Many people, when they have been overcome by temptation, have accused God of unfairness. They do not realize that God has provided special promises of deliverance and blessing to those undergoing temptation. However, for you to taste the victory, you must be willing to engage in the battle.
Many people consider the petition, “lead us not into temptation” to be the most difficult part of the Lord’s Prayer to understand. Some people have wondered why God tempts people. However, the Bible says that God does not tempt anybody. James wrote, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:12–17.
It is wrong to think that God tempts anyone. He is not tempted with evil and He does not tempt anyone. If He is not the source of our temptations, then where do temptations come from? One source is the devil. When Jesus was in the wilderness, He was tempted by the devil. In this world no one can avoid temptation. Notice what it says in Matthew 4 about Jesus’ temptation immediately after His baptism:
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1. Clearly we can see that the devil is one of the sources of our temptations. But another source of our temptation is from within. James also talks about that. He said a man is tempted by his own desires, his own lusts and his own sinful or evil cravings. John recognized another source of our temptations when he said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lusts of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” I John 2:15–17.
Temptations do not come from God. Rather they come from the world, the flesh; that is, from within us, and from the devil. So what does it mean when the Bible says in the Lord’s Prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation?” One way that it could be paraphrased would be like this: “O, Father, You know how weak I am of myself. Permit me not to be tempted above my ability to endure, but when the temptation comes, show me the way of escape from the snares of the evil one.”
We know that this is what this phrase means because of the way the apostle Paul explains the nature of and the deliverance from temptation. God has given wonderful promises to those who endure temptation. We just read one from James 1:12. Paul wrote this promise to the Corinthian church, especially for those who are being tempted: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13.
Notice that Paul first says that every temptation that comes to you is common to all mankind; none that you have are peculiar to you alone. But, God watches the tempted person and He promises that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; in other words, not beyond what you are able to endure, but He will ensure that with the temptation, He will make a way of escape so that you will be able to endure it.
This is a wonderful promise. Many stories could be told of Christians who have received the answer to this promise when they prayed during times of great trial and trouble. But this promise follows a warning. We are in danger of falling into temptations because of our weakness and also because of our lack of judgment. Paul says in the previous verse, I Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” We need to beware of overconfidence, and not just think, “Well, the Lord has promised that He will give me the victory,” therefore just go rashly on my way without thinking. That attitude has caused many Christians to fall. Overconfidence leads to defeat because the Bible says, “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” Jeremiah 10:23.
The Lord provides a way of escape when people are in temptation and He leads us through it in order that we might escape. To escape we need divine guidance. We need to be led by the Lord Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Bible talks a great deal about the fact that God will give victory over temptation to His children. John said, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith.” I John 5:4.
Paul wrote about it, “But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:57, 58.
Christ is our victory. With Him there is no such thing as failure or defeat. So the cry, “Lead us not into temptation” is a cry that comes from a sense of our human weakness. Jesus understood the weaknesses that we have because He came into this world just as we do. He came to meet and endure temptation and then give us the power to do the same so that we can be what the Bible calls overcomers.
Jesus met temptation while He was on the earth. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17, 18.
The cry “lead us not into temptation” is a cry that comes from a person who senses his human weakness and who understands something of the power and cunning of the great deceiver. The Scriptures say a great deal about the power of Satan to deceive men. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the special working of the anti-Christ power in the very last days and how people in this world will be deceived. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” II Thessalonians 2:9–11.
Jesus talked about it saying that after He left this world and before He would come back again there would arise false christs and false prophets and that they would show great signs and wonders. In other words, they would work miracles. Many times the Bible writers predicted that in the last days teachers working miracles would deceive almost the entire world. As a result of this deception they will lose their souls. This truth is so crucial to understand that Paul wrote about it. The apostle John mentions it numerous times in the book of Revelation, specifically in chapters 12, 13, 16, 18, 19 and 20.
Jesus said, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24. The prayer “lead us not into temptation” includes a request that we might be vigilant against our wily woe. The apostle Peter warned about it saying, “Be sober (do not be intoxicated), be vigilant (be watchful, be paying attention); because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I Peter 5:8.
The people most likely to be overcome by temptation are those who either are not paying attention or are overconfident.
The night Jesus was betrayed to His crucifixion, He made the following prophecy or prediction to the apostle Peter. He said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Luke 22:31, 32.
When Jesus said this, Peter was so self-confident that such a thing would never happen that he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Verse 33. But Jesus knew better: “Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.’ ” Verse 34.
Recording the same experience in Mark, it says, “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.’ ” Mark 14:29. Self confident Peter was so sure that even if the rest of the disciples were to deny Jesus and be unfaithful, he would remain faithful.
But, “Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ ” Verse 30. Peter was sure that Jesus was wrong and he was right; he knew he would never deny his Lord. The events of that night proved that Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself.
Jesus knows you also better than you know yourself. That night Jesus had said to His disciples, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41 literal translation) but now Peter “spoke more vehemently, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And they all said likewise.” Mark 14:31. All of the disciples said, We will be faithful, and yet just a few hours later, when Jesus was arrested, the Bible records in the gospels how all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
When we read the Bible, it is not wise to consider ourselves to be self-reliant and confident, thinking, “Well, I am OK, I can make it.” We need to distrust ourselves and appeal to the Lord. If Peter had prayed to Jesus and said, “Lord, please, I want a special miracle to be worked in my life so that what You said might not be” and had humbled himself, his fall could have been avoided, but he was self-confident. He did not comprehend his own weakness or the strength and cunning of his enemy, the devil.
The fact that we all possess certain tendencies toward evil is evidence of our need of help. Pray that God will help us to keep out of situations where we will be tempted and are apparently powerless to resist the temptation. We need to avoid what the Bible refers to as besetting sins. Notice what the apostle Paul wrote about that in the book of Hebrews: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1, 2.
Besetting or ensnaring sins are usually agreeable and fascinating to our human nature, and therefore must be avoided and shunned. We must not flirt with temptations that carry a special appeal to our carnal appetites and passions. In fact, Paul in this same passage in Hebrews 12, says that we are to shun these things and to resist to avoid becoming entangled. He said, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” Verse 4.
Temptations are something to be resisted and overcome and not deliberately walked into presumptuously. Another dangerous situation is what might be called the devil’s surprise attack. Anyone who has studied military science knows that one of the major features of gaining victories in military wars is the use of surprise, attacking at an unexpected time.
The devil does this repeatedly in our spiritual life. There are many instances recorded in the Bible of such things. Sometimes people fell and at other times they resisted and overcame.
Joseph’s experience is recorded in the book of Genesis. Although he was a slave, he became an executive in his master Potiphar’s house. “And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house were inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.’ ” Genesis 39:7–12.
This Scripture records how Joseph was met with a sudden temptation that was unexpected at first. However, it was repeated over and over with increasing intensity, but he continually resisted this woman’s advances and never gave in. Unfortunately, that was not the case with others who faced the same temptation whose stories were recorded in the Bible. King David’s story had a completely different outcome.
In the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested, Jesus knew that His disciples would soon face the most awful and greatest temptation that they had ever had in their lives. In a matter of hours they would be tempted to deny their Lord and forsake Him.
He appealed to them to pray with Him for an hour. Instead, they went to sleep. They were oblivious of the fact that the event to take place in the following hours would decide the destiny of the world. “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ ” Matthew 26:40, 41.
After He had gone away and prayed again a second time, “He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.” Verse 43. Finally, “He came to His disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.’ ” Verse 45.
How many times Christians have wandered into sin and not resisted the temptation because they have neglected to take time to pray! How is your prayer life? Do you take time to pray? Do you ask with sincerity, “Lead us not into temptation?” Are you praying for victory over the things that tempt you? If you ask God not to lead you where you will be overcome by temptation, then you are planning to be faithful and true and not willingly walk into temptation’s way.
There are special blessings pronounced on those who do not yield to temptation. God will make a way of escape and make it possible for you to endure the temptation (I Corinthians 10:13) and James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man that endures temptation … he will receive the crown of life.”
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest Who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14.
O friend, are you being tempted? Do you need special help? Do you need special grace to deal with the temptations that you are facing day by day? The apostle says, Come boldly before the throne of grace so that you can obtain mercy and grace, the help that you need, to overcome the temptations with which you are dealing.
While living in this world it is impossible to avoid all temptation, but if you come to the throne of grace, Jesus can give you the victory.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.