Every person is tempted in one way or another; it’s part of being human. But why are Christians tempted? And what should Christians do when they are tempted? The Bible offers examples and suggestions about temptation.
Temptation is Not Sin
Even Jesus, the Son of God, was tempted. But we know that Jesus never sinned, so temptation in itself is not sin. We sin by giving in to the temptation.
Matthew shares how Jesus was tempted: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil … [Jesus] fasted forty days and forty nights….” Notice that the Spirit of God led Jesus to the desert, but Satan is who tempted Jesus. Why would God’s Spirit lead Jesus to be tempted by the devil?
“[Jesus] had to be made like them [humans], fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Jesus was human just like us. When temptation came, would He yield to it or depend on God for strength to resist? Would He submit to the will of God or give in to the temptation? Jesus overcame temptation and sin so that He could help us do the same.
The Origin of Temptation
It’s important to understand where temptation starts. First, know that God doesn’t tempt us. The book of James explains:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”
Satan tempts us; he preys on our own ungodly desires and entices us accordingly. Satan knows our buttons, and he knows which buttons to push to try to get us to sin. James also says, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” When we entertain and think about wrong desires, often we give in to sin which results in spiritual (and sometimes physical) death.
How to Handle Temptation
Satan knows how to tempt us according to the weaknesses of our sinful nature. For example, when Jesus was in the wilderness, He fasted for 40 days. Satan tempted Jesus with food when Jesus was hungrier than He had ever been before.
Likewise, Satan will tempt us when we are weak. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” One of the most powerful things we can do is pray for God to strengthen us to not give in to temptation. Even in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Peter reminds us to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan is on the hunt to kill, to steal and to destroy (John 10:10), and we must be alert to his schemes.
James gives us a great strategy for fighting the devil:
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
We must take an active role when we are being tempted; it’s our job to first submit to God, then we must resist the devil, and then we can expect the devil to back off.
One of the things that can stand in the way of overcoming temptation is pride: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). If we pray and humbly seek God for His strength to overcome temptation, He will help us.
When we ask God in humility to help us stand against temptation, He promises that He will provide a way out — but it’s up to us to choose to take that way out.
Temptation versus Testing
God never tempts us, but He does test us. God tested people throughout the Old and New Testaments. Even Jesus tested His disciples:
“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.”
Sometimes, God will put a test in front of us to see how we will handle it. If you’re a parent, you may know something about this. Maybe you told your child that he couldn’t have candy before dinner, and you left the candy out to see if he would obey you. If he does obey, then your trust in your son increases, and your son is stronger for resisting and doing what is right.
Similarly, God tests our heart and our faith. James explains:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.”
When we are tested, we are forced to depend on God to help us. And when we pass the test, we learn perseverance and develop maturity. First Peter teaches, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Passing the tests brings glory to God!
Likewise, we should never test or tempt God. The religious leaders in Jesus’s day tested him often so they could accuse Him. Additionally, because the Hebrews tested God in the desert, He didn’t allow them to enter the land He promised them.
Rewards for Enduring Temptation
James explains how we are rewarded when we endure temptation:
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
God tests our faith and loyalty to Him; Satan tempts us to betray God and do wrong. But when we resist temptation and pass the tests, God sees that He can trust us to submit to Him and resist temptation. In turn, we mature spiritually and bring glory to our Father.
~ by Jennell Houts