During a busy lunch hour in a crowded downtown area, a minister was searching for a parking place. He circled the block again and again, with no result. Deciding to double-park, he took out his business card and wrote a note for any officer who might come by and ticket him. "Dear Officer," he wrote, "I circled this block ten times. I have an appointment to keep." He closed his note with, "Forgive us our trespasses."
About an hour later, the minister returned to find a parking ticket under his windshield. It read, "Dear Reverend, I have circled this block for ten years. If I don't give you a ticket, I'll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation."
Sooner or later, temptation will come your way. But you play a key role in how effectively you resist it. While it's true Satan plays a role in tempting you, you must first cooperate with him before you give in.
As Christians, we face three enemies every day: the flesh, the world, and the devil. The flesh is the evil nature we all have within us — that propensity, that vulnerability to do the wrong thing. Next, there is Satan with his outward enticements. Then, of course, there is the world. You might say that the flesh with its desires is the internal foe. Satan with his enticements is the infernal foe, and the world with its enticements is the external foe.
We must recognize that temptation originates with our bent toward doing the wrong thing. When we give in to temptation, we have only ourselves to blame (see Romans 6:16), but sometimes we blame God. But as we read in James, "Let no man say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God's; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone" (James 1:13).
Temptation generally comes after great times of blessing. It hit Jesus when he went to the Jordan River and was baptized. The Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove, and God the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Immediately after this, Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After the dove came the devil. After the blessing comes the trial.
In a broad sense, everyone is tempted. However, the enemy focuses his attacks on those who are young in the faith and those who are making a difference in God's kingdom. Many Christians would recall that when they first came to Jesus, they were hit with some serious temptations. Likewise, any Christian who says, "Lord, I want you to use me," must know that Satan will attack. Be aware.
Have you ever been amazed after falling into sin and asked yourself how you ended up there? It was through a series of events that led you to ultimately rationalize that sin. Temptation generally comes in through the realm of your imagination. Think of it as if an unwelcome visitor were knocking at your door. You know you will have trouble if you open it. In the same way, when the enemy comes with temptation, don't open the door. In fact, don't even look through the peephole. Don't underestimate sin or the power of it.
It's important to note that the primary weapon Jesus used to resist temptation was the Word of God. In the same way, when the devil comes and tempts you, your first line of defense is the Bible. For example, if he whispers in your ear, "Go ahead and sin. No one will ever find out," your response should be something like: "No. It is written in Hebrews 4:13, 'All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.'"
Temptation is the devil's primary method of attack. We all know a lot about it. None of us enjoys being tempted. But it is something that every Christian will experience. However, temptation can be resisted.
James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man that endures temptation...." A better translation of the word blessed would be happy. Happy is the person who makes it through temptation. If you respond as you should, then you ultimately will hold that much tighter to the Lord Jesus Christ the next time Satan comes with some kind of an enticement.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!