Oscar Wilde said: “I can resist anything except temptation.” I can relate! How about you? You’ve got to remember, when it comes knocking on your door you don’t have to open it!
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Closing the door to temptation can be daunting. If you always say ‘yes’ to temptation then you have yet to realize the level of difficulty. Only those who try to resist know how strong it is.
Too often we think of temptation as being enticed to do big things like stealing, murdering or committing adultery. But most often we're tempted to be impatient, stingy, jealous, greedy or just plain lazy and apathetic.
A recent survey listed ten powerful temptations people face in this culture. Here’s five or them:
1. The desire to buy more than they can afford.
2. The temptation to put themselves first and live a self-centered life.
3. The inclination to laziness rather than productivity – to do nothing rather than something.
4. The enticement to procrastinate.
5. The temptation to make pleasure more important than purpose.
According to the dictionary, temptation is the act of enticement with the purpose of causing you to do something wrong or unprofitable by promising something positive. Temptation motivates you to do ‘bad’ by promising something good. The Bible totally agrees with this and affirms the need to say NO when it comes.
Temptation shows up early in the Biblical narrative. Only 3 chapters into the Bible we are told of a couple named Adam and Eve who were tempted to disobey God for the purpose of setting up their own autonomy. Guess what! They yielded to the voice of temptation. When they succumbed others were affected. When you yield – others are impacted as well.
When you yield to the temptation of surfing the Internet while you’re being paid to work, the productivity or your company decreases. When you sit on the couch watching sports knowing you should be helping your mate, your relationship suffers. When you’re tempted to lie rather than tell the truth, you hurt others and sacrifice your integrity if you yield.
Here are four things I’ve learned that may help in this ongoing battle with temptation.
1. You have a better chance of standing strong in the midst of temptation if you have an exit strategy before you experience it. Schools and companies have an escape plan set in place in case of fire. People living in hurricane areas have a calculated strategy for when the winds come. And coaches never go into a contest without a game plan. Ask yourself: How am I going to escape when it happens to me? Get a plan!
2. It’s critical to identify your weaknesses prior to a moment of enticement since temptation looks for your weak moments. In Luke 4 when Jesus was tempted, we are told that the devil left Him for another ‘opportune’ time. You can strengthen your resolve if you’re aware of your vulnerable points and set up a guard.
3. People who lose the battle to temptation have often lost sight of the big picture. I did this in reference to cars. My temptation led me to purchase 21 cars in my first 20 years of marriage. Now I can say NO to the new car desire because I see beyond the temptation. I see the payments!
4. Be willing to fight. (James 4:7) There will always be a battle but if you’re willing to close the door on temptation it will bear great dividends.