We all struggle with temptation that leads to sin and many of us feel like we are just not strong enough and will never measure up. God will seldom empower overnight change, but He is able to strengthen and change you over time and empower you to overcome temptation. Of course, the real issue is sin and our sinful nature. This is a longer post to read but is important to understand.
God promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that He would provide a way to escape temptation, but there is seldom a quick fix, rather, a daily walk of trust where we grow in strength each day.
Dealing with temptation & sin
There are practical steps you can take with your struggle against temptation. Consider the following as an action plan:
1. How much do you want to give up sin?
Often times we like our sin and even hunger for it but are never really satisfied. Our old nature is corrupted and its desires are deceitful. Ephesians 4:22-24
God may lovingly discipline us like children (Hebrews 12:7-11) until we hate the sin and become desperate to change, however, it is so much better to hunger after righteousness from the start.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (satisfied).
2. Are there underlying needs?
Most of us are looking for love and acceptance and this drives a “need” that leads to sin. Recognising this is important and it may relate to past events in your life. We need to learn that God can satisfy these needs and it is important to take them to Him in prayer. Those needs may come from tough times.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
These needs may be based on misbeliefs – negative things we believe about ourselves that are not true. We may have held these false beliefs most of our lives and need to unlearn them and replace them with truths and an understanding of our new identity in Christ.
3. Learn not to fight in your strength:
We will never overcome sin in the area of our weakness, using our own strength – give up now.
6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
This also means there is no point in trying to obey a whole lot of “Do Not” Laws as Paul said in Colossians.
20 ……. do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
The enemy loves us to try and fight temptation in our own strength knowing that we will fail. One of the most common ways is to push the thoughts down. You can fight for years this way but it is only when you come to the end of yourself and realise you need to rely on God, that you will begin to win the battle.
4. Learn to totally rely on Jesus
We must learn to totally rely on Jesus strength. This strength comes from both His Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
When Satan challenged Jesus in the wilderness, our Lord used His knowledge of scripture to defeat the enemies attacks and we need to take the same approach while relying on Him. In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus each time said: It is written……
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Jesus was tempted in all ways and yet was without sin and we need His strength.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
As we learn to walk by the Spirit, so we walk in the Lord’s strength and not ours.
Galatians 5:16, 20
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
So we need to learn not to rely on our own strength but strength the Lord provides.
5. Ask for prayer and support.
We were not meant to walk the road alone but are called to encourage and support one another. It is important to ask fellow believers for prayer and support. Hebrews 10:25
If you have an addiction of any sort, or difficult to resolve needs/struggles then you will almost always need help from a professional or a support group or person. Overcoming addictions by yourself is extremely difficult and many times impossible. When drugs or pornography have a hold on your life, then you can’t go it alone and going forward at church for a quick prayer is unlikely to be enough either.
We are all tempted and all sin, you are not unique, so be brave and ask for help when you need it.
6. Trust God and stay the course
Trust God that He will in time, work in your life, and bring change.
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
You need to ask God to provide a pathway to move forward and always remember that the Lord stands ready to forgive when you fail on the way. 1 John 1:9
7. Resist the evil one
In that strength, we must take action to resist the evil one:
1 Peter 5:8–9
8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
8. Expect to be tested
Your ability to resist temptation in God’s strength will be tested. That will prove that you are an overcomer.
Take some practical steps to deal with temptation:
- In prayer, acknowledge your sinfulness. Always be honest with God about the sins you are battling.
- Realise sin usually starts in the mind, in the thought life, and so every time you think a bad thought, don’t push it down but tell the Lord about it and take it by faith to the cross. This is where it dies, not buried deep within you.
- Get to know scripture. Make it part of your daily life asking God to speak to your heart.
- Learn to totally rely on the Lord’s strength through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Start each day with a prayer for strength. It may be helpful to set a calendar reminder on your phone to do this.
- Ask for help from someone where you need it. This includes seeking professional help where appropriate.
- Ask for the Lord’s wisdom to think and live in a new way.
- Thinking in a new way will lead to living in a new way. Romans 12:2
- Scripture tells us to “put off” and “put on”. You can’t just stop sinning and leave a void, you have to start living differently. Colossians 3:12-14
- Understand that change takes time so this is not a “one-off” approach and will need to be revisited often.
- Remind yourself that there is no condemnation for the believer. Romans 8:1. If and when you do slip, then learn 1 John 1:9 and keep going.
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness