Whenever the word temptation is mentioned, what pops up in your head?
Sometimes, you think of the image of a bitten apple or a snake. This is as a result of the events in the garden of Eden. Other times, the image of Jesus after his fast comes to mind. The devil is quite prolific in both images.
Both instances have a similarity — the first being the first men on earth, and the second being the first of God’s sons.
What is Temptation?
Temptation is the intentional enticement of a person, by some bait—usually pride, always self-gratifying—to disobey God’s revealed Word. The predicate may be demonic or fleshly, but the object is always the distortion of God’s word and the defiance of God’s mission in the world.
Temptation in lay terms would refer to seduction to sin, where man has a choice, either to fight off temptation or to yield to it.
There are times the term “temptation”, can be used wrongly for “test.” In simple bible understanding, tests are from God to strengthen and to produce the desired result, while temptations are from the devil, and they have to be overcome by the believer.
The Original Sin
The first image that comes to mind when the word temptation is mentioned, is the image of a bitten apple and a snake. This is a representation man’s first sin —the original sin.
What do we know about this original sin?
It has been termed by various sources as the state that man is born into. This, when a man is said to be born in sin Psalm 51 v 5, it is as a result of this.
The original sin is found in Genesis 3. It explains the fall of man. Eve’s temptation by the snake (Satan) into eating the forbidden fruit, and she, in turn, convincing Adam into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good also. As a result, they fell from a state of oneness with God.
The first men failed in resisting the enticement the devil, and as a result, doomed all of mankind. They were the first set of people to ever be tempted. Jesus was later subjected to a number of allures from the devil and he emerged victoriously. His victory was also a victory for the whole of mankind.
Types of Temptation
It comes in various forms. There are enticements that only occur to certain sets of people. For example, an unemployed person cannot be tempted to take a bribe for a promotion. There are enticements that are common to all men; these tend to affect the natural senses of man. There are other forms of temptation which would be discussed subsequently.
- Natural Temptation – Every human has natural needs. These are things that are needed for basic living —food, water, shelter, clothing, sex and a lot more. This needs and desires are not bad in themselves. Regardless, they can be used as instruments of temptation.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man”.
The bible clearly states that our temptations are usually a result of things common to us. An example that can be easily related to, is that of obesity. Food is good, but being tempted to eat more than necessary causes obesity.
- Situational Temptation– This type only occurs under certain organized conditions. It is easy to draw such an example from the story of Joseph. He had gained Potiphar’s trust and had been elevated into Potiphar’s house. Joseph was then put in a situation where Potiphar’s wife desired for him to be tempted by her.
- Isolation Temptation – Many believers who have failed to grasp the strength in the fellowship of the brethren are victims of this. This sort of allure occurs when a believer stays in isolation and does not build up his mind through interaction with other believers. The devil uses times of loneliness to attack and tempts the believer. The believer in his lonely state has little or no will to resist the attacks of the devil.
- Reoccurring Temptation – Many believers are assaulted with this kind of bait. At workplaces where there are constant and repetitive temptations from senior colleagues, or in traffic where the average driver seems to be the carrier of vile words. This sort of temptation is always reoccurring. If proper care is not taken, it could wear a believer’s strength. This sort of temptation can also be viewed from the angle of people recovering from addictions. Over and over again, their senses are assaulted with the vices they are trying to break away from. It takes grace, trust and proper company to help people in such positions.
Other types include the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life as stated in 1st John 2:16. This forms of temptation could be gleaned through the temptation of Jesus.
Sources of temptation
In understanding the sources of temptation, it would be of benefit to address them from two points of view. Where it comes from, and the stimulating factors.
Where does temptation come from?
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted. with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:13-16)
This verse quite simply makes it clear, that temptation cannot be from God, at least not in the sense of causing a person to sin. The question then is where does come from?
- It comes from the world – there are decoys that come from the world. Many times, believers are tempted by people of the world, because they are believers. The journey of a believer has never been said to be hitch-free, and even Jesus was tempted by people of the world. Many of the questions posed to Jesus by the Pharisees and the Sadducees where aimed at tempting Jesus into committing errors. They wanted something that they could hold against him through his answers. The situation is quite the same with believers now, and temptation from the world would always be around.
- It comes from the flesh. – As it has been pointed out under the natural type of temptation, one major source of temptation is our own flesh, our bodies and our desires cause us to be tempted.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:14)
- It comes from the devil – The devil himself seeks the downfall of believers. When Jesus was tempted after he had fasted for 40 days and nights, it was the devil that tempted him.
A few things can be understood from this truth. First, Jesus was not above temptation. Second, the devil can tempt any believer, irrespective of their status. Jesus was the son of God, yet he was still tempted. Finally, the devil can bring temptation to the believer at any moment, either when he feels strong or not. Jesus had just finished a spiritual exercise, yet the devil still came.
In addressing the Stimulating factors, there are two divisions. These are the internal stimulus, and the external stimulus. It is important to note that the previous category can be fitted into either the Internal or External Stimuli.
- Internal Stimulus. – The Internal Stimulus tends to deal with allures that come from within. Your thoughts, and the workings of your mind. Often times, our lusts, and the devil’s temptations come in this format. When a man has a natural desire for women, his thoughts can wander, and he would be tempted into pornography.
- External Stimulus. External stimulus tends to deal with allures that come from the environment and the people around. The temptations from the world often fit into this category.
It is important to keep in mind that there are times when the lust of a person would come under the external stimulus. An example would be food. Being tempted into gluttony could first start from either a thought (internal) or the sight of food (external.)
How to overcome temptation.
1. First, identify that Temptation is inevitable – It is self-deceit to believe that Jesus was tempted, yet you as his follower you would not be. Many believers do not recognize this truth; as a result, they are unprepared when they get tempted.
2. Prepare your mind for temptation – A problem when faced can be easily fought. When a believer faces the reality of temptation, he can prepare to resist. This can be done through the proper study of the word and intense prayer life.
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mathew 26: 41)
3. Keep your mind and hands busy – An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. This is a saying that best describes what happens when the mind strays without a purpose. When a person is plagued with temptation, it becomes easier to overcome the temptation if you were being productive when it came.
4. Flee every appearance of evil. – Joseph exemplifies the attitude a believer is to take to temptation, especially those of a sexual nature. He ran. Many times, quoting of scripture would be ineffective if simple instructions are not obeyed.
5. Do not trust in the flesh – Often times, temptation overcomes a man because the man believes he is strong enough.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he falls. (1st Corinthians 10: 12).
As believers, we are to rely on the aid of the Holy Spirit to go through periods of temptation.
6. Talk to someone – A problem shared is a problem half solved. Many times sharing your struggles with a fellow trustworthy believer, helps in overcoming those struggles. It provides an opportunity for accountability, there is also the chance of receiving valuable advice, and help in prayers too.
7. Trust that God has a way out.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. ( Corinthians 10: 13)
God already has a way out of every temptation. He knows how difficult it is to be tempted, Jesus was in fact tempted. Thus he would not allow for his children to be tempted beyond their abilities. Prayer and study of the word, provide insight into God’s escape.
How to Deal with Temptation in a Relationship
- Set boundaries – When in a relationship, partners must set boundaries. They are together because they love each other, thus they should be able to make sacrifices. The setting of boundaries is a sign of discipline and commitment by the couple. Whatever boundaries would be set would be dependent on the interaction of the couple and their level of trust for each other.
- Be open with your partner. – Boundaries can only go so far if there is no communication between partners. In a relationship, the more open you are, the less likely you are to fall into the temptation to cheat. When someone of the opposite sex makes an advance, open up to your partner.
- Ask yourself, is it worth it? – For those who truly love their partners, a question they should ask themselves when temptations arise is “is it really worth it.” The consequence of what I am about to embark on, would I want that. Thinking this way really helps to put things in perspective.
- Don’t start at all – Sometimes such attractions seem harmless, a little hangout with someone that isn’t your partner, a little drink. The best way to avoid falling into the bait is not to start at all. Flee all appearances.
- Don’t torture yourself. – One thing that has to be repeated over again, is the fact that temptations are inevitable, even in a loving relationship. Temptation does not sin. When you are tempted, do not beat yourself up. Just exercise discipline and patience.
Causes of temptation.
- Idleness – Quite simply put, an idle person will always get tempted. The mind is made to function, and when it doesn’t, it wanders, aimless wanderings will consequently lead to temptation.
- Impatience – When a person is impatient with something, unnecessary attractions to take shortcuts will definitely come.
- Pressure – This is an external cause. Pressure from outside can cause a person to take steps that are not proper, hence falling into such sin
- Failure – The way people react to failure and discouragement, oftentimes leads to temptation. A student, who fails, might be tempted to cheat when next he has a similar exam.
- Ambition – Ambitions without caution, will definitely lead to such sin.
God loves his children, and he would not let you be tempted beyond your ability. The knowledge a man has would help him overcome obstacles, and knowing that God will always provide a way out of temptations is comforting.
If you fall into the enticement of the devil, it isn’t the end of the world. There is always forgiveness in Christ, and strength to move forward.