Overcoming temptation

Matthew 26:41 NKJV

Why did Jesus tell His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”? Because He knows that without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we’re not equal to the temptations that come our way. Jesus didn’t doubt the disciples’ love for Him or their willingness to serve Him, but He knew they couldn’t do it in their own strength. And you can’t either. When you fight the flesh in the power of the flesh, you end up fighting yourself – and you lose every time. Note the words “lest you enter into temptation.” You’ll never be exempt from temptation, but you don’t have to “enter into” it. Indeed, your regenerated spirit can’t “enter into” it because sin has no appeal to it. But your unregenerated “flesh” will always be attracted to sin. And becoming a Christian increases the frequency, variety, and intensity of the temptations you face. Why? Because Satan, “the tempter,” doesn’t give up control easily. He will fight you constantly, and on different fronts. The Bible speaks of “manifold temptations” (1 Peter 1:6 KJV). The word “manifold” means there are “many kinds” of temptation. What’s the answer? “Manifold grace!” (1 Peter 4:10 KJV). The moment temptation rears its head, and before you have time to “enter into” it, draw on God’s grace. How do you do that? Jesus said, “Watch and pray.” The New Living Bible says, “Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you.” Sheep don’t have the strength or skill to overcome the wolf. But they have the strategy! They just draw close to the Shepherd and He deals with the wolf.

Soul food: Acts 18-19; Luke 9:37-45; Ps 42:6-11; Prov 16:17-19

Overcoming temptation

Matthew 26:41 NIV

Jesus told His disciples, ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Jesus didn’t doubt the disciples’ love for Him or their willingness to serve Him, but He knew they couldn’t do it in their own strength. Without the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we’re not able to overcome the temptations that come our way. We’ll never be exempt from temptation. In fact, becoming a Christian increases the frequency, variety, and intensity of the temptations we face, because the enemy doesn’t give up easily. But we don’t have to ‘fall into’ temptation. The moment it comes along, and before we have time to give in to it, we need to turn to God’s grace. Jesus said, ‘Watch and pray.’ And that’s exactly what we need to do too. We need to be alert so that we’re aware of the areas of our lives where we’re likely to be tempted, and we need to pray for the strength to overcome any temptation we’re facing. If we’ve given in to temptation before, we don’t need to let shame overtake our lives. We can confess it to God, ask for His forgiveness, and then strengthen ourselves so that we avoid giving in to temptation again. When Jesus said these words to the disciples, they had repeatedly given in to the temptation to sleep when Jesus needed them to stay awake and keep watch. Jesus didn’t disown or condemn the disciples, instead He encouraged them and gave them advice. Let’s not write ourselves off just because we’ve given in to temptation before. Let’s allow God to remove our shame and strengthen us ready to face future temptations.

Acts 18-19; Luke 9:37-45; Ps 42:6-11; Prov 16:17-19

Pray for spiritual insight

Proverbs 20:5 NIV

The people who knew Simon knew he was impulsive and tended to put his foot in his mouth. But Jesus saw something else in him; that’s why He renamed him Peter, implying he was a stone suitable for a foundation. Can’t you imagine the look on the other disciples’ faces when Jesus said, “You are Peter…upon this rock I will build my church, and…hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT)? But Peter did become a pillar, a respected leader and founder of the church. And all because of Christ’s ability and willingness to look beyond the surface and see what was on the inside. Being made in God’s likeness gives a person amazing potential, but sometimes it takes “a man of understanding” to recognize it and draw it out. Too many of us see only what is on the surface. So we are quick to peg someone as arrogant, or quick-tempered, or weak, etc. But when you have spiritual insight, you see beyond all that, to the hopes and fears behind the person’s behavior. We don’t need more self-appointed critics, we need: (1) Parents who pray for their children, look beyond their flaws, and draw out their uniqueness. (2) Spouses who search for the hidden treasure in their mates. (3) Business leaders who treat their workers with respect, and match their responsibilities with their talents. (4) Believers who forgive immature, stumbling fellow Christians and work to develop them. (5) Soul winners who see lost people through the eyes of Jesus and recognize what His transforming power can do. So pray for spiritual insight.

Soul food: Acts 3:11-5:42; Luke 8:1-15; Ps 133; Prov 16:2

At peace

Philippians 4:7 NLT

The word worry comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to divide the mind.’ Our mind becomes divided between the things we fear and the promises of God. We know we should trust God but we fear what might happen in our futures. But worry doesn’t get us anywhere. Jesus said: ‘Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’ (Matthew 6:27 NIV). All worrying does is take away our strength and peace of mind. So how can we stop worrying? The Bible has a two-part answer: God’s part, and our part. Our part includes prayer and gratitude: ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done’ (Philippians 4:6 NLT). In order to worry less we must pray more, and also remember to say thank you to God. Before we go to Him for the next thing, let’s take time to thank Him for what He’s already done for us. Too often we can forget what God’s just done in our lives because we’re too focused on worrying about the next thing. So what’s God’s part? He takes the worry we bring to Him and exchanges it for His perfect peace. The Bible says: ‘You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.’ The Bible doesn’t say we might experience God’s peace, it says we ‘will’. It’s a promise and a definite. He’s offering His peace to us right now. We need to make sure we’re doing our part by praying and thanking Him, and then we’ll have a peaceful state of mind.

Heb 11:7; Gen 6:9-22; Gen 8:18-22; Matt 24:36-44

It’s not too late (2)

Joel 2:28 NLT

World champion boxer George Foreman was raised in a Christian home, and eventually he came back to his roots – but not before he tried the world of gangs, drugs, and violence. Recognizing not only his physical prowess, but also his potential, a friend suggested he join a local gym to work out his aggression in a more constructive way. That led to his becoming a world heavyweight champion boxer, and making millions of dollars. But the career of a world champion boxer is relatively short, and eventually Foreman, aging and overweight, reached the place where the only fights he could get paid just a few thousand dollars. He desperately needed to lose weight and get back in shape. A friend introduced him to a healthy diet, and part of his new eating regimen involved using a little grill. One day Foreman’s wife suggested that instead of simply using the grill for himself, he should put his name on it and others would buy it. And they did! Over 100 million George Foreman grills have been sold, and people are still buying them. Think about it. George Foreman made more money with his little grill than he made as a prizefighter. The Bible says that when the Holy Spirit empowers them, “your old men will dream dreams.” So regardless of your age, it’s not too late for you. Just get down on your knees today and pray, “Lord, all that I have and all that I am, I give fully to You. Use me as You see fit.” And when He answers, be prepared for Him to take you in a whole new direction.

Soul food: Jer 31-32; Luke 5:27-39; Ps 122; Prov 15:10-14