by Andrew Cromwell
We all struggle with temptation. We are tempted to lie to get out of a pressure-filled situation, to gossip about that juicy rumor we heard about our co-worker, to flirt with a person we have no business flirting with, or to eat/drink/smoke to self-medicate. There are as many different kinds of temptation as there are people in the world, because every person is different.
Most of us like to minimize this temptation -- especially when we give in to it -- we say “we made a bad decision” or that “we just couldn’t help it.” These two ordinary responses set us up for failure the next go-round. Saying, “I made a bad decision” makes it sound like you were part of a business transaction where you bought the wrong kind of shampoo. Your hair is not as clean as it should be and it doesn’t smell the way you’d like it to, but ultimately it’s not that big of a deal.
When we say “I couldn’t help it”, we have effectively removed our own responsibility from the equation. Don’t you love it when someone apologizes for something they did to hurt you and then say they couldn’t help doing it? We all understand when it was something truly unintentional, but when that same behavior has continued time after time...
The Bible says some interesting things about temptation in James chapter one. First, it says that God doesn’t tempt anyone. So we can’t blame God. Second, it says that temptation comes from our own desires and that it all starts with a thought and ends with a sin. No one likes the word “sin” anymore, it sounds so spiritual. But sin is basically anything that reduces the flow of God’s life in and through you.
But it is not enough just to take responsibility for your own sin. We also have to deal with it! I have found that I am really lousy at fixing my own sin problem, and I believe most people are the same way. We generally need help if we are going to find our way out of the seemingly never-ending cycle of temptation and sin.
The solution is found in another very interesting Bible verse later on in the book of James (4:7) that says: “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee.” The first step to overcoming our sin problem is to put ourselves under God’s direction. This is THE question of life -- who will we follow? When we go His way, we will still struggle with temptation, but we will not be alone.
The second step is to resist. We give in too quickly. Instead of resisting, running away or putting strategies into place that can help us resist -- we just choose the easy way. But if we stand strong, ask God for His help and say “no”, then we can win!