April 19, 2016

Temptation comes in waves

Joab was a general in King David’s army. He was loyal to David, but only to a point. Then David’s son Solomon began to reign. As kings did, Solomon also began cleaning house by removing those who were disloyal.

When the news came to Joab—for Joab had supported Adonijah although he had not supported Absalom—Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and caught hold of the horns of the altar. (1 Kings 2:28)

Joab’s loyalty kept him from following Absalom, David’s handsome and wily son, but later he went after another son who wanted David’s throne. Solomon was dealing with those usurpers and when Joab realized it, he also realized he was in line for a death sentence.

Chambers takes a big picture look at this situation, seeing it as an example of what happens to Christians today. We get tested by a supreme and difficult temptation. We might pass that test, but fail to remain on the alert when the second wave comes. Somehow, the first victory gives a false sense of invincibility.

While I’ve never been able to prepare for temptation, I know it is a common and frequent enemy. I also know that God will help me stay standing under it . . .

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Temptation happens to everyone, but falling into sin is not inevitable. God provides the means to overcome the temptation. My problem is discovering whatever means will work. Is it running away? Crying for help? Calling for supportive prayer? Identifying the lie behind it? Doing something right instead? All of the above?

Chambers says the Bible characters failed on their strong points, not their weaknesses. If that is true, it seems a good idea to examine my strengths. Each one of them has a down-side where the tempter makes his appeals.

For instance, I’m continually told that I have a wonderful imagination. It shows up when making meals, designing quilts, and in other ways. But that imagination also goes to work in areas that people cannot see. Not only do I have vivid (and usually funny) dreams at night, but I can daydream with the best script writers. Sometimes those dreams take my mind in places it should not go. For this temptation, God’s way of escape is usually a challenge where I can use my creativity in productive ways. Instead of getting into trouble, I can take part in advancing His kingdom.

Another God-given strength is the spiritual gift of discernment. For years, this helps me perceive the spiritual condition of others. The Holy Spirit gives good information, but I’ve not always handled it well. When I should praise the positives and pray for the weaknesses, my pride can turn the information into criticism or other forms of negativity. Duh.

Even as temptations come to exploit strengths, there is no way I can predict when, where, or even exactly what form they will take. Often I’m tempted after a victory, or a time of endurance through an intense trial. I can know they will come, but am usually surprised.

Also, as Chambers says, it isn’t wise to be on the lookout with morbid introspection and dread. I need to be alert and guard my strengths by wearing spiritual armor. I must also rest in the fact of God’s sovereign. The enemy cannot throw his lies at me without God’s permission and purpose.

Even thought temptation is not God’s idea, but He can turn it into a test that has a way of firmly convincing me that I always need grace and that I am always kept by the power of God.

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