People who sin often say: “I can’t help it.” This is the plea of the defeated sinner, who has been mentally defeated by the devil’s propaganda of irresistible temptation. God’s powerful promise to “deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13) is in 1 Cor. 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
1. Temptation Is Common: — “Temptation” (Greek, periasmos, literally, “a testing”) from Satan’s view is an enticement to sin. God allows temptation to test us so we might be purer and stronger (Jas. 1:12). “The Tempter” (Matt. 4:3) seeks to seduce us to fail (1 Pet. 5:8). After the fall of man (Gen. 3), this world was turned into a battleground for the souls of men. Life is a test.
It’s not a sin to be tempted, but is an occasion for deciding whether or not to take sin’s baited trap (Jas. 1:13-15). Let’s not pity ourselves that we’re some special case. All of God’s faithful servants have faced similar temptations to try their faith (1 Pet. 5:9; Jas. 1:2-4).
2. Temptation Is Limited: — God “knows our frame” (Psa. 103:14), so He knows our breaking point! It’s true, “God will not put on you more than you can bear.” This custom-made providence can, in His will, shield us so we are not overwhelmed (Rom. 8:28)! For example, Job was allowed to be tested to the breaking point of rejecting God, God mercifully intervened and stopped the trial of suffering (Job 33:16-18; 36:15; Jas. 5:11). Our Almighty Creator is our Abiding Sustainer (Heb. 13:5,6).
Yet, it’s possible to recklessly rush into tempting situations, without the prayerful desire of “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13). Here God provides no guarantees of help. To illustrate, a father had forbidden his little boy to swim alone in a nearby river. Later, when he was caught with his swimming trunks rolled up under his arm, his father asked why he deliberately intended to do what was forbidden. He said, “I just wanted to be ready in case I was tempted.” In fleeing temptation, don’t leave a fowarding address.
3. Temptation Is Winnable: — God promises victory over temptation, if we retreat from it to Him! The “way of escape” is literally “the way out,” by which we escape the clutches of sin. This path God has marked out in Scripture. “The way” to winning over temptation is supervised by God’s providence, so we are not overwhelmed, but it’s our responsibility to recognize it and walk on it.
“The way” is marked by the signposts of Scripture hidden in our heart, which keep us from wanting to sin against God (Psa. 119:11). Keep God’s precious promises in your heart (Psa. 55:22), for He promises that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (Jas. 4:10). On this way of escape, we remember He sees and knows all (Prov. 15:3; Heb. 4:13) and
will hold us accountable for every secret deed (Eccl. 12:14). This is how Joseph overcame sexual temptation with Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:9). We also remember God’s promises to reward us for every act of faithfulness upon overcoming our trials (1 Pet. 1:3-9; Rev. 2:10,11,17; 7:14-17). God’s precious promises help motivate us to move with abhorrence away from sin and to pursue good (Rom. 12:9b), lest we forfeit His favor.
To know this way, which is walking in what’s right, we must memorize and meditate on God’s precepts. This is how we know what to do under pressure. Jesus immediately responded, “It is written...” to Satan’s seductions (Matt. 4:1-11). He quoted the best verse from Deuteronomy to deflect each specific temptation (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Jesus also fixed His mind on Scripture to keep Him firmly on the path to victory, from the temptation to abandon His saving work in Gethsemane to quoting Scripture on the cross (Matt. 26:54; 27:46; Lk. 23:34,46). How many Scriptures do you use when facing temptation?
This way has Jesus coaching us (Heb. 2:18), since His example motivates us (1 Pet. 2:21-23) and His intercession lifts us up (Heb. 7:25). Also, Jesus provides the avenue of prayer which keeps us close to God (Matt. 26:42; Heb. 4:16). Satan is powerless when a child of God is on his knees (Jas. 4:6-10). Prayer connects us to God and deflates the allure of sin.
In facing temptation, it’s easier to stay out than to get out. We can only reject temptation if we accept God’s way of escape.