Sunday, September 18, 2011

Temptations

My temptations are not the same now as they were many years ago before Christ came into my life. Back then, temptation was more about overt sin, those carnal “I-wants” that most people would say were sin. These days, they are far more subtle. 
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 1:14–15)
Temptation is an appeal made to human desires. If I want pleasure, or comfort, or more, or the best, I can be tempted to say and do many things that I ought not do. However, as Christ works in my life, my desires have become fewer and less about the world. I am less interested in “bigger, better, more” yet temptations have increased. They just come at a different angle.

These days, the evil one tries to pull me away from what God has given me through faith. Satan wants me to doubt that God loves and wants the best for me. He wants me to think that my life as a follower of Jesus Christ is pitiful and difficult. He wants me to think the blessings of God are coincidences or things that I have earned. He wants me discontent and without any fruit of the Spirit that blesses me and those around me. He wants me to quit, not care, not pray. The list is long and every day, he seems to come up with a new one.

Today I read that Satan’s focus is not so much to get me to do wrong as to keep me from being useful to God. He tries to shift my point of view so that I focus on things that do not matter. Without the voice of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, I’m not sure I would even recognize this as temptation, other than it seems to be relentless. The more I want to serve God, the more I find ideas and excuses flying into my mind that suggest I should stop doing so. This is war, yet God does not leave me without resources. 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14–16)
Jesus Himself was tempted. Right after His baptism, He was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” for this very thing. It was important that His calling to bear the sin of the world not be sidetracked, so right up front, He was tested and stood the test. He refused to bow to Satan’s offers, keeping His focus on His divine commission.

I relate to this testing. God has work for me to do, less demanding for sure, yet each day I am tempted to toss in the towel. Prayer is hard work. Reading the Word of God and doing what it says is hard work. Loving as He loves most often requires sacrifice. Serving others can be thankless. Instead of doing what God wants, I could write a bumper sticker that says, “I would rather be. . . .” and fill in the blank with a host of non-sinful activities that have little to do with obedience and advancing the kingdom of God.

**********
Lord God, You know that daily life happens to everyone. Many daily needs must be taken care of, like cooking, cleaning and pulling weeds. But when Satan tempts me to think this is all that I need to do, or that You do not care if I waste my time doing them, I need to remember what Jesus did with His daily life. I need to pay attention. Being responsible for the daily stuff is one thing; it is part of Your calling on my life, but Satan can also use it to draw me away from living more like Jesus lived. He tries to substitute “okay stuff” for total obedience — and I need Your grace to choose and live in total surrender and obedience to Your will.

No comments: