3 Keys to Resisting Temptation
As Christians, it's not a matter of if we'll be tempted but when we'll be tempted. To sin is a choice we make, but we can't always choose whether or not we'll be tempted. There are safeguards we can put in place to help minimize our proximity to temptations, but ultimately, they will always be there. Even Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4). We are given the opportunity to choose our thoughts and our actions, therefore the decision to sin ultimately rests on our strength in resisting temptation around us. While it may seem discouraging to know that temptation will always be around us, it's incredibly empowering when we come to realize that we're not helpless victims destined to fall. There are choices we can make now that can help us resist future temptation.
3 Keys (or P's) to Resisting Temptation
Do you have a plan for resisting temptation?
If we know that we'll eventually be tempted, it's a good idea to plan ahead and think about how we would like to respond in that situation. In the moment that we're being tempted, it can be hard to think clearly and wisely. We see something in front of us that we want in that moment and it's easy to ignore the negative consequences.
Knowing ahead of time when you're most likely vulnerable, in what way you're tempted, and your preferred response will help you to avoid putting yourself in difficult situations and give you a plan of attack if you do end up being tempted.
For example: After a stressful day at work, you go through the drive thru to grab fries and a milkshake on your way home.
- You know you're vulnerable before you even get into your car after work
- You know you're tempted to eat something unhealthy to ease your stress and give you pleasure
- You know you'll feel better later if you eat a health meal at home
Possible plan: You pack something the night before work that is healthier for you but still gives you something to look forward to after work. You have your favourite music, audiobook, or podcast lined up to give you something to listen to on your way home. You also plan your dinner ahead of time so that it's easy to put together when you get home (leftovers and slowcookers are great for this.)
By planning ahead, a great deal of the choices will be made for you already. It's easier to resist temptation when you have other options previously planned out.
As I talked about in a previous blog post, accountability partners are important for our growth. And the key to a great accountability partnership is reaching out to each other before you fall, not after.
If you know you're tempted to stay up late, have your friend text you at a pre-determined time to remind you to get your butt to bed. If you know you're tempted to sleep in and skip your bible reading, make a commitment to text each other what you've learned that morning from your reading.
If you want to make serious changes in your life, having a friend who is there to encourage you and pray for you in the midst of temptation is going to be very helpful.
This one is pretty simple and self-explanatory... and yet, it's not something most of us do very often in situations of temptation. Why not pray to God to help us resist temptation?
Well, I think there are three reasons we don't pray:
- We don't really want to resist
- We don't believe God cares
- We haven't learned this discipline
Sometimes, we know what we should do but we choose not to do it because we don't actually want to change our behaviour. We know it will be difficult to remain stubborn and hard-hearted in our decision to sin when we reach out to God and ask Him to help us resist temptation.
If you're in this position, write out what you think you'll gain from engaging in that sin and then write out how you actually feel after you sin. Chances are high that engaging in the sin actually takes you further from where you were hoping to be or feeling worse than what you were intending to feel.
If you are choosing not to reach out to God because you think He doesn't care or you think you're too far gone or that you're too sinful to reach out to Him... you're wrong. Plain and simple. God cares exponentially more than you do or than your accountability partner does. Trust Him, ask Him for help, and see what happens.
Most of us fall into the category of being ignorant to the decision and discipline of asking God to help us resist temptation. It could even be pride--"I can totally handle this myself!" But like any discipline that brings us spiritual growth, it takes deliberate thought and action to form a new habit.
Next time you're tempted to do or not do something that you know is not God's best for you, take a moment to pray. Why struggle with 100% of the burden when you can share it with God?