I am often tempted by the desire to have just one more piece of chocolate. I might also speak of temptation, as my inability to resist a delicious looking dessert. However, in such matters as these, modern man has trivialized the word “temptation” in our language and culture by referring to it as something that is naughty but not serious. The Bible always speaks of temptation as a very serious matter because it is the wish to oppose the moral law of God in act or attitude.
An extra piece of chocolate pie may really be a problem for me (sin of gluttony). Everyone who loves to watch the Food Channel, however, may see it only as a small temptation (or peccadillo) and certainly not the want to rebel against God. Richard Sibbes makes an important point when he writes, “Satan gives Adam an apple, and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.” Temptation offers the illusion of happiness but its consequences yield only torment.
We all are tempted, but we should never treat temptation in a light or frivolous manner. Temptation is serious! Jesus told his disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Once we yield to temptation, it grows in power. Another reason that makes this difficult is that we don’t want to discourage temptation completely. We want to play around its edges as a small boy plays with fire. We deceive ourselves into believing that we can play carelessly in the flames and not be burned.
Paul writes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) If you honestly and firmly decide to do your best to avoid temptation and pray with all your heart for God’s deliverance, He is faithful to give you the means to stand against Satan’s clever devices.
If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God will help you resist the temptation to sin. However, if you are a Christian who does not daily strengthen himself in the disciplines of Christ – you will be weak when temptation comes upon you. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:12-16 ESV)