The extra cookie. A glass of wine. The credit card. A wicked word. How can we reduce the allure of temptations? Without self-control, dire consequences can set in.
It was sometime after midnight. Accompanied by a local pastor, we walked the sidewalk of heroin-soaked Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia. The pastor knew the people who had no home other than the doorway they had collapsed in. He knew their names, who was new, and who may be ready to get clean. He came here often and cared deeply for each man and woman.
We stopped to talk to John. He knew our pastor friend. John’s heroin addiction continued a strangle hold on his life. His eyes bulged unnaturally from his head. He pointed his skinny finger at the two high school boys who came with us that night.
“Do not even pick up a cigarette.” John’s crackling voice held the boys’ full attention (and mine). “No one wakes up one morning and decides to be an addict and livin’ on the streets.”
He paused, a bit lost in his thoughts. Then, with a quick jerk of his head, he continued. “A cigarette will lead to weed. Weed leads to crack. Soon that’s not enough. You discover heroin. Then you never get away. I lost my job, my house, my family. If only…” His words faded into silence.
John knew the gradual destruction of temptation. We tend to justify a single indulgence as negligible in the overall scheme of things. In reality, however, the cost of a single lack of restraint can morph into the dangerous beginnings of repeated self-indulgent acts.
The best way to fight temptation is when it first enters the mind. Easier said than done, though. Pastor Giovanni Enriquez recently taught that desires, doubts and deception run rampant in our mind. They are the core of the defeating thoughts that allow temptation to have its way.
To overcome temptation, our thoughts and mind need supernatural renewal (Romans 12:2) This is one of the beautiful ways that growing faith manifests in our life. When our motivation is 100% to honor God with our lives, we gain the ability to resist temptation. The Holy Spirit begins the transformation within us that decreases our motivation to embrace temptations.
With love for Christ as the center of heart, soul, and mind, our reasoning and decision-making takes on a new nature. We hunger for Scripture. We seek to know God’s voice. We become more aware of truth and lies before we cross the seductive line.
Three Ways to Fight Temptation
ONE. Self-control. Temptation begins with a passing thought (James 1:15). Self-control allows us to refocus thoughts before succumbing to their troubles (2 Corinthians 10:5). When we come to recognize the temptation for the inner conflict that it is, we can pause and choose another option.
Instead of giving in to the temptation to yell at my daughter for her undone chores, I am learning to exercise restraint for a more constructive response. Yes, it’s hard. Self-control, however, allows me to think through the situation. What distractions prevented my daughter from completing chores? Were my expectations too high? Is she facing other pressures of which I am not aware? Let’s talk.
TWO. Explore your wounds. We make our own choices. True. But past hurts make us vulnerable to temptation. When hidden hurts arise, we use them to justify actions that run counter to what we know is right. As we come to better understand the pain and brokenness in our lives, our responses become more healthy and appropriate.
When a friend betrayed me, it felt okay to talk badly about her. I gave in to the temptation to gossip. The Holy Spirit then convicted me. I went to my friend and worked through the problem with her. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-17 clearly define this process.
THREE. Community. Be accountable to another person. When we are in community with other people, we embrace an openness that reduces the power of temptation. Furthermore, your community will help to equip you so you do not face temptations alone or defenseless.
When I am willing to be vulnerable to my prayer partner, I am open to hearing her words of caution as needed. When I make myself accountable to someone else for my actions, and even my thoughts, it’s game changing in my battle for self-control.
As we bolster the goal of a Christ-centered life, we devalue temptations. Soon our desire for self-control overrides the allure of the temptation. We continue then to grow in our faith.
How do you battle temptation? What works best for you?
Posted by Sharon R Hoover