Joel Osteen — Resisting Temptation
I want to talk to you today about "Resisting temptation". No matter how good of a person you are, how much you want to do what's right, temptation will come, and it's important to recognize the areas that you're tempted in. It's different for you need to take inventory of your life, be honest with yourself, and say, "Okay, this is an area that I struggle in. This is an area that I need to stay on guard".
What keeps many people from being free is they live in denial. I read where 70% of alcoholics don't think they have a problem with alcohol, and if you're not honest with yourself, it'll be very difficult to be free. You need to know yourself. If you're tempted to watch things that you shouldn't, get it out on the table. Say "God, here's an area that I need to improve in". If you have a problem with being impatient, a problem with spending money you don't have, a problem with drugs or alcohol, the first step to being free is to identify what's holding you back.
You cannot conquer what you will not confront. As long as you're downplaying it, trying to hide it, act like it's not there, it's not going to go away. Ignoring the enemy doesn't make him leave you alone. He already knows the area of your greatest weakness. You should know it as well. Not to go around feeling bad about yourself, but so you can stay and the scripture says in Hebrews: "Let us lay aside the weights and the sin that does so easily beset us". Notice, it says, "The sin". Has one thing they have to specifically deal with. I call it, "A persistent temptation".
Whenever you try to move forward, the same temper, the same self-pity, the same addiction, the same compromise is there to try to hold you back. Some people, every time they're about to be promoted, the same problem with their mouth gets them in trouble, speaking their mind, saying things that they shouldn't. If they would just get honest with themselves and say, "God, this problem with my mouth is so easily besetting me, I'm going to get serious and deal with it". When you get honest, God will help you to come up higher. Don't go the next 20 years letting the same bad attitude, the same temptation, the same compromise.
I know this lady, she was hurt in a relationship. This was more than 20 years ago. This man did her wrong. Now, every time she's about to get serious in another relationship with a good man, a loving man, a kind man, that same fear of being hurt again rises up. The same thoughts, he's going to leave you. You can't trust men. They're all the sin". Until she gets honest and deals with that fear, she's not going to have happy relationships.
What is that one thing that can easily beset you? What is that persistent temptation that you struggle with? Identify what it is, and here's the good news. The enemy doesn't have any new tricks. Once you recognize what that one thing is and learn how to defeat it, you can overcome. 2 Peter 2:19 says: "You are a slave to whatever controls you". You can be a slave to a bad attitude, a slave to worry, a slave to lust, in the scope of your destiny, it's a small thing to let a bad temper control you. It's a small thing to let fear or worry control you. Your destiny is too great. Your assignment is too important. Your future is too bright to let something small hold you back.
You've got to make up your mind, "This is a new day". You're not going to keep giving in to the same old temptations. You know what they are. The enemy doesn't have any new tricks. It's going to be the same thing year after year. But if you'll dig your heels in, put your foot down, the temptation may not go away, but God will give you the strength to overcome it. You don't have to be a slave to self-pity, a slave to a bad attitude, a slave to an addiction. God created us to be free, not partially free, but totally free, and I'm asking us to get rid of that one thing.
I know a pastor friend. When he was 12 years old, he started smoking, hiding in his house, not letting his parents know. By the time he was 14, he was totally hooked, and this young man had an incredible gift to minister. From an early age, he was extremely anointed and powerful, and he could preach he would fill in at the local church. The whole time, he had to hide the fact that he smoked, and his mentor, an elderly gentleman, was the pastor there.
The pastor knew that he smoked, but he didn't condemn him. He didn't chew him out. He simply said, "Son, I believe that God wants to take you a long, long way, and that cigarette sure is a small thing to keep you from where God wants you to go". That one statement broke a stronghold in his mind. He had a new perspective. His attitude was, "My destiny is too great to let something small hold me back". He changed his mind.
When you change your mind, you can change your life, and today, he has a ministry that touches the world. But think about what he could have missed out on if he would have let a small thing hold him back, and whatever that one thing is, maybe pride, jealousy, bad attitude, addiction, it's a small thing to keep you from the amazing future God has in store.
Jesus said in Matthew 26:41: "'Pray that you don't enter into the temptation.'" Notice, he didn't say, "Pray that you'll never be tempted". "God, please, don't let temptations", "God, please, don't ever let me have a wrong desire". That's not realistic. He said, "Pray that you don't enter into the temptation". The reason many people keep giving in to the same thing year after year for his help.
Listen, we can't overcome temptation on our own. You can't resist that desire to compromise all by yourself. We can't break addictions in our own strength. We need God's help, and when you humble yourself and say, "God, I don't want to be__ help me to have a good attitude". "God, my mouth keeps getting me to into trouble. Help me to bite my tongue and not say things that I shouldn't". "God, I don't want to watch the wrong things. I don't want to pollute my mind. God, help me to resist this temptation".
If you ask God to help you, he'll give you the strength to overcome. The scripture says, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". We have good intentions. We want to do the right thing. If you struggle with an addiction, if you could, you would give that up. You would give up being impatient, give up compromising. The spirit is willing, but it's not enough to just have the desire. You have to pray so that your spirit man will get stronger in that area, and if you can get than your outer man, you will resist the temptation every single time.
Here's the key. Don't wait till you're in the middle of the temptation to ask God for his help. Pray ahead of time. If you've got a problem with your temper, when you get up in the morning, before you leave the house, "God, I'm asking you to help me to control my temper today. God, help me to stay calm and not give in to the temptation to get upset". See, don't wait till you're in the heat of the battle and your emotions are high and your passions are out of control. Pray ahead of time. Get your inner man stronger.
Maybe you're trying to lose weight and be more disciplined in your eating. Well, you can't wait till you're at the mall and you smell the cinnamon rolls in the air, and three people walk and your two friends AE going to get a fudge bar. By that time, it's too late. You'll think, "Let me just eat, and I'll repent later". No, pray ahead of time.
When you get up in the morning, "Father, help me to be disciplined in my eating today. God, help me to stay focused". You've got to get and develop this reservoir of strength so when that temptation comes, you're so prayed up, you're so strong, so disciplined, so focused, you'll be able to resist it, and when you know something is going to be more difficult, you need to make sure you get prayed up.
If you come home every Monday stressed out, irritable to your family, then you need to start praying on Friday, on Saturday, and on Sunday, "God, to the pressure to get stressed out on Monday". If you know your mother-in-law's coming in this Christmas, you need to start praying right now, and I have a great mother-in-law. It's the daughter I have a problem with.
If you struggle with depression, don't wait till you've been depressed for 3 days to ask God for his help. No, on your good days, when you're encouraged, when you're happy, the temptation to get depressed. "God, help me to control my thought life and stay happy, hopeful, and positive". Pray ahead of time.
It's like this man I heard about. He said, "God, so far, I've done well today. I haven't lied, cheated, or gossiped. I haven't lost my temper, been rude, grumpy, angry, selfish, or nasty. But God, I'm going to need your help today because I'm about to get out of bed this morning. Pray ahead of time, and God'll help you.
Jesus was about to be crucified. He knew there were difficult times up ahead where he would be tempted to get discouraged and give up. What did he do? He prayed, take this cup from me. But not my will, let your will be done". Here he was, the Son of God, yet he was saying, "Father, I can't do this on my own. I'm tempted to not go through with it. I need your strength". The scripture says, "After he prayed, the angels came and strengthened him". If you will pray and ask God to help you resist, he will send his angels to strengthen you, as well.
This is what David did. Twice in the psalms, he asked God to help him control his mouth. He was focused, disciplined, a great leader, yet maybe this was the one thing that could easily beset him. He said, "God, put a watch over my mouth". He asked God, and God helped him to overcome in that area. "I'm about to be crucified. You're going to be tempted to deny me. Peter, you need to pray so you don't give in to this temptation". Well, it was late in the day. Peter was tired. He didn't feel like praying. Plus, Peter was proud. He thought he could do it in his own strength. He said, in effect, "Jesus, I don't need to pray. I'm your friend. I'm not going to deny you. I'll be with you through thick and thin".
You know the story. A few hours later, when the soldiers questioned him, he denied that he knew Jesus. But I wonder what would have happened if he would have taken time to pray. I wonder, if he'd have just done like David and say, "God, I need your help today," I believe it would have been a different story. If Jesus thought it was necessary to pray and ask God for strength, if he told us to pray so we don't enter into temptation, that tells me this should be and some of you, the only reason you keep giving in to the same thing again and again is you're not asking God for his help.
But when you do like Peter and you think you can do it on your own, God will just step back. But when you humble yourself and say, "God, I need your help today. God, help me to not compromise". "God, help me to not let my eyes wander". "God, help me to be disciplined in my eating". When you ask God for his help, God will send the angels to strengthen you.
I know this young lady, she's been addicted but the last 92 days, she's been clean. That's the longest that she's ever stopped. I asked her how she was doing it, and she told how she got some new friends, got rid of the people dragging her down, got people that'll pull her up, and she quit thinking that she couldn't do it and started saying, "I can do all things through Christ". Then she said, "Joel, I get up every morning and say, 'God, I need you today. I need your discipline. I need your grace. God, help me to resist this temptation.'"
When you acknowledge God as the source of your strength, you will have a power to resist that you've never felt before, and I wonder how much more victory we would walk in if we'd just get up every morning and say, "Father, help me to not lose my temper. God, help me to not compromise. Help me to stand strong". Pray ahead of time. Get your inner man built up, and then number two, very important, don't put yourself in situations where you know you're going to be tempted.
You can't pray and ask God to help you overcome an addiction and then go hang out with people that enable you. The scripture says, "Run from temptation". If you're trying to break that spirit of alcohol, don't go party with your buddies after work. "Well, Joel, I'm just there for the company. I'm just there to visit. I'm not going to drink". No, if you play with fire, you're going to get burned. If you hang around the beehive, you're going to get stung. If you stay at the barber shop long enough, eventually, you'll get a haircut.
Get out of that environment. Run from temptation. If your friends are not going anywhere, find some new friends. If they're pulling you down, you can pray all day long for God to help you, but until you separate yourself, it's not going to do any good.
I read about this young lady. She really liked this young man, but all he wanted to do was party and compromise. He wasn't going anywhere. He didn't have any goals. She tried to get him to come to church again and again, but he wouldn't come. Finally, she looked at him and said, "Listen, if you’re not going to go to Heaven with me, then I’m not going to go to Hell with you.
If you're going to get free and break loose of that one thing that can hold you back, you may have to take what seems like are drastic measures. You may have to change friends if you're going to stay if all your friends run around on their spouse, listen, spirits are transferable. You hang out with them long enough, and you too are going to be tempted to compromise. You hang out with a jealous person long enough, and you'll end up jealous and critical and sour. Put yourself in a different environment.
I know people, the only thing that's keeping them from rising higher, the only thing that's keeping them from resisting that temptation is the people they are choosing to associate with. I learned a long time ago, some people, the less time you spend with them, the better off you're going to be. You have to ask yourself, "These people that are dragging me down, causing me to compromise, are they worth me missing my divine destiny over?"
In the scripture, Joseph worked for a man by the name of Potiphar. He was in charge of his house. He was being his best, minding his own business, but Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph. Day after day, she kept making advances toward him and letting him know that she was interested. But Joseph was a young man of great character. He had great integrity. His attitude was, "This woman is not worth me missing my divine destiny over".
I can imagine, he got up every morning and prayed, "God, help me to stand strong. Help me to resist this temptation". But he not only prayed, the scripture says, "She kept pursuing him, but Joseph did his best to avoid her".
There's another key to resisting temptation. Avoid the wrong people. Avoid the wrong places. Avoid the wrong channels. Joseph went out of his way to stay out of her path. If she came inside, he went outside. If she came outside, he would go run errands. He didn't think, "I'm so strong, I'm invincible". He knew he was fallible, so he did well, one day, it just so happened everybody was gone. Potiphar wasn't there. She came into the room where Joseph was working, grabbed him by the arm, and tried to pull him to her. But the scripture says, "Joseph tore himself away".
Notice the determination. Notice the persistence. He tore himself away, and when he did, she ripped his coat right off of him. He didn't care. He took off sometimes in order to resist temptation, you're going to have to leave your coat. In other words, you may have to give up something to keep from compromising. You may have to give up playing ball with the guys if you can't resist partying with them after the game. You may have to give up working late if there's somebody there that's going to lure you off course. You may have to give up premium cable if you can't stay off the wrong channels. You've got to be willing to leave your coat.
You can't ask God to help you and go sit in the middle of the temptation. You've got to do like Joseph and run from it, and I know, men, it's not very macho to run from a woman, but you've got to do young people, quit worrying about how popular you are, or who's going to accept you, and do what you've got to do. That person at the office that's flirting with you, run from them. Don't play with fire. If they take the elevator, you take the stairs. If they leave at 5, you leave at 5:30. Do like Joseph and avoid temptation. If you're trying to lose weight, stay out of the kitchen. Don't think, "I'm just going to go in here and look at these freshly baked after you eat half of them, you'll go around condemned. Run from it.
Like this lady I heard about. She was on a diet, doing so well. She even changed the route that she used to drive to work so she wouldn't have to go by the bakery that she used to always go in and buy desserts. One day, the roads were closed and she had to go the old way. She said, "Okay, God, you're going to have to help me today. I'm not going to stop unless there's a parking spot right in the front of that bakery". She came home with a big dessert, told her husband, "I couldn't help it. The eighth time around the block, there the parking spot was".
Avoid the temptation. Take a different route. Do what you have to do. Well, you say, "Joel, I'm strong, I'm mature", no, the scripture says, "Take heed when you think you stand lest you fall". The apostle Paul was saying, No matter how strong you think you are, every person, every one of us is capable of giving in to temptation. That's why we need to pray ahead of time and do what we can to avoid it.
Partying with the people after work is not worth you missing your destiny over. Hanging out with the office flirt is not worth you ruining your marriage. Watching things that are questionable is not worth being sidetracked from where God wants to take you, and these temptations look so alluring at first, but they always end in heartache and pain.
I read how an Eskimo used to kill a wolf. He would take his knife blade and coat it with animal blood and let it freeze. Once it froze, he would put another layer, and another, and another, until it was about an inch thick of frozen animal blood, sort of like a Popsicle. Into the woods, put it in the ground handle first with the blade sticking up, and in the night, the wolf, with its sensitive nose, would come by and start licking the frozen animal blood, and the more he licked it, the more he liked it, and faster, so feverishly that he couldn't even feel the sting of the knife slicing his own tongue.
He would go so passionate in the pleasure of the moment, he wouldn't realize the point at which his own blood was now satisfying his insatiable thirst, and by morning time, the wolf would be lying dead in the snow, and many times, these temptations that come to us, they look so appealing, so inviting. We think, "Oh, man, I only live once. It's not hurting anything. Everybody else is doing it". No, don't be deceived. Behind that pleasure there you may not feel it in the beginning.
You know, going out and getting high with some friends at first may feel good, but 20 years later, if you're addicted and lonely and depressed, it doesn't feel good. Playing around while you're married may feel good at first, but later on, when the spouse and the kids, the home's broken up, doesn't feel good. Being dishonest, not having integrity but later on, when the truth comes out, and it always does, it'll put you much further behind. There is a temporary pleasure in giving in to temptation, but I want you to know the pain in the long run will always far outweigh the pleasure.
I've heard it said, "The pain of discipline is temporary, but the pain of compromise is permanent". Well, you say, "Joel, it's hard. It's hard to resist". Yes, it may be hard, but do you know what's harder? Living in bondage. Going around feeling bad about yourself because you know you're so far below your potential. There's nothing worse than going through life with things holding you back that you know you can defeat.
And some of you are struggling with addictions, with wrong mind-sets, with negative emotions. You're allowing something so small to control you. Let me tell you what you already know. You're better than that. You're a child of the most high God. You have royal blood flowing through your veins. Don't you dare settle where you are. You can overcome anything in your life, large or small. It doesn't matter if it's a negative attitude or you're addicted to cocaine, the power in you is greater than the power that is coming against you. You've got "I am better than this. I am not going to settle for mediocrity. I'm going to dig my heels in, focus, discipline, and with God's help, I'm going to resist every temptation. I'm going to break every bondage.
Friends, you are well able. Keep you from the big things God has in store. What is that one thing that could easily beset you? Identify what it is, and then start asking God to help you. Remember, the enemy doesn't have any new tricks. If you'll learn to defeat it today, you can defeat it your whole lifetime, and then, avoid tempting situations. Don't put yourself in a situation where you know you're going to be tempted to compromise. But my declaration today is that we are going out of here free. We are not going to be controlled by a temper, by a drug, by an addiction, by lust, by fear, by worry, by a person. No, every stronghold is coming down. Every bondage is being broken. Every chain is being loosed. You are going to resist temptation and step into a freedom like you've never seen before. I believe it and I declare it over each one of you, in Jesus' name.