How to Overcome Temptation

This article was inspired by a message from Pastor Sue Lingerfelt at Faith Christian Center. One of the most challenging issues that a Christian faces is dealing with temptation. Make no mistake about it, there is a tempter loose in the earth who wants to destroy you. When you fall into temptation, you open the door for destruction. With so much as stake, it's important that we know how to deal with it when the temptation comes.

No one is immune to temptation. However, if we continually resist, then we will be strengthened in our faith. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7). The first part of this verse is critical and often overlooked. We must be submitted to God to have the authority to withstand temptation. When we walk in the Spirit, we do not give into the desires of the flesh. Before I learned how to walk in the Spirit, I was constantly being pulled off course. Even though I had willpower, it simply was not enough when the thoughts and emotions of the seduction came to me. Some people have more willpower than others; however, willpower will fail at some point for everyone. It is simply not possible to live without sin in our own strength.

So, here are some practical steps that can take to overcome temptation:
  1. Don't yield to temptation in the first place. Have you ever noticed that it's almost impossible to put down a bag of potato chips once you've started eating them? This is how it is with temptation. If you give into it, even a little, then your flesh will want more. So, the first key is to learn to recognize evil, then, guard your heart against it. I heard someone say once, "don't get it twisted". Even though this is slang, I think it's an appropriate way to describe avoiding sin. When you do the right thing, God will reward you.

  2. Avoid bad fellowship. Have you noticed that the Bible says that "bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33) and not the other way around. It's clear who you should avoid: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

  3. Stand firm in your Faith. I have a picture of a lighthouse in the middle of crashing waves in my study. Whenever I feel pressure or stress, I look at that picture. The lighthouse doesn't move. When you are doing right, you shouldn't either.

  4. Be strong in the LORD. Don't water down your walk with God for other people. In everything we do, we're doing it for God. So, why would we be concerned about what other people say and think about us? "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

  5. Refuse to compromise God's Word. "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God." (Luke 8:11) I've heard it said that our heart will grow whatever word-seed we plant (or allow to be planted) in it. Like weeds in your yard, it's possible to have something come up that you didn't knowingly plant. That's why it's critical that we constantly plant God's Word in our heart, and not the words and images of the enemy.

  6. Have a pure heart. We know that a house divided against itself cannot stand, yet, we often entertain "little" sins. It's very rare (maybe never) that you find a drug addict that has never smoked marijuana. This is why they call it a gateway drug. In the same way, it's impossible for someone to commit adultery without first "playing" with the thoughts of it. While people cannot see your thoughts, eventually, your thoughts will be seen through your actions. Even if you think you're getting away with it, you're not. "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." (Luke 12:2) If you have something in your thinking that is not in alignment with God's Word, confess it right now and repent to God. This is the process of removing weeds from our heart. You may have to do it repeatedly (like every 5 or 10 minutes), but it will eventually go away.
The reason that we are tempted is because our flesh is not pure. While our Spirit is pure, our flesh must be tamed. We all have evil desires within our flesh; however, it is not God who is tempting us to act on those desires. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15)

God is a good God and will always give us a way out. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
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