Overcoming Temptation

Duane Vander Klok

Maybe you have heard it said that opportunity only knocks once, but temptation knocks continually. Fortunately, God is merciful, giving opportunities and second chances to those who call on Him. Temptation, though, really does keep knocking. It never stops trying to find a way into our lives.

Temptation is a trap set by the devil, and it is designed to get you to walk in disobedience to God. Because Satan is a liar (John 8:44), the bait he uses often appears like something you need or desire, even something sweet, innocent or harmless. However, when you yield to temptation, you will always find the bitter fruit of sin.

The devil never gives you what he says he will. He may promise liberty and ecstasy, but he delivers bondage, guilt and shame. God, on the other hand, is faithful and always keeps His Word. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) tells us, “When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” You can overcome temptation!

Three Areas of Temptation
The temptations we face fall into three areas: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Taking the devil’s bait in any of these areas opens the door to a life of sin and bondage.

The lust of the flesh has to do with our bodily appetites. Drunkenness, drug addiction, gluttony, adultery, fornication and homosexuality are some of the sins of the flesh.

The lust of the eyes is an excessive desire for things of the world. Covetousness, greed, idolatry, the love of money and financial dishonesty result from the lust of the eyes.

The pride of life is the desire for glory or fame. Someone who struggles with the pride of life is tempted by worldly honors, fame, reputation and position.

Jesus Overcame All Three
Luke tells the account of Jesus being led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil. When Jesus became hungry, the devil tempted Him with the lust of the flesh, saying, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:3-4).

When Satan tempted Jesus with the lust of the eyes, showing Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time and saying, “If You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” 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’” (Luke 4:7-8).

The devil also tempted Jesus with the pride of life by urging Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. The devil even quoted scripture saying, “For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over You, to keep You,’” and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’”(Luke 4:10-11). What did Jesus do? He simply told the devil, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Luke 4:12).

Temptation itself is not a sin, but falling into it is. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That’s why He was able to say to His disciples – and us – “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus overcame temptation, and you can too! Here are some helpful keys:

1. Stand on the Word 
“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Each time Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by using God’s Word as a weapon. He said, “It is written…” or “It has been said…”  That’s how we should say “no” to the devil, too.

1 John 5:4 says, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” Your faith in God and His Word is the victory. If there is a particular area where you are often tempted, memorize and meditate on scriptures that apply to that area. Let the words you read on the pages of your Bible become alive and powerful on the inside of you. Get them into your heart so you will be ready to counter temptation as soon as it comes your way.

2. Be Strong in the Lord 
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power…” (Ephesians 6:10, NIV). Sometimes, people don’t take enough time to build their relationship with the Lord. They get busy with other things or are distracted by life’s demands. When temptation comes, they give in because they aren’t prepared to operate in the Lord’s strength.

Becoming strong in the Lord is like performing preventative maintenance. As you consistently read the Word, pray and spend time in worship, you will become stronger in the Lord and less susceptible to temptation.

3. Don’t Love the World
“Do not love the world or the things in the world…” (1 John 2:15). Even Christians are subtly influenced by exposure to worldly things unless they protect themselves. Much of today’s media (music, television, movies, books, magazines and the internet) is dark and ungodly, so we need to be careful what we let into our minds and hearts.

The psalmist wrote, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3). The only way to keep sin and evil works from clinging to you is to say “yes” to God and “no” to ungodly influences.

4. Flee Temptation 
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). There are times when the best way to handle temptation is to flee from it. When Joseph was tempted to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife, Genesis 39:12 tells us that he ran outside and fled! It might sound extreme, but if you want to keep from sinning, you must be willing to do whatever it takes.

Maybe you have a friend who is causing you to stumble. If so, it’s time to make new friends because, as we’re advised in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Decide which is more important to you: doing God’s will or staying close to a negative influence. You will have a much better life when you separate yourself from those who pull you away from God.

5. Resist the Devil 
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). You’ve probably noticed that Satan doesn’t always leave the first time you quote a scripture! In fact, temptations often take place over a period of time as indicated in James 1:12 and 1 Peter 1:6-7. That is why we need to be diligent in resisting the devil.

How long do you resist the devil? You resist him until he flees! You see, the devil will keep pestering you in an area as long as you let him. But when you consistently stand against him, he will realize that you mean business. God’s Word is true. When you resist the devil, he will flee.

Let’s take a closer look at Hebrews 4:15-16. It says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Isn’t it great to know that, when we are tempted, God’s mercy and grace offer us the opportunity to overcome?

Jesus knows very well what temptation involves. He is fully aware of our weaknesses and has made provision for us to have victory. You can overcome temptation!
(All scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)