Overcoming Temptations – Your Steps to Growth in Christ
In Mathew 4, Jesus shows us the sure strategy to overcoming temptations. God calls you to be an overcomer. Jesus’ approach is effective and will work all the time for you too, if you understand it and use it.
We All Are Tempted
Temptation is an integral part of your spiritual development. By overcoming temptations you become free.
You are tempted in the areas of your life where your belief needs to align with the Word of God. You need to resolve these issues. In temptation, the true beliefs of your heart are exposed. By overcoming temptations, you align your beliefs and your behavior with the Word of God and His will.
Temptation Is Not Sin
First, you must realize that being tempted is not sin. Jesus was tempted in any way we do, but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Temptation becomes sin only when you give in to it. You choose things that you know you should not choose.
How Temptation Works
You have heard the saying, “The devil made me do it!” This is an excuse. It does not reflect the truth. We chose to do it what we know is wrong.
The Epistle of James explains how temptation works (James 1:14-16):
- We are tempted when we desire to do something that we know is against the Word of God.
- Our desire will pull, entice and deceive us.
- When we give in to the desire, we sin.
- Sin dwelling and growing in us will produce death.
This produces a negative progression.
Temptation Is a Test of Your Heart
It does not come from God. James says that God brings you only good things, not temptations (James 1:17).
By overcoming temptations, you have the Lord’s approval because you love the Lord more than the objects of your desires. Then, you will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).
The Account of the First Temptation
The account of the fall of Adam and Eve shows an example of the process of temptation (Genesis 3:2-7).
They had everything that they may want. The only thing that they could not do was to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told them that if they would eat from it, they would die.
The serpent tempted them. He made them doubt what God had told them. He promised them that they would not die but that their eyes would be opened and they would be like God, knowing good and evil.
He enticed them with a lie and half-truths. He used the same technique used in advertising. He triggered their desire by stimulating their senses and their imagination. Then Eve saw that the tree was good for food. It was pleasant to the eyes. It was desirable because it would make them wise and like God. So, she decided. She took the fruit and ate it and give it to her husband.
They believed the serpent’s message. They changed their beliefs. They responded to this change by acting on it.
A Lesson for Us
This is how we fail when we disobey God and follow our desires. We believe that we would have greater benefits by satisfying our desires. This may be true in the short term but it is never true in the long term.
You must understand that by following God’s ways you always produce the greatest amount of happiness.
God loves you and His instructions are for your benefit. When you follow God’s ways, you are richly rewarded.
Jesus Was a Man and Was Tempted as We Are
Mathew 4 describes Jesus’ temptations at the beginning of his public ministry, soon after John the Baptist baptized Him.
First, let me clarify Matthew 4:1. It says that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This can be misleading. Scriptures do not contradict each other. Here, it is not saying that the Holy Spirit led him to be tempted. The opposite is true. The Holy Spirit led him in the wilderness to fast and pray to prepare Him for the coming temptations.
We have seen that Scriptures say that God does not tempt us (James 1:17). Rather, He prepares and instructs us to overcome temptations so that He can bless us. We should heed to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to pray and fast. The Lord knows the future. His desire is to guide us into victory. When we listen, we avoid many problems.
How Jesus Overcame Temptations
Jesus’ temptations started after 40 days of fasting, when He was hungry. His physical need was what the tempter used saying, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)
The temptation did not take Jesus by surprise. He was prepared. He responded with, “It is written.” and quoted verses of the Word of God to counteract the temptation.
This is the most powerful thing we can do to overcome our temptations. It works all the time.
I have done it as a young believer when unclean thoughts would come to me. I spoke the Word of God and they would go. I have used the Word of God to overcome doubt when it would come. I have quoted appropriate Scriptures when physical symptoms would tempt me to free myself from them. I still do it when temptation comes.
The Word of God is powerful and effective to separate the flesh from the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12). It helps you to know where to stand and to take your position.
Jesus’ Strategy to Overcome Temptations
Let us examine in more detail the account of this event.
- The Holy Spirit guided Jesus in the wilderness to fast and pray.
This is an important part of the strategy for overcoming temptation.
Jesus instructed His disciples, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
You do not pray and fast to impress God or to convince God to do for you what He has already done.
- Prayer helps you to receive direction from God by listening to His voice and to be aware of what is happening in the spiritual dimension. God does not need information from you about your situation. You need information from Him to understand what is taking place and to know what to do.
- Fasting develops in you control over the influence of your senses and your desires – your flesh. Fasting equips and makes you ready for when temptation comes. Fasting reduces the voice of your senses and increases your ability to perceive with your spiritual senses.
- openness to God’s direction
- spiritual awareness
- clarity and the determination in your intention, and
- Jesus used Scriptures to counteract the temptations.
When we use Scriptures to fight against temptation, we must use Scriptures appropriate to the situation. Therefore, it is very important to know Scriptures before we are tempted. They are the weapons we can use (Ephesians 6:17).
Part of the strategy to overcome your temptations is:
- Identify areas in your life where you are often tempted. These are areas where your belief system is weak and influenced by your senses. You need to renew your mind with the Word of God. You can do that by studying and meditating on the Word of God dealing with those areas.
- Prepare and memorize Scriptures that you can use when you are tempted. At that moment, you do not have the time to find the Scriptures that can help you.
- Identify triggering situations and patterns. Never be overconfident about your strength. If you can, avoid these situations. Jesus instructed us to want to avoid temptations (Matthew 6:13). Joseph fled when Potiphar’s wife tempted him (Genesis 39:10-13). When you cannot avoid these situations, be aware and ready for the fight using the Word of God.
- Positioning yourself without compromise for the result that you want. It is easy to deceive and justify ourselves. Be zealous and uncompromising. Trust that God will give you victory through His Word (James 1:6-7). You can be confident in God because He has promised you that He would not allow you to be tempted more than you can bear. Further, He will always provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Every victory over your temptations will become a blessing to you (Matthew 4:11). As you experience victories over your temptations, they will become weaker and you will become spiritually stronger (James 1:2-4).
The Areas of Jesus’ Temptations
Jesus was temped in all ways as we are (Hebrews 4:15). It is good for you to know the areas in which He was tempted because you will also be tempted in these areas. These are:
- Lust of the flesh – After having fasted for forty days Jesus was hungry. The tempter used his physical need to tempt Him. Jesus responded by stressing the life-giving power resulting from feeding on the Word of God (Matthew 4:3–4, Deuteronomy 8:3). This type of temptation is common to people ruled by their physical needs like gluttony or sex.
- Pride of life – The devil misused Scriptures (Psalm 91:11-12) to entice Jesus to manipulate God to protect Him. Jesus told him that we should not test God’s faithfulness as the children of Israel did at Massah (Deuteronomy 6:16). When we live a reckless life, we cannot expect God to protect us or come to our rescue. This type of temptation is common to people who like things to go according to their choosing. They want to be in control and tend to manipulate others. These people find it difficult to trust and obey God and they try to manipulate Him.
- Lust of the eyes – Satan offered all the kingdoms and glory of the world to Jesus if He would worship him. Jesus replied by sending Satan away and stating that the only one to worship and serve is the Lord our God (Matthew 4:8-10, Deuteronomy 6:13). We experience this type of temptation when we love things or people more than we love God. Then our attachments become idols and separate us from God.
- Doubting in His identity – By repeating, “If you are the Son of God,” Satan puts in doubt Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. He uses the same strategy with many believers today. He makes them doubt what God has achieved in them as they were born again. By making believers focus on their shortcomings, they question the reality of the new creation they are in Christ. In this way, he succeeds in keeping them in bondage. He prevents them from fulfilling their destiny.
The Devil Does Not Give up Easily
After Jesus overcame His temptations, angels came to minister to them and the devil left him for a season, waiting for the opportune time to come back.
Satan does not play fair. He takes advantage of any opportunity you give him. He comes when you are weak, tired or distracted. However, if you use these strategies you will be ready when he comes back and you will not be defeated.
Apply This Strategy to Your Life
I have applied the strategy to my life for many years. It works. It will help you to break bondage and to grow in Christ.
You may have areas in your life where you do not have victory over temptation. I want you to know that using Jesus’ strategy you can overcome. Do not give up.
I would like to hear from you about your experience in overcoming temptations. In which areas did you struggle most? Was it hard or easy to break through? What were the factors that contributed to your victory? I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Many people struggle with temptations and it seems that they cannot get the victory. You may know people in that situation. Share this post with them. Help them to implement this strategy. You can also share the post in your Facebook account by clicking on the Facebook link below.