Overcoming Temptation

By J. L. Leifeste

by Building and Using a More Mature Faith

To “tempt” means to urge, provoke, or attract someone to do wrong. Temptation to sin is a snare from Satan and a danger to the soul of each of us. Because Satan is obstinate and persistent, every living human being faces temptation every day. It often falsely appears as something we need or as a pure, sweet enjoyment. But our yielding to temptation will bear a rotten, and ultimately bitter, fruit of sin (James 1:14-15). Deception is one of Satan’s tools (Gen. 3:4-5; Jn. 8:44). We must be constantly alert to temptation and to the possibility of falling into sin (1 Cor. 10:12). Fighting temptation is both an obligation and a necessity. God desires us to resist it to the best of our ability. Each of us must do that for the survival of his or her soul (Rom. 6:12-14). If we submit to temptation, we will face a higher frequency of future temptations and a larger variety of them. Submitting to temptation also weakens our spiritual stamina so that we will surrender much quicker and commit sin.

None of us, alone, can withstand the attack upon his or her soul. We require the grace of God in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:1-10) which includes the forgiveness of our past sins. In order to receive that gift, to be “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” we must obey the gospel of Christ (2 Thess. 1:8) — become Christians. It must be done in accordance with New Testament commands and examples. See Acts 2:14-39; 16:31-34; 22:12-16; Matt. 28:18-19; Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 10:10-17; Gal. 3:26-27; Heb. 5:8-9;11:6.

As Christians, we do a better job of standing against the forces of evil by developing and using a more mature faith. From Psalm 119, along with many New Testament verses, the following five methods can help us to do so.

1. Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). We build and use a more mature faith by studying the Word of God.

How can we fully understand our needs and what God expects of us unless we study? For example, notice mankind’s drastic situation and God’s remedy in Rom. 3:23; 6:3-11. Through such scriptures, we identify the meaning of our existence. The scriptures tell us of our condition and how it can be improved. Study opens our minds to that which God requires of us (Rom. 12:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). Through study, we can find what God has given us for our own needs and for the needs of others (Ps. 119:105; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet. 1:16-21).

Studying the Bible also fills a mental storehouse of scripture that gives each Christian quick, necessary energy and encouragement when facing the clever attacks of Satan (2 Tim. 3:15; 1Pet. 3:15).

And through study, we gain a stronger hope and a maturing faith, which are essential for spiritual survival (Matt. 7:21; Rom. 15:4; Col. 3:23-24; 1 Jn. 5:13). “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you” (Prov. 2:10-11).

2. “I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Your word” (Psalm 119:101). We build and use a more mature faith by developing self-discipline.

This means we control body and mind to follow God’s will. In becoming a Christian, we become a new person. We must no longer travel the pathway of sin (Matt. 7:13-14). Separated from the former life that stood contrary to God, we must now be devoted to living as God commands (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:1-17). All our actions should show that we offer ourselves willingly and faithfully so that each deed pleases God (1Thess. 5:21-22; Gal. 5:16-25; 6:10). We should control our thoughts and not stray to ungodly desires. We must alter our ideals and urges so that we are led by spiritual concerns (Rom. 12:2, 9; Col. 3:1-3).

We should make repetition a part of our self-discipline. Practice improves abilities. Therefore, repeatedly resisting temptations makes us stronger in fighting off Satan’s attacks. Since he is such a cruel and deceitful adversary, we must be sober-minded and ever watchful. We must build Christian attitudes and vigilance. We do not want to be caught by surprise, deceived by evil, and fall into sin (Titus. 2:11-13; 1 Pet. 5:8-9; 2 Pet. 3:17).

Developing self-discipline shows our isolation from the worldly, evil life and helps us grow in spiritual stability (1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:11). Powerful, firm self-discipline is crucial to the maturity of our faith (1 Pet. 3:10-12).

3. “Let my supplication come before You; deliver me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:170). We build and use a more mature faith by praying to God.

A mature faith is impossible without prayer. Our prayers should be honest and confident, without pretense, embarrassment, or doubt. Prayer will accomplish much. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). He told His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Since we are calling upon the almighty heavenly Father, there is much power in prayer.

At the same time, we are using our faith. See James 5:16; 1 Jn. 3:22; 5:14-15. By praying, we organize our spiritual goals and gather spiritual resources. We become more aware of our human frailty and our dependence upon, and love for, God. The heavenly Father knows our needs (Matt. 6:8), but we are commanded to pray (1 Thess. 5:17-18; Col. 4:2). Praying is part of a working faith. Prayer helps fulfill a need in mankind. Man needs to talk to his Creator. It is also part of continual worship.

Through our prayers, we strengthen ourselves against sin. From our prayers, God strengthens us against both committing sin and being tempted. Frequent prayer is both a cause of a more mature faith and a product of a mature faith. Christians must pray often (1 Thess. 5:17).

4. “I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:63). We build and use a more mature faith by having the right associations.

Our companions will influence us toward good or evil. Our closest friends should be Christians who faithfully practice their belief with determination. We have been separated from the deadly, sinful life of this world (Eph. 2:1-10). We must not cooperate with evil works (Eph. 5:11); we must resist being closely connected to ungodly persons (2 Cor. 6:14-18; Phil. 2:15). Relationships should be stronger between us and our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ than between us and non-believers. Also, any association between a Christian and a non-Christian should be one in which the Christian exercises more influence to help bring the lost person to Christ. We must remember the dangers in having very close relationships with unbelievers and false teachers. Their influences will try to pull us away from God. The language is clear in 1Cor. 15:33, saying, “Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.’” It takes very little relaxing of our spiritual defenses for our faith to suffer (Gal. 5:9).

A mature faith establishes the strongest relationships among brothers and sisters who are devoted to Christ (Rom. 12:9-10). Associating with faithful Christians gives us a foundation for more trust. It helps us through difficult and trying times. And it helps us influence each other in good, Christian attitudes and actions. See Eph. 4:15-16, 25-5:2; Col. 3:12-17; Heb. 3:12-14; 10:23-25.

A mutual faith gives us a strong, mutual bond and a fundamental, mutual interest. It is essential that we center our associations among steadfast believers for the cultivation of a mature faith.

5. “I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies; for all my ways are before You” (Psalm 119:168). We build and use a more mature faith by becoming involved in the Lord's work.

Physical work is an essential activity of the human adult. It is necessary for food, clothing, a home, and all other honest, physical acquisitions. Good, fair labor also usually brings knowledge, experience, satisfaction, and better health to the laborer. Building a mature faith requires work of a spiritual nature. Therefore, spiritual work will supply knowledge, experience, satisfaction, and better health for the soul of each of us.

We must also realize that we are commanded to work. The great commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16) is the responsibility of every Christian. So, although we must be careful with non-Christian relationships, we must also show Christian love [care and kindness] for everyone. We must spread the gospel message to all mankind (Mk. 12:30-31; Luke 6:27-38; 24:46-47; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Thess. 5:15; 2 Tim. 2:24; 2 Pet. 3:9).

From a study of the gospels, we discover evidence of the need to be active for Christ. Some parables point out that we must work in His kingdom (His church). See Matt. 13:18-23; 13:33; 25:14-30. There are many examples of Jesus being pleased with people who exhibited their faith. One example is found in Luke 7:45-48. And in John 15:1-6, Christ declares that the branches (members of His body) must produce fruit or be destroyed. The time is always ripe for the Lord’s work (Jn. 4:35).

The directions of 1 Cor. 15:58 are definite and easily understood. We should be steadfast and possess an unshakable faith. We should be continuously productive in the work of the Lord. And every Christian should show a special godly love for fellow Christians.

Active participation in worship to God is also a part of the Christian’s work (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-29; 14:15; 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19-20).

To have a mature faith, and to use it against temptation, we must work for the Lord.

Sin is a condition which each person enters into voluntarily. We can gain the power and knowledge to resist temptation and avoid sin by building and using a more mature faith. Five basic methods, listed above, which help us toward a more mature faith are: study, discipline, prayer, correct associations, and involvement in the church and its work. In our resisting temptations, Satan flees from us (James 4:7). We must also remember that there will always be a way to escape any lure of Satan which besets us (1 Cor. 10:13). Temptation is an event of conflict and misery for the human spirit. But Jesus Christ gives us relief from that misery as well as assistance to resist the enticement (Heb. 2:18). Through the grace of God, our primary tool against Satan is in turning the words of the New Testament into the actions of our lives.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:10-18).