask God to come into your life right now and stay with you, helping you to become strong, strong enough to Just say NO!”
REMEMBER THESE WORDS:
REFOCUS – again and again
These are the steps for overcoming and defeating the temptations that try to influence our activities, our beliefs, our attitudes, our very lives.
You have the power; Use it.
Please join me in prayer: Lord, it is only through Your love and assistance and You walking beside me that I can overcome temptation. During this Lenten season and always, I ask you to stand by me and help me to stay focused on the Good…on the Fruits. And help me to always stay far from evil. Amen