Merriam-Webster defines temptation as: “the act of tempting or the state of being tempted especially to evil.” So, let us separate out the temptations that lead us to evil from those that lead us to good. When we so divide the many temptations of this world, we will see that God never tempts us to evil acts, Lk 11:4, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” Jesus taught us this prayer, not because God might lead us into temptation, but rather, so we can know He would never tempt us with evil. Jesus also prayed for us, Jn 17:15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Jesus wants us to know Godlimits the devil’s temptations to those we can overcome; those that can help us develop our Christian character, 1 Cor 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Why does God allow the devil to tempt us? Each time we withstand or overcome the devil’s temptations, our Christian character grows stronger. Similarly, winds cause trees to grow stronger branches, increased trunk diameter, and enhanced root systems. This means the canopy, trunk, and root system develops in the proper balance, enabling the tree to withstand even stronger winds. God’s plan includes the development of stronger trees and people with strong Christian characters. On our own, without stress in our lives, we are unable to withstand the devil’s attempts to enslave us; as Adam and Eve proved in the garden; and as one-third of the angels proved in heaven. Without the devil’s temptations, we would not learn the lessons evil experienced provides. So, the devil has a part to play in God’s creation, as the wind does in a trees life.
The line made famous by Flip Wilson, “The devil made me do it” is funny because we all believe there are things we have done and will do, which are evil and we want an excuse. But, God has already dealt with this excuse and blaming the devil, or anyone else, will not work, Eze 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” We are responsible for our actions, and God is keeping the devil from tempting us beyond what we are able to withstand. We thus need to trust God to teach us how to resist the devil’s temptations.
Alcoholics resist temptation by completely avoiding alcohol. They do not even sip one drop. Sexaholics resist temptations by avoiding pornography, for they know where it will lead. Gamblers learn they cannot make even one small bet, without it leading them down the ruinous path they have traveled, so many times before. These are examples of defects in our personalities, and we all have weaknesses. Those of us who are unable to resist these temptations do not believe there is a higher power capable of helping us. So, AA has the belief in a higher power as one of the first steps in its 12-step program. If we do not believe in God, we cannot accept His help and the strength He gives us when we need it, Heb 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is our belief that opens the door to His grace. It is our belief that allows us to gain the strength we need, Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
The devil uses our impatience to lead us toward evil. Our desire to have things now, above the patience of waiting for the correct time, leads us to despise God’s offer of an eternal life, Gen 25:24-27, “And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” God has great things planned for us, if we would only wait on His timing, Jer 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
We can witness the fact that impatience has led us to follow temptations in our own lives; we do not want to wait to have sex until we are married, so we have sex with the first willing person. We do not want to wait until we are old enough to drink legally, so we begin drinking before we are able to moderate our behavior. We do not want to wait to earn enough to buy those things we want, so we take risks by gambling part of our future before we are able to understand the risks we are considering. In short, the devil is always tempting us to take shortcuts. The devil’s shortcuts have consequences. When we listen to God, we avoid these temptations and the resulting consequences; we wait for God’s perfect timing to experience all this life has to offer, Eccl 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Our heavenly Father wants us to enjoy this life, but even more importantly, He wants us to experience eternity with Him as part of His eternal family.
Jesus was tempted, Heb 2:18, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Jesus left us an example to follow when He faced the devil’s temptations, Matt 4:1-11, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of then And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”
Jesus’ example points us to God’s Word to strengthen us, and it allows us to escape the devil’s temptations. This is why He provides teachers to guide us until we have the strength to eat the strong meat of His Word, Heb 5:12-14, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” God does not force us to do good. Instead, He allows us to choose for ourselves. He provides the example of good and He allows the devil to advocate for evil.
Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Each time we follow God’s plan for our lives, as given to us in His Word, God rewards us. He brings us the perfect spouse, the perfect one for us. He brings us the perfect life. He lights the path so that we might find our way to His eternal family. Temptations are what we make of them, either tools to strengthen us, or lures to trap us. Our choice.
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