How can I overcome temptation instead of giving in?
The much-misquoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads:
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.
This verse presupposes that we will be tempted and that everyone will be tempted in similar ways. But it also says that, for the believer, there is always a way to fight the temptation—to reject sin. The question is—how?
It depends on the situation and the people involved. What it does not depend on is personal will-power. Ephesians 6:12-13 says that our defense against attack is spiritual—the full armor of God. Galatians 5:22-23 says that self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not a human characteristic that we can rely on. In the moment of temptation, then, the key is to figure out what the Holy Spirit is guiding you to do.
Run. Second Timothy 2:22 says, "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." It's pretty foolish to stay in a situation where you're meeting temptation. If you can leave, do so. Shut off the TV, leave the boy, walk out of the movie, and tell the friend you need to go.
Respond with the truth. When Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture. No matter how Satan twisted words or made promises, Jesus knew the truth of the matter and relied on that.
Call for backup. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says "And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Jesus taught us to live in community for a reason. Although 2 Timothy 2:25 exhorts believers to correct their friends to lead them to repentance, there's nothing wrong with calling a friend for help before the repentance is needed.
What we tend to forget is that all of these things require preparation before the temptation occurs.
Abide. First John shows us Who to run to when we're running away from temptation. If we love God and abide in Him by seeking to do His will, running to Him when we're in trouble will come naturally. Galatians 5:24 sets us on the right track, as well. If we surrender the passions of our flesh because we value God more, the temptations won't call quite so sweetly. And it's likely we won't put ourselves into a place where we can be easily tempted.
Know the truth. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is dedicated to the blessings of knowing God's Word. If you don't know the truth, you can't use it later to help get you out of a sticky situation.
Have a community. We all know that "iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17), but the iron has to actually connect before any good can come of it. Jesus established the church for very specific reasons. One of them is so that believers won't have to fight alone. Hebrews 3:13 and 10:24 say that one of the very reasons for connecting with believers is so that we can encourage each other daily. If we do, friends won't be too far away when temptation strikes.
Self-control is from the Holy Spirit. Protection from the enemy is from God. But when we follow His word, we join in His work. God has laid out specific actions we can take to overcome temptation. It's up to us to take them.
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