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 providing God’s attributes .

  2. Bennett, thank you for your words about the temptations we all face. Satan is crafty and a twister of God’s pure truthful word. Clinging to His Word and knowing His heart and attributes is a mighty sword to yield in the face of temptation, trouble, and the face of the deceiver.
    May our focus continually be on the Almighty God of all Creation. May the Holy Spirit make us sensitive to deception. May we see God as our Provider, Protecter, and Preserver.

  3. Thank you so much for these insights into the nature of temptation. I read this after my BSF class meeting where I tried to share the temptation of verbal retaliation in some confrontations. This has been so helpful on how to handle such situations in future.

  4. Thank you for the attributes to use in this study. Thank you for this. It was a real blessing.

  5. Wow!! this is a really good reminder. I must have my husband and daughter read blog with me 🙂
    Thank you for letting God used you and sharing your insight with us.

  6. This was so helpful! Many thanks.

  7. Thank you so much!!
    Appreciate this much needed focus for everyday and every circumstance of my life!

  8. Wow! Thank you. I read it after leading my small group. Thank you for this blessing

  9. Like Eve, I have been deceived. Did God really say He loves you?? Your birth father divorced your mom and you. It’s true you are unloveable…. Your words in this blog, “he makes us lose what God put into us, is so true…I carried this lie my whole life and God’s implanted word ..you are loved, your are precious, treasured and valuable…I denied as Truth.
    The enemy shifted my focus from God to self. I have confessed, repented and renounced self at the center and died to self and know Christ alone is the Rock of my salvation. Romans 12:1…I need to be a daily living sacrifice to my Lord and Savior.
    I am a retired nurse, wife, mom and grandmother of 19. God is patient. GOD IS GENTLE, LOVING, FULL OF MERCY AND GRACE.
    Thank you for the powerful words in this blog.

  10. The words “Eve remembered God’s command, but she forgot His character,” hit home with me. I too often get caught up in trying to resist in my own strength, and forget that He wants me to trust and rely on His urging. He always leads me the right way if I follow the message of this blog and call out loud to Him when I’m off balance.
    Thank you.

  11. Thank you so very much, this is wonderful information to have on hand. Blessings

  12. This is powerful!!! thank you for sharing

  13. A teaching of the Truth at just the right time in my life.
    Praise God
    Thank you BSF

  14. Very very good and provides additional insight

  15. Thank you Ms. Rolan and BSF. This blog was very good. I especially found helpful the acknowledgement that specific methods proved helpful (..and dwell on His attributes) as well as the point of Oswald Chambers that and only the Spirit of God can detect this (the possibility of not being of value to God) as a temptation of the devil. Two salient points in my own struggles.

  16. Awesome! Thank you for sharing!

  17. I can’t read this… sooo tiny and grey! Help us seniors read your posts, please!

  18. I can use a few of these scriptures in my opening prayer on group sharing day!

  19. This is very helpful. I plan on using it in a future fellowship ! Thank you

  20. Thank you for the insight of truly what temptation is in our lives! How we can call on our Savior when we feel temptation coming in our life! So we may sail in quiet waters toward our heavenly homeland!

  21. Thank you for this post. This past week I had just discovered and printed the Attributes of God. There is nothing our awesome God can’t do or handle! During these uncertain times I need to rely on Him even more lest I let Satan use my anxiousness and self doubt against me. I know in whose image I am created.

  22. I struggle with anger and I read an article this summer that changed my thinking. The author was indicating that anger comes from love, not hate. He suggested that when the anger in us begins to arise, we ask ourselves the question, “What am I loving so much right now that is making me angry”.

    Loving the wrong things, possessions, our status, our ego, our talents, etc can lead us to anger when these things are threatened by others or circumstances.

    We are to love God first.

    Bennett, you article reinforced that for me especially in light of the current study in Genesis.

  23. This was a great addition to my study of Genesis 3 this week. I would like to thank all the BSF staff for using the gifts God has given you to further His kingdom on earth, for His glory. Praise be to our Creator, Provider and Sustainer!

    • My anger is rooted in pride, a terrible sin against God. I have nothing to be proud of, I am a dirty rotten sinner saved by grace. When/if I stop and pinpoint this truth in the moment that my anger is sparked it gives me the right perspective and is like water dumped on a flame.

  24. Thank you. This study of Genesis has been God given at this time in my life.

  25. This is a note of appreciation to all administrators of BSF, all the writers, all involved with this organization. BSF has meant so very much to me in bringing me closer to my Lord. I’ve been in many Bible studies over the past 48 years, but none has made such an impact on my spirituality like BSF. So this is a huge “thank you” to you all for making your Bible studies accessible to us and making your studies so thought provoking and God inspired. They have definitely drawn me closer to God than ever before. God bless.

  26. Wow! What a wonderful summary of Genesis 3! It was a refreshing review before our discussion this morning.

  27. I needed this at this time. Wonderful message. We have to be aware every day that the devil will try to lead us from God.

  28. Thanks for the GOD’s attributes/resisting temptation…..
    I can use it in my daily life,GOD bless you

  29. I agree, with Marj, I too Love Oswald Chambers quote, thank you so for sharing, this has enlighten me in relation to my own temptations. I will try to encourage others in with this knowledge .. Be Bless

  30. Wow, thank you!

  31. Thank you for this beautifully written helpful insight. I am already using it !
    Mary

  32. These weekly extensions of the study help feed my growing thirst for understanding God and his word. THANK YOU

  33. I thank God for using you, Bennet, for writing a very truthful and encouraging article on Resisting Temptation. How I need to know and do it everyday. Thank you!

  34. Very nice piece. I am blessed thank you very much.

  35. Praise our loving LORD and SAVIOR! This devotion really hit it home… I have been having struggles in this area and felt like i was drowning and falling into every trap set for me….. But praises to our victorious King LORD JESUS

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