How to overcome temptation?
Man's oldest problem is temptation. It goes all the way back to Adam.
The Bible talks about two different kinds of testing
One is called trials. The other is called temptation. Trials are situations designed by God in order to help us grow. Temptations are designed by the devil in order to cause us to sin.
How to overcome temptations?
1) Be realistic, and admit that you can be tempted. Reality is all of us are tempted. "But remember this—the temptations that come into your life aren’t anything new and different..”.(I Corinthians 10:13).
But note that it is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. Hebrew 4:15 "Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet he sinned not." Jesus was tempted but He never gave in.
2) Be ready and prepared for temptations: When temptation comes, be ready. Jesus said Luke 22:31-32, "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation."
How do you prepare for temptation? How do you get ready for it? By understanding how it operates. II Corinthians 2:11 "In order that Satan might not outwit us, we are not unaware of his schemes." God wants you to know how the devil operates, how he tempts.
James outlines the three steps that the devil uses in order to tempt you.
James 1:14 "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin. Sin, when full grown gives birth to death."( James 1:15).
First the devil gets your attention (your desire)
Two he gets you to have an attitude (conceive it)
Third he gets you to commit the action (give birth)
What begins in your mind results in an action. The battle starts with your thoughts. It moves from your thoughts into actions.
God gives us natural desires. They are good gifts. But any desire out of control becomes destructive. Satan loves to take routine desires and turn them into runaway desires. You are consumed, obsessed by it: food, work, having fun, sex, money.
I can get ready by understanding what happens during temptation so I can learn how to avoid it.
3) Be refocused and change your attention when tempted
The key to overcoming temptation is not to fight temptation but simply refocus your thoughts. Change your attention. Instead of looking at what you're being tempted by, just look somewhere else. Refocus. Philippians 4:8 says "Think on these things, things that are good, positive, just, honest." Get God's word in your mind and refocus. Quit fighting the feeling. What you resist, persists. You can't fight a feeling. But if you ignore it, you weaken it.
How to be refocused practically? If you don't want to get stung, get away from the bees. Maybe you need to change the channel on the TV. Maybe you need to walk out of that movie. Maybe you need to change jobs. Joseph was in a tempting situation and he left his coat and ran. If you have to leave your coat, leave your coat. Walk out. I Corinthians 15:33 "Bad company corrupts good character."
4) Be reborn and give control to Jesus
The single most important principle in breaking bad habits and getting control of your life is to let God have control of it. Get Him in your life so He can start changing your character. Invite him by prayer. I Corinthians 10:13, "God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it." What a great promise!
What is it that you want in your life so badly that you're willing to compromise in order to get it? A promotion? A thrill? Confess it to God. The time to deal with temptation is right at the start. When it starts in the desire stage, nip it in the bud.
Martin Luther, the great German theologian, said, "We cannot keep the birds from flying over us, but we can keep them from making a nest in our hair."
Other resources you need in order to fight temptation:
1. Fellowship with other Christians. You will not make it if you do not have fellowship with other Christians. We were not meant to fight the battle by ourselves. Get involved with some Christian friends. Get involved in a Bible study, a small group.
2. Get into God's word. The Bible is our secret weapon against temptation. It is the truth. Jesus said in 8:32, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Do you want to be free from that bad habit? Fill your mind with this book. Refocus on it.
3. What is the payoff? James 1:12"Blessed (happy) is the man who endures temptation... (it's that good feeling of self-confidence and self-esteem centered in Jesus because you realize you're not being controlled by anything except the Lord) ... when he is tried he shall receive the crown which is life... (you begin to enjoy the abundant life) ... which the Lord has promised to them that love Him."