Temptation

tempted

Last week I endured the worst bout of temptation I have faced in my life and that is not hyperbole. Perhaps when I was younger I just gave in before it became so strong, but this truly was a painful experience. Let me preface this for you.  One day I was standing on top of a mountain, spiritually speaking, God was close, life was good, and it seemed that temptation would not attack ever again.  I had just made a decision to finish my degree and to devote myself to God’s word and his people, and everything that entails.  I was content, happy and joyful.  Life was great…then God decided to test me.

Overnight, that metaphorical mountain top I was standing on became a darkened valley.  The very next day it felt as if Satan had been given permission to sit beside me, run his fingers through my hair and whisper sweet nothings in my ear:

“You are not worthy. God cannot use you. Remember those old sins? Remember how you broke every command of God? Remember how far you fell? Remember when you were a Sunday Christian? Do you think God would really love you? Remember how good those old sins made you feel? Why don’t you try them again? It won’t hurt anyone. No one needs to know.  Besides God has already forgiven you anyway…just do it.”

And it went on and on and on …and on.  I was so confused.  What was going on in my head? Why was this happening to me?  The temptation to taste from my old “favorite” sins was brought to the fore and was stronger than I had ever felt before, at any time in my life.  It was physically and emotionally painful in resisting.  The temptation was so real it felt almost as if I was sinning again, even though I wasn’t. In the midst of this temptation, I turned to God, and began praying between my confused sobs.  And you know what? God is faithful.  He held my head above water, and lead me through it.  But it was exhausting.

After this battle was over I read about Jesus being tempted by Satan. When Jesus spent the 40 days (and I thought 5 days was bad) in the desert, he had just been on “spiritual high” as well.  His temptation happened after his baptism and the Father’s declaration of “this is my son, with whom I well pleased.” So how did Satan begin his temptation of Jesus? By trying to cause Jesus’ to doubt his Sonship. I found this very similar to my own temptation where he casted doubt on me…”are you not worthy.  God would not love you.” What about you? Has he tried to cause you to doubt your salvation? The fact that Jesus is the Son of God is very clear in scripture and the Father had just proclaimed Jesus as his beloved Son. Satan doesn’t come right out and tell us that God is not real, he tries to make us doubt what God has told us is true.

Satan attacks our Father’s honor and tempts us to doubt God’s providence, faithfulness and call on our life. He attacks us at our only comfort…that I belong in body and soul to Jesus, that I am a coheir with Him to eternal life…He will try to make us doubt…  When we doubt that we are saved, that we belong to Jesus, that leaves us open to further attacks…you know, drink too much, have an affair, look at porn, go to the casino, and when you do, when you give in then you really begin to doubt.  Don’t doubt!  God is faithful and will keep his promises!

So how did Jesus beat Satan? Jesus has complete faith in the Father and trusts in his promises.  That is how he overcomes the temptation. When tempted, we must trust the Father’s words and promises as Jesus did when he was tempted. Something that I experienced during that week, which I “knew” form the Bible, is that Satan only questions the truth. Satan is the father of lies.

After Jesus’ temptation passes, angels came to attend to Him.  I cannot claim that angels came to minister to me, but what I do know is that after the exhaustion, after the pain, after the test, there is rest.  Real rest. There is peace that is so exceedingly profound that  I cannot do it justice with words.  The reality of Christ and the love of the Father are so real, so immense so overwhelming.  By God’s grace I stood this test in the strength that Christ provides.  The glory goes to God alone and the Peace and joy, and certainty of faith flows from him to me.

praying-hand-blackWhy am I telling you this?  Because I want you to know that temptation will come.  I thought I had moved passed that stage of my life, yet I was wrong. And I think that was God’s way of telling me that I will never be passed that stage in my life.  I will never be beyond the need for Him or his promises or his strength. And when temptation comes, and it will, I want you to stand up under it.  God is faithful and he has promised to not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  So please read the Bible and be fervent in prayer.  Learn these truths.  Know what His promises are to us…and when the season of temptation comes (and it will) – you will be able to stand victorious in Christ, and God will be glorified in you.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

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  1. Thea H says:

    I’ve had, off and on, three years of terrible temptation. It started the week my husband passed away. It is very hard to resist, and I have sought my couch with tears many, many times.I have forgotten to turn to Him, and only in my lowest despair do I remember and finally beseech Him to help me. It’s slowly getting better. I no longer feel He is to blame for my sorrows, and I can rejoice that He is every faithful and forgives me each time I fall prey to the temptation to hate Him and my neighbour. It’s a hard fought battle, but one which is sweet to conquer, if we ever do, completely.

  2. jelillie says:

    This is a powerful testimony and devotion. One of the things that helps me stand through temptations is looking beyond to the power that is released by overcoming them. It was after his temptation in the wilderness that Jesus began to minister in power. We too are strengthened in the Spirit’s power when we walk holy before the Lord in the presence of temptation.

  3. Hi Ryan,

    This post brought to mind a quote I came across from a “Puritan Quotations” book:

    “To this we must say that He who promised forgiveness to them that repent has not promised repentance to them that sin.” – Ralph Venning

    God will graciously forgive through Christ any sin that we’ve committed, even sins that we commit thinking, “Oh this is fine; I will just ask for forgiveness later.” But what that quote brings out is the very real danger that comes from willingly committing sin; you may come to the point where you love your sin more than you love the Lord, and you may refuse to repent. Repentance itself is a gift from God, and it should never be taken for granted.

    For myself, this quote has instilled in me a healthy fear of sin’s dark power. It has been a helpful weapon in all manner of temptations. Sin never rests, and even the smallest one desires to grow and corrode our new hearts. It’s best to put up a fight in the first trench, not the last. Encouraging one another in our struggles against sin, as you have done here, is also an excellent help in our weak moments. Being open with each other keeps our hearts soft and sensitive to the will of Christ (Hebrews 3:12-14). Thank you for sharing this.

    Jeremy de Haan

    • Hi Jeremy,
      That is a great quote. Thank you for sharing.
      I have been there, and I am sure we all have, where we think, as you say, “Oh this is fine; I will just ask for forgiveness later.” The apostle Paul addresses this when he asks if we should go on sinning so that grace may abound. God is gracious, but (again as you say) it is best to fight in the first trench rather than the last. I firmly believe that we must be open with other believers, honest about our struggles and seek help, encouragement and prayer from our brethren when we are under temptaion and struggles…and likewise we should be open to supporting them in love, acting as hands and feet to each other. As we all know.. Iron sharpens Iron…

      Thanks for the comment!

      Ryan