Overcoming Temptation (4)

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‘Its fruit looked delicious… So she… ate it.’ Genesis 3:6 NLT

Let’s look at the first time in Scripture anyone was tempted and see what we can learn. The Bible says, ‘The serpent was the shrewdest of all the [creatures] the Lord God had made… he asked the woman, “Did God really say…?”’ (Genesis 3:1 NLT) First, Satan will blind you to all the good things God has in store for you. Then he’ll take mood-altering substances like drugs or alcohol, or somebody else’s husband or wife, or internet porn, and tell you it won’t hurt you. Don’t bite! He’s a liar! Don’t believe him! ‘Temptation comes from our own desires… These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.’ (James 1:14–16 NLT)

Any weakness that’s constantly indulged, excused, denied or hidden has the power to enslave you. Failure to identify and target your weakness strengthens it. Ignoring your areas of vulnerability makes defeat inevitable. Satan has assigned certain people to feed your weaknesses. Be discerning. Your weakness will be drawn to any friendship that accepts it, enjoys it and feeds on it. It has an agenda of its own—to take over your life and sabotage God’s plan for you. It’ll always bond with the wrong people and make you uncomfortable in the presence of the right ones. And it can emerge at any time, including your latter years.

So how do you overcome your weakness? Through willpower? No, through God’s power! And it’s available to you today—so reach for it!

Overcoming Temptation (3)

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‘He ran from the house.’ Genesis 39:12 NLT

The Bible says, ‘Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife… began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded. But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household… How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.’ (Genesis 39:6–12 NLT)

Note the words: ‘She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day.’ Joseph’s temptation kept happening when he was around a certain person: Potiphar’s wife. And it kept happening when he was in a certain place: Potiphar’s house. So he ran. Not because he was weak—but because he was wise! He understood that if you hang around temptation too long you’re playing with fire and setting yourself up to get ‘burned.’

So, what people and what places do you need to avoid? What sources of temptation do you need to remove from your life in order to live victoriously? Remember the old Kenny Rogers song: ‘You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away and know when to run’? God isn’t dishonoured when you run—you’re dishonoured when you don’t!

Overcoming Temptation (1)

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‘Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.’ 2 Chronicles 20:12 NKJV

When Jesus told Peter he would soon deny his Lord, Peter virtually boasted, ‘Others may, but not me!’ Yet within a few hours he was swearing and disavowing any knowledge of Jesus. It can happen to any of us. The Bible says, ‘Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own [particular] desires and enticed.’ (James 1:14 NKJV)

We all have areas of vulnerability which, if not disciplined by character and commitment, have the potential to defeat or even destroy us. What can you do? (1) Recognise it. Before you yield to temptation you usually go through certain stages. By neglecting prayer and Bible reading you become indifferent to God, insensitive to danger, and find yourself drawn like a moth to a flame. Then you begin to rationalise your disobedience and think, ‘Nobody knows. What harm will it do?’ And the more you silence the voice of conscience, the stronger your carnal appetites become. Then you surround yourself with people who do the same things, or are at least willing to look the other way. Jesus said, ‘Pray… that you may not enter into temptation.’ (Mark 14:38AMP) Pray for strength before the temptation comes! (2) Reach for help. When Jehoshaphat came up against an enemy too big to handle alone, he prayed, ‘We have no power against this great multitude… nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.’ (2 Chronicles 20:12 NKJV) Jehoshaphat knew he was no match for the enemy, and he knew where to turn for help.

What’s the secret of victory? Lean less on yourself and more on God!

The Ultimate Purpose of Prayer

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‘To be conformed to the likeness of His Son.’ Romans 8:29 NIV

The Bible says, ‘Those God foreknew He… predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.’ (Romans 8:29 NIV) When you read the preceding verses in the chapter you discover God does this through prayer. This should encourage you to pray. Many times we don’t pray because we don’t think anything’s happening. But with God, something’s always happening! We wonder, ‘When is He going to work?’ What we fail to understand is—He’s always working.

When it comes to prayer He’s either answering the way you hoped, or changing your heart through the Spirit’s intercession to bring your prayer into harmony with His will. You say, ‘But I don’t see anything happening.’ When you plant a seed, you don’t come back the next day expecting green shoots and leaves. Does that mean nothing’s happening? No, a host of necessary processes are taking place below the ground where you can’t see them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because you don’t see the evidence that nothing’s happening. It’s just not harvest time yet. One way in which God is making us more like Jesus is by helping us to pray the way Jesus prayed, ‘Not My will, but Thine, be done.’ (Luke 22:42 KJV) That means when your prayer lines up with His will, He’s already working on it even though you can’t see it. And if your prayer isn’t in accordance with His will, He’s working to change your request by changing you.

Unanswered prayer can be as big a blessing as answered prayer, when it keeps us from violating God’s will. And what is God’s will? To make you more like Jesus!

Instead of Judging People, Let’s Love Them

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‘Let us stop passing judgment on one another.’ Romans 14:13 NIV

You can work alongside and pray for someone who’s having an extramarital affair, without having one yourself. Remember, you were a sinner before you were saved by the grace of God, so act with humility and don’t fall into the trap of self-righteousness. As Merv Rosell says, ‘When God forgives, He consigns the offence to everlasting forgetfulness,’ so show grace when you encounter somebody whose lifestyle makes you uncomfortable. Learn as much as possible about them, and allow your interactions to dispel any preconceptions and prejudices. See them as hurting individuals loved by God—people who need the same grace you received.

When you love the unlovely, you’re just doing what God did for you. Just because somebody’s ‘different’, doesn’t mean you should dismiss them or consider them inferior. You don’t want to be judged or demeaned because of your colour, culture or countenance, so don’t do it to others! Because the Bible is clear about not emulating others in their sinful practices, we can be tempted to think we’re better than they are. That’s the sin of pride!

Sometimes we think if we love and accept certain people, we’re condoning their sin. No, the truth lies in remaining respectful, and accepting others the way Jesus did. Whether it was racial differences (Samaritans), lifestyle differences (the five-times-divorced woman at the well), or class differences (Nicodemus), Jesus loved and accepted people as they were, while inspiring them to a higher standard.

Give Yourselves to God

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‘Do not let sin control the way you live.’ Romans 6:12 NLT

When someone says, ‘I can’t help myself; it’s just the way I am,’ they are right, but only partially right! Researchers identified more than a hundred identical twins who had been separated at birth. They were raised in various cultures, religions and locations. By comparing their similarities and their differences it became clear that as much as 70 percent of their personality… was inherited. Their DNA determined such qualities as creativity, wisdom, loving-kindness, vigour, longevity, intelligence, and even the joy of living. Consider the ‘Jim twins’ who were separated until they were 39 years old. Both married women named Linda, owned dogs named Toy, suffered from migraine headaches, had wood-working shops in their garages, drove Chevys and served as sheriff’s deputies. Their personalities and attitudes were virtual carbon copies.

What do these findings mean? Are we puppets on a string, playing out a predetermined course without free will or personal choices? Not at all. Unlike animals, we’re capable of rational thought and independent action. We don’t have to act on every sexual urge, for example, despite our genetic underpinnings. Heredity may nudge us in a particular direction, but our impulses can be brought under control. This is where the new birth comes in. God gives you a new nature, and the power to overcome your old one.

Paul addresses it: ‘Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.’ (Romans 6:12–13 NLT)

Bless Them

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‘…and especially [be a blessing]…’ Galatians 6:10 AMP

When someone hurts you, you have three options: (1) hurt them back; (2) avoid them altogether; (3) pray for them and look for ways to bless them (see Matthew 5:44–45). Paul says: ‘So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing]…’ (Galatians 6:10 AMP)

We’re so caught up with how others treat us that we’ve little or no concern about how we treat them. We’re afraid of being taken advantage of, especially if our past experience with someone has been painful. Not only do fear and dread make us supersensitive to everything they say and do, we may misinterpret their motives and see them in a negative light. Without question, it’s difficult not to be concerned that others will treat you badly if they already have a proven track record. That’s why it’s so important not to think about it at all (see Philippians 3:13 and Isaiah 43:18). Does this mean the person won’t have to account for how they treated you? No. The Bible says, ‘Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.’ (Romans 14:12–13 NIV)

Hand the situation over to God—and refuse to take it back. Then, ‘be a blessing’. In other words, occupy your thoughts with ways in which you can be helpful. When you do that you’ll have no time to dwell on personal grievances. Plus, it gives God an opportunity to work on them—and you.

Stay Focused on Your Mission

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‘My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.’ Job 23:11 NKJV

Many of our endeavours in life fail for one reason—broken focus. We allow ourselves to get distracted. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade; in short, in all management of human affairs.’ Where should you focus your concentration? On your mission! And when you make a mistake, don’t chase after it. Don’t try to defend it. Don’t throw good money after it. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. If you need to, seek forgiveness from God and the person you have hurt. And when possible try to make amends. Once you’ve done these things, refocus your attention on your mission and move on. Keep your eye on what it is you desire to do.

You’ll never meet a person focused on yesterday who had a better tomorrow. John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under President Eisenhower, observed: ‘The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is still the same problem you had last year.’

A problem resolved is a springboard to future success, to bigger and better things. The key is to focus on what you’re learning, not losing. When you do that you open the door to future possibilities. Regardless of how you feel about a problem, you can still thinkabout it with calm assurance. Peace in the most troubled circumstance comes when you ask for God’s help in planning what to do about the problem. And in the end, that’s what matters.

Hidden by Design

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‘In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me.’ Isaiah 49:2 NKJV

When you’re called to serve God in a particular capacity, it’s not unusual to go through a period of anonymity where you feel invisible. Isaiah was called of God ‘from the womb’. (Isaiah 49:1 NKJV) But he experienced a season of being hidden ‘in the shadow’ while God perfected his ministry. When a vision takes a long time to come to fruition, and you’ve sacrificed and worked without recognition or seeing results, it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your life. Isaiah was human too. He got discouraged and said, ‘I have laboured to no purpose… spent my strength… for nothing.’ (Isaiah 49:4 NIV) But just because you feel that way doesn’t mean it’s true. ‘God… rewards those who earnestly seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:6 NIV), and you’re no exception.

It took thirty years before Jesus started His public ministry. Moses, David, John the Baptist and Paul endured years of obscurity before they were brought to the forefront. In God’s Kingdom there are no overnight sensations or flash-in-the-pan successes. Beth Jones says: ‘Anyone who wants to be used of God will experience hidden years in the backside of the desert. During that time the Lord is polishing, sharpening and preparing us to fit into His bow, so at the right time, like “a polished shaft” He can launch us into fruitful service. The invisible years are years of serving, studying, being faithful in another person’s ministry and doing the behind-the-scenes work.’ The Bible says, ‘God is not unjust; He will not forget your work.’ (Hebrews 6:10 NIV) Be patient; when the time is right He will bring forth the fruit He placed inside you.

Renew Your Mind with God’s Word

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‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Romans 12:2 NKJV

The most important thing you can do every day is—renew your mind with God’s Word. When you get that right, everything else will begin to fall into place. You’ll think and act differently, so you’ll get different results.

Do you remember the old TV series The Beverly Hillbillies? What made the show so interesting is that Jed and his family had been set free from their past—a life of poverty back in the Ozarks. But even after they moved to California’s Beverly Hills, they continued in their ‘hillbilly’ ways. Their location had changed, but their mindset hadn’t. The same was true of the Israelites. They had a slave mentality. Even though they were free and God was providing their every need, the minute a problem came up they wanted to go back to Egypt. They couldn’t enter tomorrow because they were still carrying the baggage of yesterday! Read these words carefully: ‘Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.’ (Hebrews 4:1 NKJV) You ask, ‘But aren’t God’s promises guaranteed?’ Yes, if you do what He says! God promised to bless you—if you sow with a joyful and generous heart. He promised to direct your paths—if you acknowledge Him in all your ways. He promised to forgive you—if you forgive others.

You only ‘prove what is that good… acceptable… perfect will of God’ by continually renewing your mind! So the word for you today is: renew your mind with God’s Word.