What comes to mind when you hear the word “temptation?” Chances are, you’re thinking of something different than I am. I would also guess that you’re thinking of something that you know is wrong. Merriam-Webster defines temptation as “something that causes a strong urge or desire to have or do something and especially something that is bad, wrong, or unwise.” In a biblical sense, temptation is the desire to do something that goes against God’s commands.
According to 1 John 2: 16-17, there are three kinds of temptations. “For everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” So, the three kinds of temptations are lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. If you think back to Genesis, when the serpent told Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, she was tempted by all three of them. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh) and pleasing to the eye (lust of the eyes), and also desirable for gaining wisdom (pride of life), she took some and ate it.”
As you can see, we humans have been tempted since the beginning of time. Who is tempting us? Is it God? We can look to James 1: 13-14 for the answer. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” This tells us that God doesn’t tempt us, but it’s important to understand that he does test us. He allows Satan to tempt us so we will be tested and, hopefully, learn and grow from it.
1 Corinthians 10: 13 gives further insight to temptation. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Yes, God allows you to be tempted, but you are not alone in this. He puts everyone, even the most righteous of his followers, to the test. In fact, the Son of God himself was tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4: 1-11 tells the story of Jesus going into the wilderness to fast for forty days and forty nights. At the end of his fast, he was very hungry and weak. The devil then tempted him with food, power, and pride. Instead of giving into the incredible temptations, Jesus said “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
The whole book of Job is about how God tested Job, a faithful and blameless man, by allowing Satan to tempt him. Satan took Job’s children, his servants, his livestock, and his health away from him. He did this in an attempt to get Job to curse God for everything that had happened to him. Job 2: 9-10 says “His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Notice that both Jesus and Job were tempted when they were extremely vulnerable. Jesus hadn’t eaten for forty days, and Job had lost nearly everything that mattered to him. Now, think about a time that you have experienced temptation. Was it also a time when you were feeling vulnerable? I know that for me, when things go wrong and emotions are high, that’s when I feel most tempted to stray from the Lord’s commands. Satan uses our weaknesses to try to distance us from God.
What can we do to resist temptation like Jesus and Job did? Matthew 26:41 says “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Watch and pray. That’s what we can do. Acknowledge your temptations and the situations that make it difficult to resist them. Avoid those situations, if possible. Pray and ask God for the strength to resist your temptations. Ask Him to show you the “way out” that is described in 1 Corinthians. Once the temptation has passed and you have resisted it, don’t forget to thank him.
You may be wondering why it’s so important to resist our temptations. What good will it do if we resist the temptation to get drunk or lash out in anger at someone or seek revenge? What is our reward? James 1:12 says “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Remember that our temptations are a test. If we pass the test, our reward is eternal life in Heaven!