Temptation is necessary, Sin isn't
(Matt.18:7-9, NIV) 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
We've all had them. A burning desire, that can grow from a casual thought or roll over you like a burgeoning wave. But even though you feel the press to succumb, you know you shouldn't. You know this because that desire, if allowed to blossom into action, will take you in a direction away from God.
Why do Christians get tempted? Shouldn't we be protected from these assaults by the enemy? The answer is a surprising, "no."
Such things must come... (v.7)
The Lord Jesus makes emphatic statements of "woe" to the world and to the persons that cause others to stumble - the tempters. However nestled in the condemnations is the assurance that such things MUST come. The previous verse clearly identifies the recipients of these temptations to surely come - those who believe in me (Jesus) (v.6).
So temptations are necessary and shouldn't come as a surprise because we have been alerted in scripture to that fact. It's important to realize though that temptations aren't arbitrarily floated our way. God let's us know that he's in control and emphasizes that temptors will be punished for their part in causing the believer to stumble or trip.
Why are we subjected to temptations?
We are always tempted in areas where we are weak. To one it may be a fragile temper, another could easily become boastful while another still may find it so easily to "create" their "versions of the truth." Temptations help bring these weaknesses front and center. For any believer with a heart to serve God, this is invaluable as it helps us eradicate areas in our lives that aren't fully surrendered to God. Yes, temptations help a Christian to grow! Grow in faith, in trust and in commitment to God through obedience. Before our Lord began his ministry he was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). So don't get discouraged, you are in good company!
Submit and resist, don't Sin and persist
1 Cor. 10:13 let's us know that there is no temptation we will experience that's greater than we can withstand and also gives us the added assurance that there's a divinely orchestrated exit that very much excludes yielding to the temptation. However, choosing this route may cause us some trauma. It can mean drastic sacrifices hence the illustration in v. 8-9, used by the Lord, of maiming the physical body so the soul survives in eternity. There can be painful sacrifices that we need to make in our lives to overcome the temptations and by extension the weakness in our Christian walk. God has given us the formula in James 4:7 to let that temptation walk... er... run on by. The question is, are we willing to give up the thing that prevents us from submitting to God so we can resist the wiles of the enemy?
Don't be fooled
So, the next time you get that urge to do something you know God won't be pleased with, remember:
- These feelings will come. Don't feel bad because you have them.
- Know that this is an opportunity to grow in that particular area of your life and strengthen your christian walk.
- The response to temptations can be rooted deeply and there may be a painful process in getting it to release it's hold on you but take heart, you're not alone in this battle. God has your back!