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.”