Even as women of God, we all get tempted. What temps me might not be what temps you. It is so important to know that temptation in itself isn’t a sin. What we do with the temptation can quickly carry us over the line to sin.
Sitting on the counter next to me was an extra-large, milk chocolate and sea salt candy bar. It had been sitting there all nice and innocent since I got home from the grocery earlier that day. Trust me though, it had been calling my name loud and clear. You might have been able to ignore the call. I could not. I shoved it in the drawer and buried it under a stack of towels. I tried to distract myself with a warm cup of salted caramel tea. I had a piece of cheese. I had a yogurt. Still, Chocolate Sea Salt called my name.
Finally, I told myself that if I would just enjoy a tiny piece it would lose its power.
The good news is I don’t have to worry about Chocolate Sea Salt anymore. The bad news is that I will carry it around with me practically in my back pocket (if you know what I mean).
Do you know how I could have avoided this situation? By leaving the candy bar in the store in the first place! If I had not willingly taken Chocolate Sea Salt home it would not have become the overwhelming temptation that it did.
Where Does Temptation Come From?
According to James 1:13-14, temptation doesn’t come from God. A temptation that leads to sin is the job of the enemy of our soul. We choose to pick up the temptation and carry it through to fulfillment (sin). See, the thing is, sin serves a purpose and its purpose isn’t to benefit us but to beat us down and separate us from God. If we make room for sin, if we invite it in, it will be relentless.
That candy bar couldn’t hurt me as long as I left it alone. It had no power until I gave it power.
Unfortunately, the devil does his job very well. If he had tried to tempt you with the same candy bar, it probably wouldn’t have had the same effect on you as it did me. He is so good at customizing our temptations! We are very good at opening the door and playing with the temptation.
Is Temptation So Strong It’s Impossible To Resist?
Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to resist temptation. Sure, we might be able to hold it off for a short time but we won’t last. As Christians, we are not hopeless and helpless. Absolutley not! As women of God, we have a path to take to keep us away from sin (the destination of temptation).
Like my eating the entire candy bar. It wasn’t the fact that I had the chocolate that was bad. It was the fact that I wasn’t hungry and had already indulged generously earlier that day. The candy wasn’t the issue. My gluttony, lust, and lack of self-control were. I knew what I was doing. As I began to rationalize my temptation I knew I was in trouble…but chose to do it anyway.
God loves us so much that even in sin, He has provided for us. In the book of James, God gives us 7 things we can do when tempted. Let’s take a look at James 4:7-10.
7 Things We Can Do When Tempted
“Submit yourself therefore to God.”
The very first thing you have to do when tempted is to go to God. Run, don’t walk. It is critical to note that you have to take action here…you have to turn to God and away from your temptation. When you submit to God, you do so first in your heart, then your thoughts, then your actions. Submitting is an acceptance and yielding of God’s will over your desires.
Notice it says to submit to God. I know it is hard to accept but we always submit; we either submit to the devil or God. Every time we are confronted with a temptation we have the choice to make…who will we submit to?
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
This verse took me by surprise. I always thought the only way to escape Satan was to cast him out by commanding him to go in the power and authority we have as a child of the King.
Oddly enough, that isn’t how James says to handle it! Instead, we are to steadfastly resist and stand firm. When you do your part, Satan will flee. He isn’t running from you because he isn’t afraid of you. He flees God that is inside of you and has placed his covering over you. It’s like a little boy being picked on at the park. This little guy can stand brave and not be cowered because he can see his big, strong daddy has walked up and is standing behind the bully. As soon as the bully catches sight of the little boy’s daddy, he hightails it out of there!
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
What an amazing promise! If you draw near to God, you will find him; as you draw closer to God, He will draw closer to you. Do you realize you can’t draw near to God without his permission? He wants us to drawn near to him and doesn’t withhold himself from us.
However, God is holy. He loves us but does not tolerate disobedience (sin). When we draw closer, the absolute pure light of God exposes our ugly sin. Our sin must be dealt with. Read Isaiah 6:5-7 to see what happened to Isaiah when we was in God’s presence and his sin was exposed.
“Cleanse your hearts, you double-minded.”
When your sin is exposed, you can’t just leave it. You need to cleanse your heart. But how? We cleanse our hearts when we pour them out to God…the good, the bad, and the ugly. We let it all out and come to a place that we acknowledge our sin for what it is and stop being double-minded about it.
When you are double-minded, you can’t make up your mind on which side of the fence to be on. You aren’t very passionate because your desire keeps switching sides. On the one hand, you know your sin is bad but you rationalize that it’s not that bad.
Have you ever been around someone who couldn’t make up their mind about things? It is maddening! We all get indecisive at times. But when it comes to God, he wants a decision. Be either hot or cold, not lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16). God does not like double-mindedness!
How do you avoid being double-minded? By pouring your heart before God like this…
“Lament and mourn and weep.”
Lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.
Mourn: Feel or show deep sorrow or regret.
Weep: shed tears.
When your sin is exposed under the light of God’s love, you should feel sorrow and remorse. When you lament, mourn, and weep, you are so passionately sorrowful over your sin (remember you are cleaning your heart here) that you aren’t too proud to cry in repentance and release it all. That doesn’t sound like a cold or lukewarm response to me!
Does lamenting, mourning, and weeping remind you of the prophets in the Old Testament when they called people on their sin? Isn’t it neat to discover the ways God bridges the Old and the New Testaments?
“Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.”
If you don’t cry out to God in repentance, this is what happens…your laugher and joy will turn on you. Sin will pull you down into mourning and dejection (a sad and depressed state; low spirits). None of us want to end up in low spirits and God doesn’t want that for us. Although we have a choice to sin, we can’t escape the consequence of the sin.
I’m sure you have heard this quote: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, leave you longer than you want to stay, and cost you far more than you want to pay.”
I want to make sure you understand this point: if not dealt with in a godly way, the temptation will lead to sin and sin leads to a life that will bring separation from God. At this point, your spirit knows you are separated from God (even if your mind doesn’t accept it). Then, before you know it your laughter turns into depression…all because you let temptation hang around until you gave in and it became sin.
We’ve all seen this happen and some of us have even experienced it ourselves.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
The best definition for humble is found right in Scripture: You don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3). You recognize that God is The Almighty and you are not. You accept that you don’t know everything, you aren’t the most spiritual person on earth, you have as much to learn as the next person, and you aren’t any better (or worse) than anyone else. It’s not putting yourself down or puffing yourself up.
Exalt: To hold in very high regard; to make noble in character, to dignify; to raise to a higher rank or position of greater power.
Wow! Isn’t that amazing? God is waiting to do this for you if you will just submit and cling to him! I don’t know about you but It’s hard for me to imagine God feeling this way about me. But it says so right there! When we humbly turn to God and steadfastly turn from our sin, he will lift us up!
Nobody escapes temptation (James 1:13-14). When we are tempted, the decisions we make decide our future; we either draw closer to God or further from him. The temptation isn’t a problem until we linger with it, play with it, invite it in. Then temptation turns to sin and we have a whole new set of issues.
You might be thinking my example of the candy bar temptation wasn’t a big enough deal to even worry about. And maybe for you, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.
But God laid it on my heart to not just share with you how you can defeat temptation but also how something seemingly so insignificant isn’t always insignificant. When we are faced with something “big”, we throw our guard up and go into a spiritual fighting stance. When it is something we don’t think is a big deal we tend to let our guard down.
As a woman of God, the size of the temptation doesn’t matter as long as we have a plan in place to deal with it. It’s not something we can handle on our own, but, using the steps outlined above, God gives us all the hope and help we could possibly need…and it works 100% of the time!
Reading a blog post about God’s Word doesn’t do much if we aren’t willing to apply it to our lives (2 Timothy 3:16). To help apply our study (James 4:7-10), dig deeper with the following questions:
Praise: What can you praise God for?
Confess: What sin has the Holy Spirit brought before you that needs to be confessed?
Give Thanks: What can you thank God for?
Be A Hearer & Doer Of The Word: How can you intentionally put what you have just learned into action?