(The following is a summary of the two-part message preached by Michael Larsen on September 20 and October 4.)
Today we're going to look at a faith that counters our bad habits. Let's begin by reading what James has to say about temptation.
James 1:13-15 says, “Never blame God when you're tempted because God can't be tempted by evil and God never tempts anyone to do the wrong thing. We are tempted by our own desires inside us. That's what drags us in the wrong direction and traps us. Our wrong desires lead us to wrong actions, and those sinful actions eventually end in death.”
He’s saying not to be deceived by every desire you feel.
Now there's a lot of material on temptation, but I want to point out that God has not left us powerless to deal with the things that tend to drive us or distract us when we're under stress.
1 John 5:4-5 says, “Everyone born of God overcomes the world (sin). This is the victory that has overcome the world (sin), even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world (sin)? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” So everyone who has faith in Jesus can overcome sin, and that obviously includes the temptation to sin. What wins the victory is our faith. That's why we're talking about faith in times of trials. No one can defeat the world's ways without having faith in Jesus as the Son of God. In other words, willpower doesn't work long-term.
So today I want to share with you from God's Word nine tactics for overcoming temptation.
1. Know your own default coping strategy.
You need to know and recognize what's the typical way you stumble. You need to
realize what your default coping strategy is. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” So we need to remove from our lives anything that gets in the way of our spiritual growth, especially those persistent sins that so easily distract us.
2. Know your emotional triggers.
Don't focus on your actions or your behavior. Instead, focus on what you're feeling and what you're thinking that's causing those actions. Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart guard for it affects everything you do.”
3. Learn your patterns.
There are certain situations that tempt you and others don't, and the devil knows exactly what your pattern is, so you better know your pattern, too. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wise man looks ahead; the fool tries to fool himself and he won't face the facts.”
How do you know what your patterns are? Five questions.
1) When am I most tempted?
2) Where am I most tempted?
3) Who is with me when I'm most tempted?
4) What temporary benefit do I get when I give in to temptation?
5) How do I feel right before I'm tempted?
4. Plan to avoid those situations that tempt you.
Proverbs 4:26-27 tell us to “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
5. Ask God for help.
Psalm 50:15, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” This is an emergency tactic.
6. Refocus my attention on something else.
When you're tempted by something, the key is to refocus your attention on
something. Don't fight the temptation; just change your focus.
Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is the principle of replacement, not resistance. You don't resist evil; you replace it. You don't resist temptation; you you refocus. If your mind is filled with good thoughts, there's no room for tempting ones. Temptation always starts with a thought. James 1:15 says, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
7. Join a small group for support
Why? Because you weren't meant to fight your battles all by yourself. We're better
together. God designed us to need each other. The Bible says that it's important to get together. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up a habit of meeting together as some are doing. Instead let us encourage each other all the more.”
8. Ask one friend to share my struggle.
It’s unlikely that you will have victory over your persistent temptation by yourself. If it's a persistent sin in your life, then you can't win it on your own. That's why you need at least one person Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
9. Remember that God is on on your side.
God wants you to win over temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” When temptations come into your life, remember that a lot of other people are struggling with the same thing. And common temptations means they're common solutions. And it says God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” God blesses people who persevere, who don’t give up when they are tempted. Change is possible. You don't have to stay the same. It's never too late to start over, to start fresh.