MANAGING TEMPTATION – WHAT WE SHOULD DO

MANAGING TEMPTATION – WHAT WE SHOULD DO

Today we being our two-part look at staving off temptation. Now, usually I would point us to Jesus’ assurances first, before showing us what steps we can take to stave off temptation. But this time around, because I am keenly aware of the fact that most people are so preoccupied with wanting to justify themselves by their own actions, I thought I’d do things differently, and give us the steps, before looking at the assurances of Christ.

So what are the steps to staving off temptation?

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

Now, first and foremost, for all you out there who are trying your best to fight temptation by your own efforts, there is one thing you need to realize. I began this message using the word ‘stave’. We need to stave off temptation; fend off, guard against, ward off. Because let’s face it, we never ‘go to’ temptation, it comes to us.

Think about it. You know that you really shouldn’t indulge in that extra chocolate bar, or that extra packet of chips. But you can’t help it. It seems that no matter where you turn, you see that packet of chips. On the bus, on the tele, even on your colleague’s table. So eventually, its power of suggestion is so great, it call to ‘eat me, eat me’ becomes so strong, you give in; and then beat yourself up for giving in, telling yourself that next time, you must stay away from that temptation.

But look back and think carefully. Did you go to that temptation? Did you go out into the store with the sole purpose of proving to yourself that you have the will-power not to buy that packet of chips? Did you tell yourself, ‘I know I will be tempted but let me prove to myself that I am strong enough to fight it’? You didn’t, did you? Instead, it just keeps popping up, when you least expect it, a bit like this.

“sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you,” Genesis 4:7 [AMP]
Now, chips and other ‘sinful’ food alike are really just mild, inconsequential illustrations. What if you are really fighting with lust? You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help chatting other people up? You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help giving that colleague a lift home from work? You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help asking that church member out for dinner.

Ordinarily, those actions would be fine; if you were not married and didn’t have a propensity for imagining things, that is. But you do, and you know you shouldn’t, but you still do. Question; did you go looking for it, or did it come sneaking up on you?

And that’s the first step to battling with temptation; realizing that it is not a known enemy. It sneaks up on you, when you least expect it, when your guard is down.

This is important, because known enemies, you can defend against. When you know that the person or thing that you are attracted to is in a particular vicinity, you can avoid going there. But what happens when it just pops out at you, when you are minding your own business? That’s when you must

“…walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit];…” Galatians 5:16 [AMPC]

Are you habitually aware that the Holy Spirit is with you? Are you habitually responsive and controlled and guided by the Spirit? No? Then that is the first habit you need to develop.

You know, the NIV translates this better for our understanding.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 [NIV]

‘Walk by the Spirit’, walk with the Spirit, walk alongside the Spirit; when you are conscious of the Spirit’s presence next to you, then it will be a lot easier for you to stave off temptation. Because,

“…the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.” John 14:26

The Spirit will counsel you, help you, and give you the strength to stave off the temptation. And how does He do that? By reminding you of all that Jesus has told you. And what has Jesus told you? Well, we’ll see in the next message.

But for now, when you are conscious that the Holy Spirit is walking by you, alongside you, temptation is easier to manage.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Of course it will be, because you will be so afraid of messing up, wont’ you? You think that the Spirit is walking next to you to catch you out, catch your sins, complain to God the moment you slip. Well, read it again,

“…the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.” John 14:26

The reminder is for you, not God. The help is for you, not God. The surveillance is to help you, not God. For remember,

“…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17

And that is why

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1

You know, Jesus gives us a beautiful picture of what happens when He sees sin in our lives. Remember what He told Peter when He knew that Peter was going to betray Him?

“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”” Luke 22:31-32

He didn’t say, ‘if you, you ungrateful lump of dirt, should dare give in to your temptation, I shall see to it that you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’; did He? He never even said, ‘don’t you even dare sin’.

Instead, He said, ‘I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail’.

Look, He knows we will fall from time to time.

“For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14

And that is why He gives us the Holy Spirit, that He may abide with us forever (John 14:16) and remind us of all that Jesus has taught us (John 14:26)

The Spirit is not there to police you. He is there to help you.

So, how do you fight temptation? Not by avoiding it, but by being conscious of the fact that the Spirit is with you, and you have help. Ask the Spirit for strength and guidance each and every time you are tempted; for you can be sure that the Spirit has prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.

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