2 Keys to Defeating Temptation

Everyone has experienced temptation.  Living as imperfect people with high standards, we sometimes find ourselves tempted to make choices and decisions that might satisfy a desire in the moment but would not be wise or good in the long term.  The epistle of James reminds us that temptations will come our way in life.  As James puts it, we are “dragged away and enticed” until we finally give in to temptation.  Nobody wakes up one morning and says, “I think I’ll ruin my life today.  I think I’ll do something that destroys my reputation, brings pain to the people I love and fills me with shame and regret.” Nobody does that, but plenty of people wake up one morning in that exact situation.  How did they end up there?  One small, gradual step at a time.  Listen to the June 3 sermon, “The Temptation Test.”

Tim Norris lives in a house that backs up to the Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club in Sussex England.  Tim Norris also has a Labrador retriever named Wilson.  One morning Wilson managed to get free from the backyard.  When Tim found him, Wilson was chomping down on a golf ball.  He swallowed it whole.  Fearing that the ball would cause a bowel obstruction, Veterinarian Karen Belcher took X-rays.  And what she found was quite a surprise.  It turns out that Wilson had not swallowed one golf ball, he had swallowed seven golf balls.   Surgery was performed, the golf balls were removed, and apparently Wilson is slowly recovering.  I hear he’s still feeling a little under par(hahaha), but otherwise he is going to be okay.

Tim has made the decision to move to a different house, further away from the golf course.  Apparently, Wilson’s appetite for golf balls is too strong and there’s just too much temptation with the golf course being right next door.  Moving away seems like the best option.

We can chuckle a little bit at Wilson and his weakness for golf balls, but I wonder, what is your weakness?  Is there an area in your life, an appetite, a desire, a bad habit, that tempts you into trouble?  If so, you’re not alone. 

As we consider temptation, there are two truths to acknowledge and two tips to embrace. 

Two truths we need to acknowledge:

  1. Temptation is natural and normal.
  2. Temptation is often subtle and gradual.

Two truths we need to embrace:

  1.  Be aware of those areas in our lives where we are vulnerable and avoid temptation in those areas.  This is why I do not bring any Grandma Utz Handcooked Potato Chips into my house.  I’m weak and vulnerable there.  I’ll eat the whole darn bag in one sitting.  We all have areas where our ability to control ourselves is weak.  Like Superman, we all have our “kryptonite.”   Know what those areas might be and avoid them.
  2. Keep our focus on what is good and noble and pure.  What we focus on grows stronger.  Pursuing a life that is healthy, holy and honoring to God allows us to put our focus on the things that lead us away from temptation and toward that which is good.

Still we all stumble sometimes.  We all fall short of the goal.  The message of the Bible is not “you’re a terrible person, straighten up.”  The message of the Bible is, “we are all sinners who need a savior, and God has sent us a savior.”  Jesus offers us forgiveness through his death, and new life through his resurrection, and new power through the Holy Spirit.  We may not defeat temptation every time, but we can defeat temptation most of the time.  Stay focused on the goodness and love of God, and let the Lord lead you down the right paths.

Pastor Mark Miller

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