Faith That Works When The Pressure’s On
When our circumstances are difficult, we may find ourselves complaining against God, questioning His love, and resisting His will. At this point, Satan provides us with an opportunity to escape the difficulty. This opportunity is a temptation. Temptations begin with a thought and become sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an action. Like a snowball rolling downhill, sin grows more destructive the more we let it have its way. The best time to stop a temptation is before it is too strong or moving too fast to control.
Something To Talk About:
James has a lot to say about temptation and how to overcome temptations. Temptation comes in many forms. It can come as an enticement to break the law, cheating, flirting with what you know is wrong, bending the rules, listening to those invisible urges to do what you want to do rather than doing what is right, ignoring values and wondering why you should not take the easy way out to name a few. Temptations are opportunities for us to make decisions. We have the choice to resist and persevere through them, or we can give into them. Discovering how to limit temptations starts with the following three steps:
- What is my default stress behavior: You need to know why and when you stumble. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” We all face persistent sins that seem to pop up and distract us. These are the distractions that occur over and over again in our lives to the point we wonder why we keep doing that. These persistent distractions that touch on our point of our biggest vulnerability are our default. They cause us to stumble to choose what is wrong over what is right. When we have real stress in our lives such as COVID-19 they become our coping mechanism. That coping mechanism may be drinking, medicating ourselves, binge-watching tv, gambling, pornography, or even anger. I need to know my predictable area of failure so I can address it, so I can be prepared for it.
- What are my emotional triggers? In other words, what is causing me to stumble? When your brain perceives that you are stressed your emotions are triggered. You react with anger or fear, then you quickly rationalize your behavior so it makes sense. What is triggering my need for alcohol, or to gamble or to look at pornography? If you are going to overcome the triggers that make you vulnerable to the behavior you want to avoid, you have to know the things that are making you vulnerable. Don’t focus on your behavior, focus on what you are thinking or feeling that causes that reaction. Satan wants to hook onto your feelings. Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The heart is a metaphor for your emotions or passions. Your heart is far more vulnerable when you are stressed and your emotions are on the surface. When you are discouraged or bored or discontented you give in to temptation; when you are wounded or hurt temptation will knock you over. COVID-19 means losing a lot of things and that makes us vulnerable. We must know our emotional triggers before we can deal with them.
- What are my emotional patterns: We also need to learn our patterns. We form patterns in many areas of our lives and temptation is one of them. We have a unique susceptibility to temptation. The devil knows your pattern. If you know your pattern you can take steps to stay away from those patterns. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.” We don’t know how long this COVID 19 pandemic will last, but we do need to look ahead so we know when temptations are coming and react to them.1 Corinthians 10:13 says “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” We need to know our patterns.
- How would you define “temptation” in your own words? What is the difference between temptation and sin?
- What are some of the temptations you are regularly battling?
- When are you weak when it comes to temptation? Where are you tempted to sin?
- What times in your daily or yearly calendar are you tempted to sin? Who in your life tempts you to sin? What places or practices offer you more temptation?
- Why do you give in to your temptations? What are some things that you could do or strategies you could use to resist temptation?
- How is a temptation different from a trial?
- Why do people struggle with blaming God when they are tempted? Can you think of any stories in the Bible where people blamed God for their temptations?
- How has James 1:13-15 changed the way you view temptations?
- What role does God play in your temptations? (See 1 Corinthians, 10:13; 1 John 1:5; 4:8-10)
- How can your study group pray more effectively for people struggling with temptation?
- What stood out to you in this message?
- What are you going to do differently as a result of this message?
Take one thing home with you:
It would be nice if our struggle with temptation ended when we became a Christian. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky. God never promised to remove temptation from us, for even Christ was subject to it. The Bible says that He “faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) We will experience temptation skirmishes until the day we are home with our Savior. Yes, we may triumph over specific temptations, but that doesn’t mean they will not come back. And when we experience victory over one, there are many other things the enemy can tempt us with.
There is light at the end of the tunnel of temptation. There is hope in the midst of each new trial. God’s word offers an unfathomable gift to the tempted. “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” (1 Peter 5:9-10)