Temptations are not hard to find. Indeed, the fact is, they come looking for us. They are an everyday reality in each of our lives.
Yet, how do we deal with these temptations, and where do they come from in the first place?
The one thing to remember, as Martin Luther wrote in his small catechism, is that God tempts no one. Rather, it is the devil, the world, and our own sinful desires “that mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins.”
Given that though, how do we deal with temptation?
First, remember the old saying, “Forewarned is forearmed.” The point is, if we know what is coming, we can prepare ourselves. This simple truth is what moved St. Peter to write “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion, your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
Satan is out there and we all have to deal with his attacks. Knowing that, we can support and encourage one another.
But how do we recognize temptations when we see them? That is a tougher question than we might realize, for Satan is the father of lies. The devil is a master of rationalization, as we saw in his temptation of Jesus.
Yet, Jesus was able to resist him. How? By the power of God’s Word. For that power to be ours, we need to know the Word. This is the truth the psalmist lifted up when he wrote, “How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word. With my whole heart, I seek You; do not let me stray from Your commandments. I treasure Your Word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:9-11
Knowing what is right and wrong is essential, but sometimes, even when we know something is wrong, we still want to do it. Then what?
The simple answer is run. In writing to Timothy, St. Paul said, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Tim. 2:22.
If you know something is a temptation, then avoid it. If you have a problem with drinking, avoid the pub or the liquor store. Make a detour around that block if you must. If your temptation is online pornography, then put your computer in a place where everyone can see what you are doing and only use it when others are around. Flee those things that can lead you into sin and addiction and pursue that which is good.
Finally, we know that this side of eternity, we will never fully escape temptations. There will be times when, to our shame, we will fall. Yet, when those times come, do not despair. Do not buy into the devil’s lie that you are beyond forgiveness.
The good news is this: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses, even though He, Himself, was without sin. We will find mercy and grace in Jesus to help us in our time of need.