"But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust."1
Temptation. It befalls all of us. It can come directly from the devil, a devil's advocate, through a friend, or from my own self.
We are all open to temptation for, like a lawn bowl that has a bias (weight) on one side that causes it to curve away from the goal, we have a bias that, unless guarded, causes us to go astray and miss the mark of God's goal for us. The bias is our sin nature that we are all born with.
So how do we defend against temptation?
First and foremost, as author Max Lucado suggests in his book, On the Anvil, there are two very simple strategies for protecting ourselves from sin and temptation. The first is to recognize Satan. So often, we are lured into a sin because it looks so attractive, so fulfilling, so right at the time. So we find ways to rationalize our actions and make excuses for our attitudes. Instead, we must be like Jesus in the desert and call Satan by name. No more sugar-coating the truth. Don't try to water down the power of sin. Call it what it is.
Second, we can guard against some temptations by making sure we get legitimate needs met in legitimate ways. For instance, after fasting for forty days, Jesus was hungry. This is when Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. Satan always has a way to tempt us at our weakest and/or neediest point. For another example, some singles when they are lonely, instead of getting their companionship needs met in healthy ways, turn to sex as a poor substitute for love.
Third, realize that God's salvation begins at the point where we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord of our life—and as we grow in wholeness and maturity. As Jesus often asked, "Do you want to be made whole?" Wholeness is a requirement for wholesome living, for only to the degree that we are made whole will our lifestyle, our actions, our thoughts (the beginning point of temptation), our behavior, and our relationships be wholesome.
Fourth, walk with God. Growing in wholeness is a life-long process, so in the meantime to avoid giving in to temptation, we need not only to make sure we get our needs met in healthy ways, but also to walk with God. That is, we need to know what His Word teaches by reading and studying it faithfully, and we need to commit and trust our life to God every day, and seek His guidance and help to live a life that will glorify Him in all that we are and do.
Fifth, be filled with God's Spirit who gives us the insight to recognize temptation for what it is and the power to overcome its onslaughts.
Sixth, pray. Sometimes a simple prayer such as, "Help, God, Help," or stating firmly, "Jesus Christ is Lord," can be the best antidote against falling prey to temptation's alluring charms.
Lastly, when we do give in to temptation and sin, remember that God says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."2 The important thing is to get up, put things right where needed and possible, and go on.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You that You have provided a way of escape from giving in to temptation for me through Your so great salvation. Help me to keep growing in faith, love, maturity and wholeness, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I will have the strength to overcome every temptation. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. James 1:14 (NASB).
2. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV).