Understanding Temptations

Imagine your younger self walking down the streets of your neighbourhood and noticing a nice bicycle leaning on some lone tree. It has probably been there for days, given the dust it has gathered. Seeing no one around, you flirt with the idea of taking it–it looks abandoned anyway. You have long prayed for a bike, and the circumstances couldn’t be better. There’s even a guy in mind you think could do an excellent paint job.

Such is an example of temptation–an inward drive unto sin, which is to live independently of God. Whenever we fall into sin, we become an affront to God, for he is holy and desires that we too would live holy lives (1 Peter 1:16).  

Temptation is not quite the same as a test. The former aims at destruction through sin, while the latter seeks only to build our faith, strengthen our convictions, and root our trust in God deeper. Scripture refutes any notion that God would tempt (James 1:13), teaching instead that he tests us for our growth in the faith unto maturity.

Origin of Temptations

Not from God

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one…” (James 1:13).

God is perfect in holiness (Isaiah 6:3); he is without sin (Matthew 5:48). He would never go against his nature and cause us to dishonour his majesty by walking unworthily (check out our blog- Ni Shetani tu!).

From our desires

“…but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14).

Our own evil desires (not circumstances; not even Satan, as many like to think) are what lead us to sin.

Have We Any Hope Then?

Another Apostle (Paul, this time) offers encouragement whenever we are faced with temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can take heart because: 

  •  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” – Nothing will tempt us today that others have not gone through. The teacher said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Be it jealousy, gossip, slander, immorality, etc.; those who’ve gone before us fought against these same sins and won; they are now cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1). 
  • “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” – For every believer, the LORD does shield us from temptation, forbidding that we should ever be crushed under their weight. He is not absent while the enemy of our souls attacks us. This assurance is the ground upon which we fight, warding off those desires within us that are contrary to the truth of Scripture. No true believer slacks because God protects him anyway. 
  • “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” – Genuine believers can be sure to outlast temptations, for God does provide a way of escape for us. By grace, we can come to hate the sins we once loved. 

Woe To The One Who Does Not Hate Sin

“Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).

Sin is costly, leading to death (Romans 6:23). This death is two-fold; both physical and spiritual. Sin does attract physical consequences of various kinds, sometimes such as may be life-threatening. But no form of physical death, however painful, surpasses the severity of spiritual death–eternal alienation from the life of God. 

Fight, Then, We Must

There are no magical ‘seven keys’ to fighting temptation. Our only hope in the fight is to cling closely to God, always abiding (John 15:4-7). Through these means (and more) you may abide:

  1. Abide by the Word Psalm 119:9-11 exhorts us to keep bold and alert. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to trust in the LORD with all our hearts, and he will guide us into straight paths. Paul likens the Word to a sword (Ephesians 6:17c), an indispensable weapon in war. 
  2. Abide through prayer However fierce the battle, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer encourages closer fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit, enabling us to know his will and harken to his leading. 
  3. Abide actively – If we have been made free in Christ (Galatians 5:1), it is not so that we might again sin (vs 13). Instead, we are to walk by the Spirit, refusing to gratify the desires of the flesh (vs 16). We, therefore, must fight!

Even though we are fallen beings in a fallen world who by nature seek to live independently of God, we are also new creatures–beings that by grace can now love God and hate the world. 

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