Do Not Be Afraid of Temptation
In last week’s message we discussed the topic of fear. Specifically the call, over and over again in the Bible, to not be afraid. That was a message given by God many times. It was a message obeyed by many Bible people.
Today the topic is temptation, which could cause us to fear. We could be afraid of being tempted. But we do not have to be afraid of it. That, too, is taught many places in the Bible, including the four passages that make up today’s message.
The first passage is a single verse. I Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has overtaken you.” Other translations word it that no test has come upon you. There is no temptation that is faced “that is not common to man.- God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
That verse was written by Paul. I wonder if he ever faced the temptation to turn away from God’s call for him to be a minister for Jesus. Paul suffered so many things in his ministry. The thought of giving up and leading a calmer, easier life must have at least crossed his mind. But he stayed true to the cause of Christ, believing what he wrote in verse 13. That temptation will come. It is an aspect of life that hits everyone. Later we will consider what a survey indicates are common temptations now, but temptation comes to every life. That whatever temptation is faced is not unique. Others have faced it before. Thinking of Paul, if the thought of stepping away from the ministry did cross his mind, he could at least be comforted to know others must have had the same thought. And that with any temptation, God provides the way of escape. The wording Paul used has the idea of an army surrounded, but suddenly seeing the way to safety. The point of Paul is that no one needs to fall to any temptation. What needs to be done is, when tempted, to look around for the way to escape. Of course that is difficult to do because temptations are usually things that are either scary or at least appear or promise to be satisfying, but when tempted, look for the escape route. God has it ready.
Temptation will come. With every temptation, God provides the way of escape. Whatever the temptation you face, it is not unique. Others have faced the same before, including Jesus, which brings us to the second passage for this message. Luke 4:1-13.
This passage records something that happened very early in Jesus’ earthly ministry. It happened right after He was baptized.
When Jesus had come up out of the water, the Holy Spirit had come upon Him. Shortly after that, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, was led, by the Spirit, into a wilderness. There, Jesus fasted for 40 days, after which He was tempted.
Listen to some crucial words. Jesus was tempted “by the devil.”
Those words are indeed crucial because they teach who is the source of temptation. The source is not God. The source is the devil. That was true in the Garden of Eden. It was the devil who tempted Eve. It was true with the Old Testament Job. The devil is the one who hurt Job physically and emotionally. It was true with Jesus. The devil is the one who tempted the Lord.
Yes, God allowed and still does allow temptation to come our way. But it is the devil who does the tempting. Do not blame God. Do not get mad at God, especially since God is the one who promises the way of escape. Blame the devil when you are tempted.
In the wilderness, Jesus fasted for 40 days. It was then He was tempted by the devil. There were three temptations Jesus faced.
After the 40-day fast, Jesus was of course hungry. The devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
I am intrigued by the devil’s opening words. “If You are the Son of God.” When Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit following His baptism, God had spoken the announcement that Jesus was His beloved Son. Of course, Jesus already knew that, but the announcement must have been encouraging. I confirmed what He already knew.
But now the devil tried to get Jesus to doubt His relationship with God. That was part of the temptation. “If You are the Son of God [Jesus, are You sure You are], You have the power to change, not only this one stone, but all stones, into bread. You can eat. You can feed others. Think how much better You will feel. Think how popular You will be with others. Go ahead. Show Your power.”
The temptation was there. Jesus did face it. But remember the promise that God will provide the way of escape. In this case, the way was through Scripture. Jesus answered the devil, “It is written [Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3], man shall not live by bread alone.”
Jesus could have turned one stone and many other stones into bread. He could have fed Himself. He could have fed others physically. But He would not do that at the direction of the devil. He would not do that because it would interfere with His spiritual purpose.
Jesus survived the first temptation. The devil then tempted Him again, this time taking Jesus to a high mountain, from which they could see all the kingdoms of the world. Kingdoms that represented power and glory.
The devil said to Jesus, “All this can be Yours. I can give it to You. I will give it to You, which will give You instant authority over everything and everybody. It is Yours if You will do one thing for me. Just one thing. Worship me.”
What a temptation that was. Instant authority. The instant ability to do whatever He wanted with anybody and everybody.
Of course, Jesus would have used that authority for good. There must never be even a thought He would have misused such power. However, there was one very major thing wrong with what the devil suggested. It was the part about Jesus having to worship the devil, which became the way of escaping that temptation as Jesus quoted another Scripture, this one Deuteronomy 6:13. “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”
Jesus survived the second temptation. The devil then tempted Him yet again, this time taking Jesus to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem. A corner of the Temple, beside which was a sheer drop of great distance.
At that spot, the devil said three things to Jesus. First, “If You are the Son of God.” That was another attempt to get Jesus to question His relationship with God. Second, “Throw Yourself down from here.” Third, “For it is written…” Isn’t that interesting? Jesus had twice quoted Scripture. Now the devil did the same. “It is written [in Psalm 91], God will give His angels charge of You to guard You. On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.”
Again the temptation was there, this time to jump a great distance, not get hurt, thereby impressing everyone so much He would instantly be followed. Jesus could avoid all the traveling and teaching. He would eventually be able to avoid being crucified. Jesus did face the temptation.
But again remember the promise that God will provide the way of escape. In this case, the way was again through Scripture, this time Deuteronomy 6:16. Jesus answered the devil, “It is said, you shall not tempt the LORD your God.”
Three times Jesus was tempted. So, too, do we face temptation. Temptation from the devil.
By the way, verse 13 of Luke 4 presents a very important point. I is recorded that following the third temptation in the wilderness, the devil departed. But listen. He departed from Jesus “until an opportune time.” That teaches us that Jesus faced other temptations for the rest of His earthly ministry.
But Jesus survived. So, too, can we survive when we are faced with temptation. We can survive because, as it was with Jesus, whenever we are tempted, God provides the way of escape.
In a moment, the third passage for this message. Before that, let’s consider some modern-day temptations. Some that maybe you face or I face, which is presented, not to embarrass anyone, but to make the point temptation does exist.
Here are the results of a survey taken by a Christian magazine. It ranks what readers identified as their greatest spiritual challenges.
#9 - Lying. #8 - Gluttony. #7 - Envy.
Tied for #5 - Sexual lust, which is not always acted upon, but sometimes manifests itself in pornography. My understanding is that pornography is rampant in all parts of our society. Social media certainly provides easy access to it. It is one of the major causes of human trafficking, even here in our city.
Tied for #5 - Anger or bitterness. #4 - Laziness. #3 - Self-centeredness. #2 - Pride. #1 - Materialism.
Are you tempted in any of those ways? No show of hands, but are you and I tempted in any of those ways? Are you or I tempted in any other ways?
If so, remember we are not alone. However, the fact we have company is not to be a justification for falling to whatever temptation we face. Instead, we are to be like Jesus and look for the way of escape so we can stay strong, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Which leads us to the third passage for this message. I Peter 5:7-9.
This passage, along with the rest of I Peter, was written to Christians in an area where persecution against Christians had started. That is addressed toward the end of the letter. Specifically verses 7 through 9 of chapter 5.
Verse 7. “Cast all your anxieties [including anxieties related to persecution, along with the temptation to turn away from the Christian faith] on God, for He cares about You.”
Then verses 8 and 9. “Be sober,” or serious. “Be watchful.”
By the way, Peter knew all about temptation. Unfortunately, there are two examples of him not being successful in meeting them.
The night Jesus was arrested - shortly before that - Jesus had asked Peter and two other disciples to stay awake and pray with Him. Peter and the others had been unable to do that. The temptation for sleep had overcome him.
After Jesus’ arrest, while the Lord was on trial, Peter was identified as being a follower of Jesus. That happened three times. Each of those times Peter was tempted to deny the Lord, doing so to try to protect himself. All three times, Peter gave in to the temptation.
Peter faced temptation. I the cases mentioned, he failed. But Peter had repented. He had, with the Lord’s strength, become stronger and successful in resisting temptation. It was that change that gave Peter the authority to write, “Be sober. Be watchful. Your adversary [your spiritual enemy] the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
I have heard that roaring lions are not a particular danger. It is quiet lions - the ones you do not hear - that are dangerous. But the roars of lions are scary. They can paralyze with fear what might become the prey. That is true with temptation. It may appear stronger than we can overcome.
But, Peter continued, “Resist the devil, firm in your faith.”
Peter added the point mentioned earlier that whatever we face or suffer is not unique to us. Others have and do face the same things.
But resist the devil. Be firm in your faith. Including that God will provide a way of escape when we are tempted. That is the only hope we have when facing temptation.
Here is a story. A Montana sheep rancher tried just about everything she could think of to stop coyotes from killing her sheep. She used odor sprays, electric fences, and scarecrow-type things she called scare-coyotes. She corralled her sheep at night and herded them each day. She placed battery-operated radios near her sheep at night, hoping the noise would keep the predators away. She even slept with her lambs during some summer nights.
All that, and she still lost sheep. That continued until she heard about and bought some llamas which, as I know, are funny looking, and which I learned are aggressive, afraid of nothing. With that lack of fear, when llamas see something, they put their heads up and face it, which is interpreted by coyotes as aggressive behavior, which causes the coyotes to run away.
That is what we need to do spiritually. Do not be afraid of the devil. Resist him. Stand up to him. As James added in the same teaching in the book with his name, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
The moment we sense a temptation, we must face it and deal with it. We must resist it, always looking for the way of escape, which might include wearing what is recorded in Ephesians 6:13-17.
In those verses, there is a description of what is called the armor of God. The whole armor, as in everything that is needed to be and stay strong in the Lord.
“Gird your loins with truth.” Girding refers to lifting the tunics worn and stuffing them around a belt so they would not trip up the feet. It is with truth that we are to run, including running away from falling to temptation. We know what truth is. It is in the Bible.
“Put on the breastplate of righteousness.” The breastplate of a soldier protected his heart. We know what is right to do. It is in the Bible
“Shod your feet with the gospel of peace.” We do not have to tiptoe through life, hoping to avoid danger. We can be protected by the peace of God.
“Take the shield of faith.” Faith in Jesus and His word is to be our shield. A shield able to quench - to kill - any fire thrown at us by the devil. It is faith that can protect us from any temptation of the devil.
“Take the helmet of salvation.” The helmet of a Roman soldier back then wrapped around the back and sides of his head, leaving only a view straight ahead.
What a metaphor that is. We can be helped to avoid temptation because it is not only loud, scary roaring that threatens us. There are nice, seductive, pleasant things we can hear that can tempt us. Which we are less likely to hear if we have salvation covering our ears.
And there are visual things that can tempt us, which we are less likely to see if we are looking only one way - toward Jesus.
“And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” That is the sword Jesus used when He was tempted in the wilderness. We can use the word of God even now as a way of escape from temptation.
A few years ago, some towns in India were hit with a plague of monkeys. The monkeys were so numerous they invaded homes, bit people, and made off with food supplies.
It was agreed the monkeys had to be caught and relocated, but how were the people to accomplish the catching? Here is what they did.
They gathered containers, tied them to the ground, then placed something sweet inside each container.
When a monkey came along and smelled and saw the sweet, he placed his hand inside the container. However, with the sweet enclosed in his hand, his fist was too big to get it back out of the container.
You would think the monkeys would have figured it out, but they pulled and pushed, trying to get the sweet out, continuing to do so, even as their captors approached.
The Bible says we will face temptation. The Bible teaches that God will always, in every temptation, provide the way of escape, which returns us to the survey mentioned earlier about temptations that are common today.
Here are two more parts of the survey. Of those surveyed, 81% said temptations were stronger when they had neglected their time with God, and 57% said temptations were worse when they were physically tired.
But listen to this. Resisting temptation was able to be accomplished by prayer (84% reported that), by avoiding compromising situations (76% said that), by Bible study (66%), and by being accountable to someone (52%).
Let’s not be like those Indian monkeys. Let’s not grab hold of temptation and refuse to let go. Let’s do what we can to avoid temptation, but when it comes, let’s resist the devil, using prayer, Bible study, and accountability as ways of escape.
Today’s closing song is Soldiers of Christ, Arise.
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on.
Be strong in all your God provides
Through His eternal Son.
The powers that oppose
Are stronger far than you,
But boldly trust in Jesus Christ
And prove what He can do.
Raise up His shield of faith,
And wield His Spirit’s sword.
His righteousness protects our hearts
From sin and all its fruit.
We stand secure in Christ
And all that He has done.
We fight to share a victory
In Christ already won.
As the railroad was being built across our country, an elaborate trestle bridge was needed to cross a large canyon. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and weight to double how heavy a train would normally be. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day.
One worker asked, “Are you trying to break the bridge?” The builder answered, No. I am trying to prove that the bridge will not break.”
As it was when Jesus was tempted, so it is with us. It was and is the devil who did and does the tempting. However, God allowed it to happen to Jesus, one of the reasons being to prove to Him He could face temptations and not break, becoming stronger in the process, which was proved as Jesus faced other challenges throughout His ministry.
May it be so with us. As we survive whatever temptation the devil brings us, may we remain strong. May we let God show us that we, through Him, can be strong enough to not break in the future. All that for His glory.