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. This was very refreshing, knowing that we are not alone in being tempted but also knowing we have a Savior who knows and understand. Thank you for the reLITY CHECK.

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  2. Temptation is so subtle, sweet and desirable, how easy it is to take your focus off God, and place it on the desires of one’s own heart. Mesmerised by the serpent’s words and the beauty of the luscious fruit.
    In that moment of desire and curiosity, sin is born, we bite in to the fruit and our eyes are opened to the world. A world that will never be the same again.

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  3. This was very helpful, practically speaking, answering the “Yes, but how?” As a long time believer who knows WHAT the Bible says, I often have trouble with applying it to personal circumstances…”yes, I know what God says, but HOW do I do it when I’m being assaulted by temptation?” Thank you for the help!

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  4. Satan sometimes lies to me that i am the only one like _to take from the joy of salvation. Thanks for practical insight to have him crashed under me through awareness of Christ and His Word.

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    • Yes! 1 Peter 5:9 continues: Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
      We are not alone!

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  5. Psalm 3:4.how: to the hurt, the afflicted Psalm 10:17. Cover him with favor as with a shield Psalm 5:13. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do if with his love he befriend you

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    • So beautiful!

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  6. The one thing that you said that really stood out to me was when you get disturbed. Which is really a disruption a clash between the 2 sides. To notice that immediately and to awaken Christ as you said is great awareness and insight for us all.

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  7. Interesting that sin is not only doing the wrong thing but also to loose sight of what GOD has intended for us. Broaden my understanding of sin and how to avoid temptation. Thank you

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  8. I enjoyed reading this blog very much. It brings hope to us as we face anxiety and fear, which can provoke anger and frustration. Focusing on Jesus helps us from sinning and trusting God to provide our needs and sustaining us.

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  9. Thanks for your sharing.
    Definitely “Why am I so __”?
    It’s a question we must ask ourselves more frequently.

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  10. Thank you for sharing your personal testimony and the quotes from O.Chambers and Augustine. Recognizing the voice of the tempter and calling on God to help us discern His voice is the key to tempting situations. Temptation continues to be exposed in Genesis 4:3-7 where we read God’s caution to Cain…”sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you” Cain forgot that he has a loving relationship with the LORD and could go to Him with his anger, frustration, and confusion. Instead we can infer that the tempter was changing Cain’s point of view. “How could a loving God not accept your offering and instead favor your brother over you?” Cain lost the ability to see his value to God. Cain became self-centered instead of God-centered. I know self-centeredness is truly the root cause of all my temptations and Satan uses this to change my point of view. Will I choose to be “awakened to the awareness of Jesus”, my Emmanuel?

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  11. Blessed by this reading. Thank you for quoting the scripture references. Our only weapon against Satan is God’s word. Thank you for the encouragement.

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  12. Really good, an eye opener.

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  13. Great insight there.

    I have to know the command of God and to remeber his character

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  14. Thank-you so much for this timely message. In the midst of our pain and grief, it is so important that we do not allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with all the alarming issues of our day but remember to awaken Christ. He is more than able (more than able) to deal with whatever concerns me today

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  15. Thank you. I have anger issues with the politics of today and with the pandemic. I find myself judging others in ways I am not happy to do. I try to stop this anger from manifesting in me but I fail daily. With this blog I am hopeful that I will be able to resist the anger that comes daily in reaction to all that is happening in the world. The stuff is everywhere and almost impossible not to react to it. I want to stay informed but it draws me in till I am angry. I was reading the blog and as I was, I realized that the one drawing me in is satan. I am going to focus on the vision that I saw in my mind as I was reading. I saw myself sitting quietly on the beach watching and hearing the waves and I felt at peace. I am going to bring myself to that peaceful vision when I begin become embroiled in the world. I will call on the name of Jesus to ask for the Holy Spirit to help me get there.

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  16. Thank you for challenging our faith and allowing us to share the things that in frustrating us during this Pandemic. I am somewhat disappointed with how the Administration Government is handling this Covid-19. I lost my 28 year old beautiful niece to this virus and all the American Government can say is blame China. I thank God for my strength to seek God for answering as to why people are so insensitive to others. I do understand that temptation will always be in the world as long as Satan in on the scene. However, it is up to us not to handle situations on our own and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our path in areas of understanding as to why things happen and to give us the strength to withstand these pitfalls and disappointments in our life. I study the Word of God and meditate and pray daily this is where my strength lies.

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  17. “Why am I so __” this happens to me. Thank you for your blog Bennett.
    “When frustration begins to build, and I turn to God, His mercy and compassion restore peace to my home“ love this words and I prayed when frustration started over me too, I can feel the Lord care about me.

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  18. I was thinking along these lines, but your insight into how to resist temptation was beautifully written and easy to understand. Thank you!

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  19. “Why am I so frustrated?” I am so tired of the pandemic. Temptation is part of our life on earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit, through God’s word and prayers, we can be embraced by God, resist the temptation. God turns us from giving into temptation to be full of gratitude of Him, which leads to joy. This is my experience from the past three weeks. The study of Genesis has opened my eyes and heart to our Father God. Praise the Lord God! Thank BSF for the wonderful Bible study!

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  20. Praise God for sharing your insight 😊Thank you Roland ! Struggle against temptation is real. His word says we are more than conquerors and always victorious in Christ . I believe but how do I put it in practice ? As we experience His love , we want to love God by being a overcomer and obeying Him to love others and reflect Him . I often fail …So I seek Him and ask . Praise God , He has been revealing to me how ,lately and your sharing has just confirmed it to me . Thank you loving , gracious and merciful Father ! Indeed , nothing is too hard for you and all things are possible with Christ . I shared this to my Connect group for it is a handy tool

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  21. God is forgiving and clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins.
    His wisdom is revealed in not letting them enter again to eat of the fruit of the tree of life and live in hell because of their sin.There’s a lot more of God but you have give plenty.Thank you

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  22. PRAISE GOD FOR THIS EXTREMELY TIMELY WORD & PRICK TO MY SPIRIT & MORTAL SELF. I’M IN THE MIDST OF ENDLESS ATTACKS: PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY, FINANCIALLY, EMOTIONALLY, AND DEFINITELY SPIRITUALLY, FROM FAMILY MEMBERS AT WAR WITH ME AND EACH OTHER, RAPIDLY FAILING HEALTH, DEBT, LOSS OF TRANSPORTATION, VERGE OF LOSING HOME, AND OVERWHELMING DEBTS LIKE SO VERY MANY OTHERS. IT SEEMS AT TIMES THAT GOD’S TOO BUSY WITH WHAT I KNOW ARE CRITICALLY MORE IMPORTANT MATTERS THAN I. AND I UNDERSTAND THAT, AND IT’S OKAY,,,,BECAUSE I KNOW THAT HE TRULY LOVES ME AS EVIDENCED MANY TIMES IN MY LIFE BEFORE. I JUST DESIRE TO BE A MUST STRONGER AND CONQUERING WARRIOR FOR GOD, CONSTANTLY TRIUMPHANTLY VICTORIOUS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. NOT IN THE BATTLEFIELD HOSPITAL WARD. SO AGAIN THANKS FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT AND WAKE ME UP MESSAGE TO GO AND FIGHT ALONG SIDE HIM. THE VICTORY HAS ALREADY BEEN WON, THESES ARE JUST THE DEATH THROES OF THE ENEMY BEFORE THE GLORIOUS RETURN OF CHRIST & THE SAINTS OF GOD’S TRANSFIGURATION. LJ

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  23. thank you thank you I ‘ll learn from Eve .who knows God command but but forgot Gods character.
    when I am worried I ‘ll remember Gods words n his attribute to help me stand tall.

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  24. Yes this is extremely helpful and very true. Thank you for the reminder.

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  25. Thank you for the reminder of God’s many and varied attributes. What an awesome God we serve!

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  26. This is so helpful to me. Thank you so much. I will put this into practice, as author said will rejoice in his victories and repent when I fail. God bless you

    I forwarded this to my friends In BSF as well.

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  27. Thank you for this timely word. May we never forget that God’s boundaries are for our good so we can fully enjoy His provisions.

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  28. Easy to tears my whole life, it has become easier to control in this lonely time. I have found that when I lay my head down at night, God is there and he cares when I cry. He cares that I have opinions and insecurities. And He listens and comforts. What joy!!

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  29. Great message. Sin, repeat, repent is so true in everyone’s life. Despite my flaws and imperfection, I thank God for his grace and mercy.

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    • Love the St Augustine quote “a temptation arises… this is the moment to awaken Christ”. Through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we face and conquer temptation, fear, and frustration. Also love the reminde to dwell on Gods character attributes. He is good!

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  30. What an encouragement it is to be reminded of Jesus’ enduring patience, to seek wisdom and chose a new response.
    I needed this, thank you!!!

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  31. Reading this gave me a new outlook on temptations. It was an eye opener to realize how quickly Satan can redirect our focus from God to ourselves thru “desire” and “delight”. The next minute, sin is born. Thank you

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  32. Really encouraging and rewarding

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  33. “remembered his command but she forgot his character” that is very helpful . I want to remember that and thank you for that.

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  34. I am reminded of Big Daddy Weaves song ,”I know” whose verse “I know that You are so much more than what I leave behind” underscores the abundance that God offers in His attributes. Thanks for the blog—it is indeed what I needed.

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  35. Thank you for this insightful honest reflection on temptation. Oh how I could have used this a few years ago when I made a terrible mistake that still haunts me. Knowing that through God’s mercy, he has forgiven me, but the devil still loves to remind me of my past mistakes. Thanks to BSF, I am a stronger Christian now & am daily maturing in God’s Love & Mercy !!

    God’s Attributes remind me of who He is – EVERYTHING !! Thank You !!

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    • “Recognizing the Deceiver” really
      caused a pause and reflect.

      Thank you!

      Reply

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