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ONE PROBLEM IN LIFE!
A friend of mine once told me that he had only one problem in his Christian life-temptation.
He was, of course, correct, this is the problem in the Christian life. And for this reason we must know how to handle it.
But, to use Mr. Nixon's phrase, "I want to make one thing perfectly clear." A person who is a Christian does not make a practice of sinning. What we are concerned with are inducements to wander temporarily from the right kind of life. People who still make a practice of sinning do not find temptation much of a problem. Temptation is to them what air is to a bird-the means by which they live in the atmosphere they enjoy. Not so with the follower of Jesus. He knows temptation is like a sniper, bent on blasting him out of blessing.
Assuming, then, that you have joined up with Jesus and want to live the Jesus life, you may find some of the following suggestions helpful.
KEEP AWAY FROM THE OCCASIONS OF TEMPTATION!
There is no doubt that much of the difficulty comes from unnecessary contact with tempting things. A young man may feel very drawn to the world's way. He cannot understand why. The solution is ridiculously simple: On his bookshelves are bawdy magazines and sex-sprinkled periodicals. He cultivates an appetite for questionable movies and suggestive television programs. Small wonder that his present world becomes such a magnet!
Avoiding unnecessary temptation may mean canceling some magazine subscriptions and turning off the tube. It may mean switching off certain types of music, smashing a lot of records, or dropping some old friends.
Whatever is necessary must be done! If not, there is no point in expecting God to help you overcome temptation.
ADOPT THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD TEMPTATION
When unavoidable temptation begins to bug you, the bible says, "consider yourselves fortunate" (James 1:2). At first glance that looks absurd. But it is not. God never allows a temptation without a definite purpose in mind. It is one of the means He uses to allow you to build spiritual muscles.
There is a fanctiful story of a weakling who drank a magic potion which affected him in a marvelous way. Every time he was bumped or struck by someone else, he got stronger. It was so effective that he was soon transformed from Mr. Frail to Mr. Superman.
DO NOT CONCENTRATE ON TEMPTATION
Concentrating on something invariably has the effect of making it appear more powerful than it is. Any young athlete will tell you that the longer he looks at the opponent across the football field the bigger he seems to get.
When you are being tempted about something, it is best not even to talk it over excessively in prayer, because rethinking the matter makes it seem more irresistible.
Then, too, some people talk to others so much about the bad times they are having that the effect is the same. It is right to take your temptations to God and to understand friends. But constantly rehashing them will only make matters worse. Nowhere in the Word of God are we directed to concentrate on temptations.
DO NOT STRUGGLE WITH TEMPTATION
We need to be cautious at this point. The Bible reminds us to resist, pray, and be on guard, but it never suggests we are big enough to win by ourselves.
Remember the story of the self-sufficient rabbit and the tar-baby? Well, in case your mother forgot to include it in your early education, I'll refresh your memory.
This particular rabbit came upon a tar figure on a stick, put up by a farmer as a kind of scarecrow. When the black creature refused to engage in conversation, the rabbit felt insulted enough to whack him. Of course he stuck fast. This made him still madder, so he used another paw, and another, until he was thoroughly entangled in the sticky stuff and finally unable to move. The illustration may sound juvenile, but the lesson is unmistakable. Christians very often do the same thing with their temptations. As long as a believer wrestles on willpower alone, he is certain to lose the match.
DO NOT BLAME THE DEVIL FOR YOUR TEMPTATION
When this statement first found its way into print, I received a letter from a lady who said it confused her. You may feel the same way. This confusion is understandable, and I a0ppreciate the need for clarification.
We are not suggesting that the devil is not the original tempter. We do not imply that temptation comes from God. All we say is Satan does not pay us as a personal visit each time we sense the pull toward sin. He is chief of God's enemies, but he cannot be present in all places at all times. It is highly unlikely that the most of us will ever be confronted by Satan in that completely personal way. If we attribute every temptation to a special visit from the Prince of Darkness, the trial will look insurmountable. Further, pointing the finger at the devil shifts the responsibility away from ourselves, and suggests we are simple pawns of the enemy and not really to blame for our actions.
It is much more accurate to describe temptation the way God does. He tells us, "A person is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire" (James 1:14).
OVERCOME EACH TEMPTATION BY FAITH!
The Book does not say, "The life that I now live I live by struggling, striving or straining." It says I live "by faith."
Every brick the adversary throws can be deflected by one thing only: faith in Jesus. Nobody claims it is always easy, but we insist it is always effective. It works, because it's God's way of doing it.
I know it sounds too simple. Maybe that's why it is too seldom tried.
All right, what is faith? It is immediate confidence in Christ. On the spot, when the pressure to do the wrong thing is squeezing the breath out of you, throw yourself on Jesus. Victory then is in His hands. The overcome is sure!
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