By Van Richmond
Pastor, New Life Church, Nashville
Focal Passage: Genesis 39:3-12
The Temptations were a hit Motown vocal group in the 1960s and 1970s. “The Temptations” could also describe the difficult battles every believer faces daily. Sunday School teacher Clara Noll had just finished a lesson on Christian behavior. “Now, Billy,” she asked, “Tell me what we must do before we can expect to be forgiven for our sins.” Without hesitation, Billy replied, “First we gotta sin!”
The temptation to sin is exactly where our troubles begin. It has been said that the trouble with trouble is that it usually starts out as a whole lot of fun. James 1:14 (HCSB) describes the process well in saying, “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.” When Potiphar’s wife repeatedly attempted to seduce him, Joseph ran headlong into an enticement that would have been both flattering and appealing for a young man.
What options are there for overcoming temptation? First and foremost, expect to be tempted. Your spiritual maturity, memorization of Scripture verses, or prayer life will not surround you with a Star Trek-type impenetrable force field. Those powerful tools do serve as sentries that sound the alarm of “Incoming!” but temptations will inevitably slip through your defense system. Getting overconfident about our immunity to temptation just causes Satan to smile gleefully. We all have a tendency toward sin; expect to be tempted.
Since we know mankind’s weak nature causes us to be attracted to sin like a paper clip to a magnet, we must be diligent about avoiding the places, situations, or things that tempt us. If one of those three suddenly finds you, get out fast. Joseph ran away as quickly as possible, and we are given similar guidance. Paul instructed believers to “run away” from sexual sin, the worship of idols, the desire to become rich, and the evil that young people pursue (I Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; I Timothy 6:9-11; II Timothy 2:22 NCV). The Bible does not instruct us to fight against temptation. Let’s face it, when it comes to standing up to sin, we are like the scrawny kid getting sand kicked in his face by the beach bully. Paul was adamant that we, like Joseph, should turn and run. And when you run, run to God.
I Corinthians 10:13 (CEV) provides incredible comfort in saying, “God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations.” He mapped out two escape routes that are always available: prayer and His Word. I Chronicles 16:11 guides us to “Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always.” When facing temptation, use both routes by praying diligently and by quoting Scripture against the attractive bait that conceals Satan’s dangerous hook.
Recognize that succumbing to a fleeting desire affects God, you, and other people. E. Stanley Jones shared the story of a government employee in India whose work involved much travel. He became unfaithful to his wife. Being a sensitive man, he could not live with himself and decided to confess to her. With agonizing awkwardness the man divulged the whole story. When the words began to sink in, his wife turned pale, shook with grief, and collapsed. “In that moment,” confessed the offender, “I saw the meaning of the cross. I saw love crucified by sin.”
One episode of the NBC television program, “Real People,” showed a package that had been sent to a person in prison. The package was “returned to sender” with this dramatic message stamped on it: “Escaped: Left No Forwarding Address.” When we escape from the imprisonment sin creates, we must leave no forwarding address for temptation. Overcome “The Temptations.” “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14 RSV).