Jamie Jenkins: Temptation


There are two things you can count on in life besides death and taxes. The first is temptation.

A well known country music song has this petition: "Please help me I'm falling in love with you. Close the door to temptation. Don't let me walk through." The plea for the "door of temptation" to be closed is futile. That door is always open.

Temptation is ever present. No one is exempt. Someone has said that opportunity may knock only once but temptation leans on the door bell. It is not coincidental that the Lord's Prayer includes the request "lead us not into temptation."

I believe that people and steel are alike inasmuch as both are uncertain until they are tested. An old proverb says that you cannot prevent birds from flying over your head but you can prevent them from making a nest in your hair. In other words, you cannot avoid temptation but you do have the strength to resist it.

I agree with Henry Eyring's assertion that "God's purpose in creation was to let us prove ourselves" and we were given "the opportunity to choose against temptation here to prepare for eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God." The gift of free will is one of humankind's distinctive characteristics.

Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of AtlantaFirstBaptistChurch, bemoans what he believes is reality in today's world.  He says, "Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They'll stay faithful as long as it's safe and doesn't involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going."

We are entering the third week of the Lenten season. The forty days leading up to the celebration of Easter is a time of introspection and self denial. A time of spiritual reflection and meditation. As we progress through these days it is a good thing to focus on gaining victory over habits and desires that are detrimental to our well being. That includes everything from unhealthy eating to more serious matters of morality. Confronting our weaknesses and disciplining ourselves to overcome them.

However, make no mistake. It is not easy whether this exercise occurs during this special time of the year or at any other moment of our life. Temptation to "stray from the path" of what we know is good and right is always a challenge. Oscar Wilde was wrong that the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Rather, good habits result from resisting temptation.

Immediately after Jesus' baptism he withdraws to the Judean wilderness for a time of spiritual preparation for all that was ahead for him. God's voice from heaven had proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." His time in the wild allowed him the opportunity to demonstrate how to deal with temptation.

After forty days of fasting he was understandably very hungry. At that point he was tempted to satisfy his own needs, to use his power selfishly, but he refused. Next he was tempted to misuse his privilege and presume on God's protection in a way that would focus attention on himself. Again he refused. The third temptation was to succumb to the opportunity to have unlimited power "at a price." For the third time Jesus refused to compromise his principles (Matthew 4:1-11). He not only demonstrated his ability as the Son of God, he left an example for how we should act when faced with temptation.

Two things you can count on in life. temptation AND the presence and power of God to help you resist and overcome temptation.

Billy Sunday said, "Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in." I believe it is true that "the person who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy person. For once the testing is complete they will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him" (James 1:12).

From Jamie's Blog, Thoughts for Thursday.