The Battle With Temptation
The Battle with Temptation
Let’s face it, we all struggle with temptation. Some of us may deal with different sins than others, but that ever-present voice of the devil is always whispering in our ears, “This will satisfy you. This will fulfill you. This is what you need right now.” Of course, if we’re honest, we know of the excess of guilt and shame that follows in the wake of sin, but all too often we choose to pretend it’s not real.
Not only that, but can you think of a time where the devil ever told you the truth during temptation? Have you ever had a fit of rage and thought afterwards, “Man, I’m sure glad I did that today?” Have you ever let the allure of TV and entertainment rip you away from your daily devotions and later think, “That was a soul-satisfying experience, praise God!” Or if you have ever struggled with repeatedly falling into the trap of pornography, have you ever thought “I feel fulfilled now, this sin has delivered all that it promised me?” Of course not, because as John 8:44 says of Satan,
“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
When Satan tempts, he uses lies to entice, not truth. He promises the world, but leaves you broken, empty, and longing. I think C.S. Lewis put it best in his famous book, ‘The Screwtape Letters’, which documents the correspondence between a senior demon of Hell and his nephew, whom he is instructing in the art of tempting humans. “An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure” was the token piece of advice he had for his devilish nephew, and I think that is a perfect description of temptation. So, with that in mind, I want to give a few pieces of advice and encouragement.
When you pray, you draw nearer to God, and He strengthens you through it. Think about any human relationship, be it friendship, or marriage, or any other. Those relationships shrink and become shallow if there is a lack of communication. Your relationship with God is no different, you need to commune with Him, that’s how you know Him better and become more like Christ. Follow the example of Christ, who so frequently went off to a solitary place to seek God in prayer. Jesus needed to pray, and He was strengthened by it. This was one of the ways in which He “grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men” as Luke 2:52 says. If Jesus, the perfect, sinless Son of God needed to pray, how much more do we! Remember that a desolate prayer life is the prime breeding ground for temptation.
- Read Your Bible!
The old children’s song still rings true today. “Read your Bible, pray everyday, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. No other book is the inspired Word of God. No other book is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” as Hebrews 4:12 says. Read the Bible faithfully, relish in it, learn more about God by it, and He will sanctify you and draw you nearer. You can read the Bible a thousand times over and you’ll still discover something new each time that will excite you and drive you closer to Christ.
Sin thrives in the darkness but loses its power when brought to the light. James 5:16 says,
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
And Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Please do not take the first two pieces of advice and ignore this final one. It is quite easy to think “I’ll just pray and read my Bible and I’ll be fine. I can just confess to God, I don’t need another person,” but this is naïve. If you’re all too happy to confess to God but too ashamed to confess to a fellow believer, then how desperate are you to truly kill your sin? God commands us to pray, and to read His Word, but He also commands us to confess to fellow believers whom we trust. All three are needed to overcome temptation and to put sin to death. If you avoid accountability out of fear of being exposed, you will never have victory and your faith will stagnate, if not rapidly decline. But if you step out in faith and bring your struggles forth into the light, sin loses its potency.
Finally, I want to remind you that the ability to overcome sinful desires is by replacing them with even greater desires, an ultimate desire in fact. You must desire Christ more than anything, this is the foundation of these three pieces of advice. If you treat your Bible reading as nothing more than a chore, a box to be ticked, it will be of little use. If your prayers are merely legalistic, like a Pharisee, and they demonstrate no love for Christ, they lose their power. Desire Christ so ardently that sin becomes woefully unappealing. The path to overcoming temptation is not so much by merely saying “No!” to sin as it is by saying “Yes!” to Christ. As John Piper famously remarked, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him.” So Christian, pray, read your Bible, and be accountable and honest with trusted fellow believers, but above all, love Jesus more than anything.