Dwight Fletcher | Conquering the Giant of Temptation
"I can resist everything except temptation" was said by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, but it seems to be a sentiment shared by many people. Temptation is a big issue for so many of us as it never goes away. So, how do we conquer this giant?
We will look to the life of King David for answers, but first ask yourself, "What tempts me?".
Is it chocolate or cheesecake? Ice cream or potato chips? Or do your temptations come in a different flavour such as online pornography or illegal drugs? Are you tempted with sexual or financial enticements? Or there is the temptation to say "I'm not tempted by any of that!" Be careful, for that is the one temptation that is most likely to cause you to fall.
King David, as great as he was, submitted to sexual temptation with a woman named Bathsheba. "Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath ... . He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, 'She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite ... '. Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home." 2 Samuel 11:3-4 NLT.
David's temptation was sexual temptation. But whatever temptation you face, if you don't have God's weaponry in your toolbox, you're going to give in. When it comes to temptation, the wrong question to ask is, "How can I avoid this temptation?" You're never going to be able to avoid it. The right question is, "How, with God's help, can I find victory over this temptation?" So here are four steps to conquering the giant of temptation.
1. Admit that I am Tempted
You have to admit, not only to yourself, but also to God, that you are tempted. Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT, says, "If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience." Overconfidence is a sure way to fall. Victory begins by admitting that you're tempted. David took the right approach when he prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you..." Psalm 139:23-24 NLT. When we pray something like this to God, He answers. When you admit that you're tempted, you're inviting God's power into your life.
2. Acknowledge that I am in a spiritual battle
All temptation is spiritual. The enemy of your soul is attempting to use your natural desires to destroy you. And temptation is one of Satan's greatest weapons ... he can't force you to sin but he certainly can tempt you to.
One way he does this is by creating the false impression that what we do with our mind and body are two separate things. But God didn't create your mind and body to be separate. God created you, as a threefold person - mind, body, and spirit. So your spirit life affects every other area of your life. We might not always see it, we might not always recognise it, but there is a spiritual battle constantly going on in our lives. 1 Peter 5:8 NLT says, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."
3. Avoid the people or places that tempt me
The Apostle Paul writes, "Run ... from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body." 1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT.
David committed adultery with Bathsheba because he allowed himself the pleasure of being in the wrong place and gazing at the wrong person. Who are the people and what are the places that you need to avoid? The key is to make it difficult to fall into temptation in the first place and not let the enemy bait you. You can pray even now: "God, with your power, I'm going to avoid those places and people, because I'm going to run away from temptation." That will help you conquer the giant.
4. Focus on God,
not the temptation
Ultimately, this was David's issue. He took his attention off God and placed it on Bathsheba, another man's wife. The more you focus on the temptation, the stronger it becomes and the weaker your resistance to it. But the more you focus on God, the stronger God's power becomes in your life. "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand ... . He will show you a way out so that you can endure." 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT.
No matter how powerful the addiction or how strong the temptation, God always gives you a way out. He gives us free will to exercise the power of choice. It may start with avoiding certain people or places and not grading your sin in comparison to others. Every sin has consequences. David's sin had consequences, but he learned from that sin and chose to follow God. By the end of his life, David was doing great things for God.
If you have given in to temptation, you can choose today to start over. Your past does not diminish you in God's eyes if you will choose to focus on Him and be willing to do whatever He wants you to do. This will give you the hope and God's power to conquer the giant of temptation.