Resisting Temptation When Willpower Won’t Work

BY BENNETT ROLAN, DIGITAL EDITOR

I am not typically an angry person. I even received the Gentle in Spirit Award as a young Christian camp counselor. But if you scan my browser history, you will find a recently read article titled “Why Has Quarantine Made Me So Angry?” 

And now you know the truth. I am tempted, especially during the past few weeks, to lose my temper with the people I love. But if you are being honest, I imagine you can fill in “Why am I so ______?” with a temptation of your own. 

As we walk through the first weeks of our Genesis study, God not only reveals the origin of our sin, but He gives us insight into how we can crush it before it takes root.  

As an experienced sinner, fighting to follow Jesus, I can confirm that taking a biblical approach to temptation works. 

Recognizing the Deceiver

In Genesis 3:1, we meet the serpent, who “was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” In the next sentence, the serpent speaks.  

But before we can deal with the temptation, we have to recognize the tempter. 1 Peter 5:8 warns, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”   

God not only reveals the origin of our sin, but He gives us insight into how we can crush it before it takes root. 

In Genesis 3:1, the serpent begins by questioning God’s Word, “Did God actually say ?” Today, temptation can begin the same way. As our enemy prowls around, he overwhelms us with questions about God’s character and His promises. “Did God actually say He loves you?” “Was Jesus serious when he said, anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment?’  

In the busyness of daily routines and the grief of living in a fallen world, the tempter’s voice is easily camouflaged. If we are serious about resisting temptation, we have to be sober minded and alert, in tune with the Holy Spirit’s warnings when temptation begins.  

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers describes Satan like this:

“Satan does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things – he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us … namely, the possibility of being of value to God. He does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.” 

 As the serpent twisted God’s Words and offered Eve “delight” and “desire,” Eve’s point of view shifted. Her focus moved from God to herself. In the next moment, sin was born. 

Standing Firm in the Faith

We all know what happened next. Eve ate the fruit, Adam followed, and humanity desperately needed a Savior. But what could Eve have done differently? Could she have silenced the serpent? 

1 Peter 5:9 tells us to “Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” But what does this look like practically? 

In a commentary by St. Augustine on the book of Mark, he writes, “A temptation arises: it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ …”  

To awaken our awareness of Christ, we must seek Him, call to Him and dwell on His attributes. When His Word comes to life, His character washes over us. The reality of God’s nature is more than enough to silence temptation. 

When frustration begins to build, and I turn to God, His mercy and compassion restore peace to my home. If loneliness seeps into the day, we can cling to the One who is faithful and steadfast. When an uncertain future fuels anxiety or fear, we can speak aloud the truth that God is Preserver and Provider.   

In Genesis 3, Eve remembered God’s command, but she forgot His character. In the face of temptation, she lost sight of God as Creator, Sustainer and Protector.  

In the light of the Father, the reality of temptation is revealed. The enemy is laid bare and crushed under the might of our Savior. I am certainly not perfect, but I have experienced the power of God’s character in the face of temptation. 

 When a circumstance provokes my anger, remembering Jesus’ enduring patience reveals another option. Once my awareness of Christ is “awakened,” the Holy Spirit offers eternal clarity. He subdues the wind of temptation and breaks the pattern of frustration. Then, I am free to seek wisdom and choose a new response. This is something we practice again and again, rejoicing in His victories and repenting in our defeat, trusting God to grow us through the battle.  

When His Word comes to life, His character washes over us. The reality of God’s nature is more than enough to silence temptation.

Making it Personal

So, what temptation can you add to the question, “Why am I so ___?” Reflecting on God’s character, which attributes might awaken your awareness of Christ when the deceiver speaks? 

As a helpful tool, we have compiled a list of God’s attributes with definitions. To deepen your Genesis study, take notice when Scripture reveals an attribute of God. Using the list, note verse references when God’s justice, mercy or sovereignty are evident.  

Finally, let us be “alert and of sober mind,” standing firm in the truth that we are not alone in our temptation. St. Augustine closes his commentary by writing, “When your heart is in this troubled state, do not let the waves overwhelm you … let us not despair but awaken Christ, so that we may sail in quiet waters, and at last reach our heavenly homeland.” 

198 Comments

  1. Thank you for the article on temptation_ we are tempted when focus shifts from God to ourselves….and how to overcome_ awaken Christ… really blessed

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  2. I love the awakening Christ aspect. This is new insight for me. Very encouraging and comforting. Thanks so much.

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  3. This message is well said. I will put “why am I so struggle?” in the blank. For me, to be aware of the loss of a peaceful mind is important. Why can’t I simply delight in the Lord always? What are the hidden desire in my inner being. I truly agree with you. Focusing on His Words helps to illuminate our state of mind, and guide us turn back to Him ASAP.

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  4. Thank you so much, I needed to hear this today. I have been a Christian for so long, since birth actually, and believe I have strong faith. I am facing a dilemma which I know is a temptation from the devil himself. This keeps playing on my mind, i don’t even know why am considering it at all?

    I know the devil is putting doubt about what God can do in my mind. I am aware that the devil is convincing me I am making the right decision even though I know it’s wrong. RM 7:19 comes to mind. Ironically, I know what I would say to a friend in my situation. Say “no” to the devil. Ask the devil to flee from you and he would. He is a liar. However, I need prayer, I am under attack because of my vulnerability of loneliness

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  5. I woke this morning from a dream about snakes at my door, there were dozens of all sizes. (Now on my way home last night I saw two snakes on the road where I live.) I had a whip and whipped them to pieces and they were scattered all over the porch, I couldn’t tell if they were dead or alive but they were now in pieces. But then more kept coming. Just like temptation, maybe we think “this little part is okay”.

    This is why we pray because the devil doesn’t rest, but neither does our God.

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  6. To love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves is the summation of the law. While the law of God is good, reveals His character and sets His will before us, there is no power within the law to save. In Revelation 12:7-11, when the devil is cast down, it is because of the blood of the Lamb and the testimony about Jesus. Not a personal testimony about an individual’s experience of salvation, but the testimony of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Only the gospel gives power to save or comfort the sinner. This is a slightly different focus that makes all the difference. Rather than placing hope on methods to avoid sinning, even Paul declares “I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

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  7. Great men has fallen due to temptation.
    Temptation is everywhere, but if we know the Word, we will stand firm on it and follow Jesus example when we are exposed to temptation. Matthew 4 is a very good example for us to follow.

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  8. Adam is the one God told about the forbidden tree. Adam is the one that had direct contact with God. How do we know that Adam conveyed the glory and power of God to Eve? Satan is described as the one that deceived the whole world so why would we expect Eve to resist him? We have the word of God to guide us and portray God to us. Eve may have only had Adams words which may not have conveyed Gods majesty to her.
    Jesus himself said that the days would have to be shortened in Mathew 24 or even the elect would not be saved. I think Eve is the scape goat for sin because Adam had the opportunity to tell her don’t do it and he didn’t. We can resist sin best out of love for God and His will rather than just to follow a law. Satan is a very skillful and deceitful enemy.

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  9. I love this and I’m so thankful I was able to read it! My computer doesn’t work too well.

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  10. I thank you for your comments on temptations. like all Christians we all struggle with our own sin and like ” Jesus says if we don’t say we sin then the truth isn’t in us and we deceive ourselves.” I like the the way you put it when you said “delight and desire” overcomes us for that’s so true we lose our focus on God and his many attributes. You have given me a new way of dealing with my temptations

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  11. God has been gracious and Faithful to my me ,saving and protecting me through painful life experiences.

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  12. Wow. Thanks for that encouraging article. Your sentence stating “This is something we practice again & again, rejoicing in His victories and repenting in our defeat, trusting God to grow us through the battle.” I’m encouraged to “keep practicing” and not give up. God is not finished with me yet!

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    • Sue, you are absolutely right! He is constantly working on behalf of His people. We serve SUCH an amazing God!

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  13. My biggest take away,” awaken Christ”

    Thank you and God bless

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  14. Thank you for this message. It truly Blessed my soul. Remember His attributes when tempted to sin. He is the way out.

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  15. God’s gentle rebuke to Cain we must commit to memory : sin is crouching at the door, it desires to have you but you must rule over it ( Genesis 4 :7, NIV )

    in other words, His Holy Spirit will help us use His Word as the sword to destroy the wile of the evil one

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    • Rebecca, such a great addition and reminder that with the Holy Spirit we can “rule over it”!

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    • I agree. Thanks for sharing that scripture. I marked it in my Bible So that I can reference it when I need to, do that I can remember it.

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  16. One helpful thing to remember when we as Christians are tempted to sin is that we can look for a way out of the temptation. We can do this because God promises a way of escape. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

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    • Lucille, such a great verse to cling to each day!

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  17. Another point of view: First of all Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to rule over all the animals, beast of the field, birds of the air, and all creeping things, etc., and that included the serpent. That means God gave man the ability and commandment to rule over Satan a beast of the field and to recognize all his falsehoods. It states that the serpent was more crafty than all the beast of the field. The word crafty (עָרוּם-arum) Strong’s number 6175 in Hebrew can also be translated as sensible. The serpent’s suggestions were simply a sensible appealed to man to become like God who was already created by God in his image. This allowed man to know the difference between good and evil and be like God. This is a very appealing proposition. In becoming like God there is no concern of the consequence for disobedience. To be like God means you are not accountable to any higher authority over you. Please note that as the serpent spoke with Eve that Adam was with her. She ate and gave it to her husband with her. It seems that Adam was in full agreement throughout the conversation and went along with the deception. We should be reminded of what disobedience brings and its consequences. After the curse that was pronounced on the participates, a life was taken and blood shed to cover Adam and Eve’s shame where before there was no shame. Afterwards, Adam and Eve were driven from the garden and two cherubim with flaming swords whirling back and forth were used as a reminder to Adam and Eve; you missed you’re chance and are not getting back into the garden to eat from the tree of life. The saddest outcome for Adam and Eve by not taking God seriously at his word and not considering the consequences of their actions, is that it broke Gods heart and broke the relationship they had with him. When we don’t address issues we have when we know we have them destroys our relationship with the Creator. The shedding of blood may have atone for Adam and Eve’s sin but not the relationship. God never speaks to them again! What a statement. Let us be more focused on restoring our relationship and less on sin with hopes that it will be atoned for. To seek God’s heart as King David earned him far grater reward than all of his sins.

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    • William, you are absolutely correct. Focusing on our Father elevates our eyes above the sin that so easily entangles. Great reminder!

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  18. The Attributes of God are a Blessing. I share them whenever I have an opportunity.

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    • Jo, I love them too! As we study Genesis, we can even add the list BSF created. He is infinitely awesome!

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  19. Thank you,This is very helpful,I can resist temptation!

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  20. Thank you for this great encouragement!!

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  21. Thank you for your wisdom. These are trouble and dark times. A voice of spiritual direction is always needed and appreciated.

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  22. Very helpful blogpost. Good strategy to acknowledge God’s attributes when we face temptation! Thank you for this reminder! I have Bible verses posted in key areas of my home.

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    • Nan, that’s such a great practice to always be mindful of His Word.

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  23. An amazing way to describe how Satan is seeking to change our perspective and through that I follow temptation.
    Wonderful read.
    God bless.

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    • This is really a good reminder. Sometimes we are naive, forget that the enemy is always looking for a foothold ruin us. Temptations are real and I can I speak from the point of experience.

      May grant us his to stand firm in him, in times of temptations, for the joy of our souls and for the Glory of his name.

      May Jesus be praised

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      • Amen!

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    • I love that Oswald Chambers quote also!

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  24. During such a difficult year, this points us back to the Truth of scripture! Thank you for following the Lord by sharing this message of exhortation and encouragement!

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  25. Thank you for this timely message,may the Lord help me to be always alert to detect the evil schemes of the enemy

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  26. We are constantly tempted by evil forces and love that Christ our redeemer has our back because he value us. I never felt worthy and studying Genesis taught me that he Value all of us. Our sustainer/protector as a FATHER. He is worthy and he promises that he will return back for us to have eternal life with him forever and ever. What a beautiful picture of us dwelling in heaven with our Father in Heaven.

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  27. Such a blessing and encouragement to stand firm on faith. Pray that Holy Spirit countinouesly work in our souls desperately needing to be victories in Christ Jesus in defeating sin and temptation in day after day in this life.

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    • Amen!

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  28. This is indeed a good reminder that temptation is always crouching at your door. It seems so apt that I was feeling this resentment of someone that turning into hatred. If I don’t control this temptation, it will dominate my life. Yes, I need to recognize the the deceiver who always try to deceive us to do the other way that contradict what God wants us to do.

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