We could all use regular exercise. For some, the motivation is not there until the doctor says, “Adjust your eating habits and get exercise—or die.” How about an exercise program for the soul? God has provided it. A temptation is a test. It’s like a good workout, and the result of consistent victories is strength of character. Temptations are often viewed as annoyances. It’s no fun to walk on the beach anymore, because we men are riveted with temptations. How about changing the way we look at these irritations? God could have snuffed Satan, but He chose to keep him around to help us stay in shape. So “count it all joy” and brace yourself for a workout. No one smiles while pumping iron, but they do six months later when results begin to show. The same principle of resistance puts muscle on the soul. Try out some truths about our training:
DON’T THINK YOU’RE A SPIRITUAL BLACK BELT!
Self-confidence precedes falling: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Satan has three main weapons in his arsenal–accusation, intimidation, and deception. The latter is the one most used in temptation. He tricks us by making false promises that we are foolish enough to believe. Or he fools us before the temptation even comes–by getting us to think we’re invincible. Temptation is a mind battle. Overconfidence is dangerous thinking, isolating us from help. Stay sober. Paul saw the possibility of falling. He disciplined himself so that he would “not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:27). If the veteran apostle saw failure as a potential, then I should not think that I can easily handle any temptation that comes my way. Larry Christenson, under whom I worked for many years, once asked me how I was doing with temptation. I answered that I was doing just fine. He responded, “I am not. I battle with it often.” I wished I could have retracted my response. I felt like a fool, realizing that my outlook would not serve me well in the war.
.DON’T BE TAKEN BY SURPRISE.
Paul writes that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). The word “seize” is a strong picture and suggests grabbing, carrying off. The RSV uses the word “overtake.” The action is aggressive, not passive. Temptation confronts us with force, however friendly the invitation. Give the advantage to the temptation; surprise is a battle strategy that puts its proponents at the advantage. Every temptation comes with a reward or a punishment. James writes, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial (the same Greek word is used for “temptation”—“peirodzo”), because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12) The reward is a crown, a picture of reigning. But then he goes on to say that “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death” (15). The net result of giving in to temptation is death. Sort of looks like life at the outset. So we have the reward of life or the curse of death with each temptation. A “no” decreases its power, while a “yes” increases its authority. Sin is aggressive, progressive, and addictive. (More truths about overcoming in part 2).