Facing Temptation

What to do when you are tempted

  1. Expect temptation to come. If you haven’t heard, Christians are not magically or mystically protected from temptation. It’s not as though faith makes temptation disappear. As long as we live in this world, we know that Satan is prowling around like a lion looking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We also know that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. And if our Savior faced temptations, so will we. The Bible is so clear on this. It doesn’t sugarcoat it for us or tell us that it’ll all be ok. God lays it all out, but not to scare us. Instead, He wants us to expect temptation to come so that we can be ready for it. God wants us to see that temptation will come so that we can put on the armor of God (check out Ephesians 6:10-20 to read more about that).
  2. Remember who the real enemy is. Too often we fight those God calls us to love and ignore God calls us to fight. We spend a lot of time and energy fighting earthly battles and worldly enemies. We waste time battling boss who bothers us, the guy at church that annoys us, or the relative who riles us up. Those are the people that Jesus calls us to love in Matthew 5:44. The spiritual enemies are the ones we take up the armor of God against. Satan and all his lies and temptations are worth our effort. We battle against sin and all unrighteousness as we love our earthly enemies.
  3. Run away from it. In 2 Timothy, Paul tells his young friend to “Flee from youthful passions”. There are certain triggers for each of us that we simply need to turn and run from. Each of us have certain places (both digital and physical) that we just need to stay away from. There are certain things we do that we know will get us in trouble. Run away from those. Just stay away.
  4. Think of others. Most (maybe all?) temptation is self-centered. We are thinking about what we want and no one else. When we give into temptation we are disregarding what God has commanded and what is good for our neighbors. By thinking about the needs of others we are pushing out our selfishness. Considering the good of those around us can bring us out of our dark, cavernous minds.
  5. Talk with others. God has given us our Church family for a reason. None of us is an only child. God didn’t design us to live alone. Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to air each and every dirty piece of laundry out in the open. But, our Christian friends and family are at least partly there to walk with us through temptations. They can provide words that challenge us when we need to be challenged. They can speak God’s truth into our lives when we need to hear that. But, they can also comfort and encourage us with the Gospel as they proclaim the forgiveness of the cross into our lives. You don’t have to figure this out on your own, you have a family.
  6. Pray. As Jesus’ earthly life was coming to a close, He knew how difficult things would get for His disciples. And so He told them to, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:40). When temptation comes, we pray that God would strengthen us by His Spirit to do what we otherwise would not. Jesus’ words to His disciples also remind us though that we don’t have to wait until the temptation comes to pray. We should constantly pray for God to protect us against Satan’s tricks, because he’s always working and we are constantly tempted.
  7. Fill your life with God’s Word. When Jesus faces His own temptations from Satan in the desert, He responds at every point with God’s Word. We would do well to do the same. Having God’s Word near us is always a good idea, but can specifically be helpful against temptation. When God’s Word is in our hearts and minds we’ll be able to see the temptations for what they are: lies. When God’s Word is near us, we’ll hear God’s promises of love and life and be better equipped to say no. So, read your Bible, continue to worship, and even spend some time intentionally memorizing Scripture so that you can take it with you wherever you go.
  8. Practice Confession and Absolution. I’ll let you in on a little secret: you will give in to temptation. And when that happens there is only one thing you will need: forgiveness. Broken hearts don’t need a pat on the back, a gameplan for next time, or a stern talking to. No, they need the promises of God. Crushed spirits need to hear of their Savior’s unending love. So, when you sin, confess. And then hear God’s Word of Absolution as He has wiped away your sin. This can be done with a friend or a pastor. Now, of course, you don’t need to confess your private sins to anyone. And, of course, God forgives you whether or not your pastor says it or a friend declares it. But, again, God has given us our Church family for a reason. God calls us to declare His forgiveness to one another. Plus, I’ve found that there is something powerful about hearing one of God’s representatives speak the words of forgiveness into my ears, rather than me just reading them off a page or thinking of them from memory. It’s one thing to remember you are forgiven, it’s another thing to hear one of God’s children declare it to you.
  9. Live Sacramentally. To you baptized Christians, return to that work of God and your identity in it daily. Remind yourself of who God made you in those waters: You are His beloved child. God washed you clean. God’s holy flood wiped out sin in your life. God has forgiven you. The Lord’s Supper is also a gift from God for those who have given into temptation. By regularly taking part in this gift from God you will be receiving the forgiveness and presence of your Savior. The Supper reminds us that God welcomes broken people like us into His presence. Your muck and mess don’t disqualify you. God comes near to you in His Supper, He strengthens you for your journey of life, and He forgives you by His broken Body and shed Blood. The table is where God gives wearied travelers rest, where He feeds the hungry, and where He heals those who are sick.
  10. Trust in the one who overcame every temptation on your behalf. The story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert by Satan is crucial for those of us who face temptation each day. And the reason it’s important is NOT because it gives us a blueprint on how we can beat temptation too. Of course, there are some things we can learn from Jesus. I already mentioned how we would do well to follow Jesus lead in fighting back with God’s Word. But, the greatest thing we learn from the story is that Jesus did what we could never do. Jesus proved that He is everything we need Him to be. In Jesus, we have one who remained perfect where we have caved under pressure. Jesus stood firm when we were weak. When you are broken and beat-up by the attacks of Satan, trust in that Jesus. Trust that it is through His perfect life, death, and resurrection that you are healed. Believe that it is because of His perfect love that God welcomes you in. You will fail. But, Jesus never will. Trust in Him.

If you’ve liked what you read and want to read more, check out my little book on Christian maturity called “Growing Up: In, with and under Jesus” or my newest book called “God’s Story // Your Story: Seeing your life in light of God’s story” on Amazon today

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