Charles Stanley — Dealing With Temptation Wisely
Temptation is a part of life. Everywhere you turn, people are being tempted to do this and tempted to do that and tempted to do the other, and usually defending their actions. All the way back in the Garden, Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and what did they do? They blamed each other. And all the way to the presence of the New Testament, Jesus finds Himself being tempted by the devil, but each time victorious. The Apostle Paul gave us a statement as he wrote to the Corinthian church that is probably the most powerful verse of scripture in all the scriptures, in all the New Testament and all the Old Testament, when it comes to being tempted.
So I ask you this question. What is the most powerful temptation you face in your life today? That is, what's the thing that really gets to you? The thing that really gets your attention; the thing that grabs you; the thing that makes you find yourself living in disobedience to Almighty God. Have you ever thought about what your particular weaknesses are? You say, Well I don't have any. Here's one you have, you're totally deceived, because there's no such thing as no one not having any weaknesses at all. We may have to learn to deal with them and may have learned to deal with them, but are they there? Are you temptable? Yes. The person who thinks they are not is gone for sure, you will be.
So what does the Word of God say about temptation? We've been talking about wisdom, living either foolishly or wisely, and the trials of life. Now what about wisdom for the temptations of our life? I want you to turn if you will to First Corinthians chapter ten, verse thirteen. This verse says it all in behalf of a child of God. It's a verse you need to teach your children, teach your grandchildren. It's a verse all of us need to have as a part of our defense against Satan because no one is beyond temptation. Listen to what he wrote to the Corinthian church; and he wrote it; and remind you of this. Somebody says, Well, all these scriptures of what was written to somebody else. Watch this carefully. Written to them, but also written for us. This is God's Word and He has not changed.
Listen. Verse thirteen, "No temptation," now what is no? What does that mean? Not any, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man," that is, everybody's been tempted by many, many things, "And God is faithful". Look at that, "Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able," that is, what you're able to deal with. He set a limitation on our temptations, "But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also". So look at it, "No temptation has," ever come your way, "has overtaken you but such as is common to man," everybody's felt it, "and God is faithful". He doesn't changed, "who will not allow you," puts a limit on it, "not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you will be able to endure it".
Now for the unbeliever, that won't work. He's writing to believers. You don't have the promise that God's going to help you in time of temptation if you have rejected His Son, who is the source of all of the good things that come our way; the source of our salvation and the source of our strength day by day through His indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. You can't use that verse. But this verse should be a part of your daily life. It should be a part of your armor; a part of that wall of protection that you use daily whenever temptation comes your way. So what I'd like for us to do first of all in order to deal with temptation, there are certain things we need to understand. And if you're going to deal with it wisely.
And here's the first thing. We need to understand what it is. If somebody said to you, Well, what is temptation anyway; you can give them this simple brief, definition. A temptation is an enticement to disobey God, to rebel against Him and have it our way. So, that's what it is. Now let's ask, What is the source of this temptation, whatever it may be? Well first of all, it's not from God. We just read a few moments ago, he said in this passage, he says, "No temptation has taken 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 and give you a way of escape". If God was a part of a temptation, that verse wouldn't be there. And the scripture says that God tempts no man.
So our temptation is not from God. So we have to ask ourselves, Where does it come from? And the Bible says that Satan is the tempter. He's the one who tempts us to be disobedient to God. Now, we need to understand the very nature of temptation if we're going to deal with it wisely. And you notice what he said in the passage, It's common to everyone. Every person is going to be tempted by something. The tragedy is most people don't understand what their weaknesses are. Satan is going to tempt you with where you're temptable.
So we all have areas of weakness in our life, or at least have had, or it may be there now, even now, where Satan is going to attack. He's not going to attack you someplace that you have no desire for something whatsoever. He's going to strike at this heart, at the heart of your relationship to God. Whatever it will take to bring you, listen, in a situation with God that you're living in disobedience, that's what his goal is. His goal is to get you out of the will of God to do whatever will bring you pleasure for the moment as a substitute of the love of God and being obedient to Him.
Now, we need to clear up some false ideas about temptation because people do have false ideas. And they'll say, Well, you know, I'm really in sin against God because I've been tempted. Watch this carefully. You listening? Say amen. You better listen to all of this. A temptation within itself is not a sin. If it were, Jesus would have sinned. He was tempted in the wilderness. Three times Satan attacked him and he did not sin. Did He think about it? He had to think about it because He gave a very rational, godly response. So did He sin? Absolutely not. To be tempted is not a sin; because what happens in a temptation, the thought comes in the person's mind.
Now watch this carefully. So God has so worked in our lives, we have the privilege of making a decision. When temptation comes, the very thought of it, you have the privilege of making a decision. I'll hold this and just think about it and consider it. Listen. That's all Satan wants. He just wants you to hold, just, just for a moment so that you'll begin to think about, Ohhh, how would this be? This would be fantastic. This will bring me lots of pleasure; la-da-da-da-da. Because that's the beginning of the end for you. So remember this, that being tempted itself is not a sin. It's what we do with it. And you see, the truth is the more godly you become and the more desire you have to live a godly life and to be the person God wants you to be. The stronger that desire, the more Satan's going to work on you. That's why you have to build this wall of defense, because he's there. If you're just doing what everybody else does and piddling at this and that, he knows he's going to get you.
When you decide, I'm going to live a sanctified life, that doesn't mean you're going to be sinless. But it means you're going to live a life honorable before God; obediently walking before Him; trusting Him; relying upon Him; quick to discern in your mind and heart what is a danger thought or a danger place for you to be. Being tempted ought to be an alarm. Watch this, careful, look where you're headed, look who you're listening to. Look what they're saying. Ask the question, Is it worth the price you're going to pay? So, God isn't displeased. He's there to help us and here's what He said in this passage of scripture. He says that He, "will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we're able".
So you, listen. As a believer, you have in you the Holy Spirit of the Living God, who is there to protect you, to bring to your mind that what you're facing is disobedience to God; and that there are consequences to this. It'll get you out of the will of God onto your own path. There are disastrous consequences. God does His divine best to protect us in times of temptation. So we can't blame it on God. Well God made me do it. No, He didn't. So what we have to do is to build our defenses, so that no matter what he fires at your heart; no matter what he throws into your mind; no matter what he presents before you, you don't have to yield. And I think we have to get that in our minds. I don't have to. Ohhhh, but I couldn't help it. God, it was so strong, Lord, I just absolutely could not resist. Well you can't resist when it comes through?
You see, watch this. As soon as it hits, that's your alarm, let it go. Did you hear that? Does that all the amen I get? Amen! Did you hear that? As soon as that thought hits you, what? You let it go. If you say, Well, now I don't think this, Mm-mm-mm; you're going in the wrong direction. Listen to this. You can't get in an argument with the devil. You know what to do. The answer is no to sin. And many people have found themselves living in a life of disobedience, persuaded by their friends that will say, Well that's not too bad. That's not going to hurt you. Nobody's perfect. Let's just agree, nobody's perfect. Correct. You know what that also means? That every body is vulnerable to Satan's attacks. Therefore, we have to build around us a wall of protection that begins, first of all, with my deciding to let that thought go right on through and not stop it and find myself in problems.
Consequences, let's just say that word together. Consequences. Let's say it together. Consequences. The devil does not want you to think about consequences. It's a decision we make. So, there are certain things we need to do. What do we do? We've sort of analyzed what it's about, now what are we? First of all, we take responsibility for our temptation. Lord, I'm responsible for letting it get into my mind and heart. If I'm going to be victorious over temptation, I have to accept the fact that I am personally responsible for what I believe and what I think, and what I allow in my life. And as long as you're blaming somebody else, what you're doing is you're keeping the door open for Satan. Satan says, He made you do it. She made you do it. If this hadn't happened, mm-mm. You don't get in a conversation with the devil, because you will lose. Your conversation should be when the thought comes, that doesn't fit who I am. I choose not to do that. And I do not want the consequences of what I know that will bring, end of conversation.
Then I think also, we're responsible for our defense. In other words, if I'm going to be tempted and I can have a defense, then I'm responsible. So, we focus on the big picture. So when you're tempted, this is his little picture. This is how pleasurable this can be; this is how profitable this is. Everybody's doing this. This is perfectly all right. That's the little picture. Here's the big picture. Big picture, this can destroy my life. Big picture, this is not who I am. Big picture, do I want those consequences in my life? When you begin to ask legitimate questions that are very important, you don't want the consequences of that in your life. And see, we said it before, he wants you to focus on the possible pleasure.
Isn't it interesting, watch this, you name it, any pleasure or profit Satan brings to your mind is only temporary. Consequences are lasting. That's why he doesn't bring that up. So we have to be careful about that. And, if you think about what's in the big picture; God always has the best for His children. And He does not want you and me suffering the consequences of sin. So the truth is, He's made it very simple how we deal with it. We stop it as soon as it hits our mind and our thoughts. And we identify the area of our which we may be the most prone to weakness. Let's say that you're a person, you grew up and you didn't have much in your life and you've always wanted a whole lot. You drive this, live there and all these things and so that's sort of down in there. You just sort of came up with that.
So Satan knows that. Well, what we have to ask is, we say, Well, what are the areas of temptation and why are they there? Not blaming God, so, how do I deal with these things? And so I identify those areas of temptation. Now watch this. Another thing you build into your wall is this. When you get tempted, you visualize yourself doing the right thing. Otherwise, when that temptation comes and you grab it, you think, Ohhh, mm-mm-mm, no. You visualize yourself as doing the right thing. And you do that before the temptation comes. That when temptation comes, I'm going to do the right thing. That's who I am. That's my way of life. That's the Christ whom I serve. He promised to enable me to do the right thing.
And so, what you do is you visualize yourself doing the right thing. If you visualize yourself, for example, I'm going to do this better. It's amazing how God uses the right kind of thoughts to strengthen us or to make us look better; to do better whatever we're doing. So if you're visualizing doing the right thing, what happens? Your whole system goes into action to help you to do the right thing. If you see yourself as lustful; you see yourself as willing to violate His will and His laws to get what you want, that's exactly what you'll do.
Then think about it in this way. Make yourself accountable to a friend. Now this is dangerous. You've got to have a friend in whom you trust to be confidential, and there may not be many of those, so that when you find yourself being tempted, you call that friend and say, I just want to tell you that right now I need some help. I need for you to pray for me, or whatever it might be. And oftentimes a friend who may have been in a situation you're in or maybe has not; but somebody that you can talk to who will encourage you and do what? Just remind you of the things that we've talked about. That person may say to you, Do you want the consequences of that? You know what the consequences of that will be. Is that the consequences you want in your life?
And sometimes we need to hear the voice of a friend remind us of what is true and real. Then I'll put it this way. You will not be able to defend yourself against satanic attacks if you ignore the Word of God. You won't. This is why the best way to build that defense is in the mornings when you get up, make it one of the first things you do is get in the Word of God. Somebody says, Well I don't have time to read the Word of God. Then you know what? You just opened the door to the devil; because you said, I don't have time to hear God this morning. Well listen, think about who's listening to that and who's ready to attack you.
That's why, and I say it every Sunday, you need to read the Word of God. And I don't mean that, that you need to just say, Well, I'm going to find me, around and get you two or three verses that you know real well; read those and take off. That's not building a defense. That's building chicken wire, that's what that is. You want a fence that is filled with steel, concrete, there to stay. Without the Word of God, you're not going to be able to resist him. And the next thing is you've got to make prayer a vital part of your life.
Now let me talk about something about prayer here for a second. People say, Well I pray. Well, tell me about your prayer life. Well, in the mornings when I get up, you know, I just say, God, help me today. And I think about things I need to pray for, so on my way to work I just talk to God about that. Is that right? Suppose you treated your wife or your husband that way. Now many people do. To talk to God and for God to listen to me, I don't need to have my hands on the steering wheel, doing eighty miles an hour, trying to keep from having an accident and praying, God, now Lord, You know my kids today and this, that and the other.
You, let me ask you a question. What is more important than... we're talking about how God thinks. What is more important than spending some time between you and the heavenly Father to guide you this day; to help you, to strengthen you, to make you alert; and to make you strong before the things that Satan's going to throw at you today. Taking time to get into fellowship with Him. If you just hop in, out of the bed and into the shower, into your clothes, into the car and into work, where's God? And so what have you done? You've sort of worn out your strength areas and just made yourself weak. Nobody likes to think, Well I'm on my way to work and I left God back at home. No. You don't spend any time in prayer; you don't spend any time in the Word of God; and you are sunk. Satan will get you if you ignore the Word of God.
You say, Well how much do I have to read? God'll show you that. You say, Well shall I have favorite passages? Absolutely. Will God hear my prayer? Yes, He will. If you're one of His children, He will listen to you. But if you don't give Him time to speak to you. You say, Well I go to church on Sunday. Well that's not enough. You've got six other days you're under attack. You, in other words, this Book must become the guidebook in your life. Now you have to decide if you will live your life victoriously, positioning yourself to receive the best of God's blessings all the days of your life. You need to learn how to deal with temptation.
Now you may be listening, or you may be watching and you're saying, Well now, I'm not even a Christian. Well let me just tell you this. You don't have a chance. You don't. Only when you receive Christ as your Savior; and the Holy Spirit comes into your life to dwell, to abide, to give you guidance and direction; and to strengthen you and to empower you to say "no" when you need to say no. Apart from Him, you're not going to make it; because it's just you against this awesome, terrible, hostile, satanic power that all of us have to deal with.
When you trust Him as your Savior, you have the Spirit of God within you. Then when you hear the principles of the Word of God; then when you begin to apply them to your heart, He will empower you and enable you to live above it; and to be victorious and to overcome it, no matter what. And that's a choice we make. And my prayer is that you'll make that choice, asking the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins; surrendering your life to Him; acknowledging you can't do it. Look at the consequences of your life of disobedience. It's going to get worse, not better. And if you'll trust Him, you'll be amazed how much better it can get.
Father, how grateful we are, You've not left us on our own. But You've given us the Holy Spirit to live within us, to enable us, to remind us, and to give us those warnings when thoughts are coming our way that don't belong to who we are. I pray, Father, sink these truths deep into the heart and life of every person who hears them. And give them hope and confidence and assurance they do not have to be defeated. Victory and defeat are choices we make. And I pray that they'll make the right choice. In Jesus' name, amen.