As defined by Wikipedia, temptation is an “immediate, pleasurable urge and/or impulse that disrupts an individual’s ability to wait for the long-term goals which the individual hopes to attain.” It can also mean “the state of being attracted and enticed” like when you want to eat a piece of chocolate cake, but know that you shouldn’t. Since this is a Christian blog though, the definition of temptation I will be referring to is the “inclination to sin”.
It’s not that the other definitions don’t matter. I think in some instances, they can be intertwined. For example, that piece of chocolate cake. In most instances, having it wouldn’t affect us in the long-term. But, what about the person who struggles with taking care of their body like God says they should? What about the person who buys themselves an indulgence? Some people can stop at only one, but others would keep going on and on and wouldn’t be spending their money the way God wants them to.
So, everyone has been tempted and can be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. My church is doing a year-long series of sermons about keeping our eyes on Jesus, and the topic of temptation was brought up recently. I’m thinking most of us are familiar with that story in the Bible–where Jesus was tempted after forty days and nights of fasting. Satan tempted Him on three occasions. Matthew 4:3-4 says, “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.””
The other two occasions had Satan telling Jesus to throw Himself off the highest point in the temple because the angels would save Him if He did and offering Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would only worship him. Verse 10 of Matthew 4 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.””
I have a head understanding of these verses and of what God wants from us. Doesn’t prevent me from getting tempted though. In fact, the other week God reminded me of my own brokenness. I talked to someone who freely admitted to having been in jail. I was astonished because that has never happened to me before. I did a pretty good job of not showing my astonishment. (Actually, that was because God was giving me very strong urges to keep my mouth shut for the questions that would normally be asked on such an admission.) Afterwards, I thought about the encounter and how I had done well enough to never be arrested in my years of living. God knocked me down pretty fast. He pointed out that though I had never murdered anyone, I had lied. I’ve never stolen anything either, but I’ve judged those who have. I’ve not made a golden idol to worship, but I’ve considered other things more important than God. I’ve been jealous of people who have more than I do, and I haven’t rested on the Sabbath. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. We’ve all sinned. Some sins are just more noticeable than others.
I say all this about temptation today because of the other part of what was stated in the verses I quoted. Jesus had been fasting when He encountered Satan. He had been doing without food and water. This is not something I encounter often in the western world. Especially for forty days and forty nights. Western Christians aren’t big on depriving themselves of anything, and it is not a concept I’ve been able to apply well to my own life. But, last week I decided to take a dare. We have been talking about fasting at church on Wednesday nights this month, and my older son got to attend one of the classes last week while he was home from college. Our pastor spoke of how he had given up coffee until Easter and encouraged us to fast from whatever was preventing us from getting closer to Jesus. We got home from church, and my son said there was no way I could give up coffee. Oh, the wisdom of a college student. 🙂 I took the dare and made the promise. No way was I going to let my son hold one over on me.
I am now at five days without coffee, and I can tell this is going to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I use coffee to wake up in the mornings, and it’s been hard to be without it. But, I’m going to honor my promise to God and to my son for two reasons. One, I’m stubborn and don’t want to hear about my failure forever, and two, most importantly, because I want to honor my Lord and Savior.
I also know I’m not alone in this endeavor. God is with me as it states in I Corinthians 10:13. “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.” I think this sums it up.
God’s blessings on all of you today!