Overcoming Temptation (Part 1)
By sis Leong Mei Ji
Difference between trials and temptations
We encounter trials and temptations. There is a difference between the two.
Trials come to all of us and we cannot avoid them. They present an outward opportunity to sin. They come from outside of us, things which our lives have presented us. There is a reward of promise for all those who faithfully go through all these trials.
What about temptation? It is an inward desire to sin. It comes upon us. It comes from inside of us, that is, from our desires, from wanting to do something other than what God wants us to do. It is usually not planned by us or planned by somebody else.
God made man with desires. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or right with desires. Without desire man cannot be receptive to God’s word. The basic desire Satan uses to influence man may not be wrong in itself: for instance, a desire for food as he did with Eve in Genesis 3:6 and as he did with Jesus in Matthew 4:3. There is nothing wrong with fruit or bread. In both cases referred to, the basic desire is good but it can be used to make us destroy our relationship with God and be disobedient to Him.
The word “tempt’ does not necessarily mean something evil. By definition, it means “to make trial, to put to the test in order to entertain the view of feelings of anyone.” Temptation can be the downfall of man but it can also be stepping stones to victory.
There is no need to feel guilty when we are tempted because temptation in itself is not sinful. If temptation were itself a sin, then Jesus would have sinned. However, the bible says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
In Matthew 4:1, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He must have had, as a human, inward desires. The scripture says that Jesus was tempted by Satan to do something wrong. That is not guilt. Man is created in the image of God. Man has the power of choice to obey God or not. When we are tempted, we make the choice to give in or resist. When we give in to temptation and do it, then it is a sin.
According to James 1:14, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Temptation is universal to “every man” (including Jesus Christ). Secondly, it is unique because it is personal (“every man”), and thirdly, unending (“is tempted”).
Following, James 1:15 says, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
Temptations do not come from God. God does not tempt us to sin. James 1: 13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” God is not doing that; Satan is. God may allow trials to come into our lives for a purpose. Satan will use these trials to tempt us to do evil and to fall into sin. All responsibility for sin rests directly upon us.
In describing the tactics of Satan’s temptation, we must not get the impression that he always wins and we are helpless. It is not simply the case. Note these two passages. Hebrews 4:14, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”; and in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But the devil knows that we are saved as long as we refuse to give in to him. Therefore, he has to use some bait to pull us out of our place of security- like fishing – something that looks good and arouses our emotions, causing us to act before we consider the full consequences of yielding to the temptation. If you and I take the bait of Satan, once he hooks us and arouses our desires for something beyond the point of what is right, it will not be long before he has us in his camp, guilty of sin.