Appetite is Satan’s strongest hold upon mankind. When somebody comes and gives messages in regard to how to break the hold that he has on man, I believe that he tells his demons, “Go and assail that ministry.” But friends, when we talk about appetite, the message could never be complete if I did not mingle it with the message on how to overcome temptation, what to do with temptation.
The Word of God says, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’” Genesis 3:1, 2. Notice that there is conversation going on here. Eve is parleying with the devil. “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’’ Genesis 3:3-5. And then the very famous verse, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 [All emphasis supplied]
Notice several things: Eve had left her husband’s side. She stepped out on her own. She sought her own way and found herself standing and staring at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now the serpent eagerly awaits his opportunity to strike and begins to lay his bait to entice his prey. His ploy begins with an effort to break Eve’s faith in the word of God, and he tries to instill doubt in her mind by the first question, “Hath God said?” As she began to think on those words, her trust in God’s word began to be broken.
“The tempter can never compel us to do evil. He cannot control minds unless they are yielded to his control. The will must consent, faith must let go its hold upon Christ, before Satan can exercise his power upon us. But every sinful desire we cherish affords him a foothold. Every point in which we fail of meeting the divine standard is an open door by which he can enter to tempt and destroy us. And every failure or defeat on our part gives occasion for him to reproach Christ.” The Desire of Ages, 125
What did Eve do with temptation? Instead of fleeing to her husband’s side, she parleyed with Satan. She became enchanted with the melodious voice of the beautiful, winged serpent until she craved the luscious fruit dangling from the tree. She saw the fruit to be pleasant and desirable. She took the bait that Satan held out to her, yielded her will to the tempter’s voice, and then enticed Adam to eat it also.
What is temptation? Of Israel’s experience, as they were coming out of Egypt, we read, “But they sinned even more against Him by rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness. And they tested God in the their heart by asking for the food of their fancy. Yes, they spoke against God: They said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?’” Psalm 78:17-19
The Israelites tempted and tried God; but in the case of Eve, there was an enticement to sin. We read about this in James 1:14, 15. “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.” So we see that temptation can refer to being tested and tried, or to being enticed.
Now let us look at another wilderness experience involving temptation. “Then Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” Matthew 4:1-4
Here the devil continues on the point of appetite. Christ had fasted for forty days and was in a greatly weakened condition. As he had overcome the first Adam on appetite, was it not natural that he would begin on the Second Adam at the same point?
In the same way, Satan watches you daily. He knows your weak points of character and he is going to fit his temptations to assail you in these areas.
Between the temptation of Eve and the experience of Christ, there are some parallels and some significant differences. With Eve, Satan tried to instill doubt in her mind by saying, “Hath God said?” He approached Christ in the same way, saying, “If Thou be the Son of God.” But Eve was defeated by the devil, while Jesus Christ came off conqueror. You see, Jesus Christ refused to parley with the devil or contemplate his suggestion. When temptation comes to you, when the first thought presents itself to do something contrary to the Word of God, that is when you must act. Right then, do not wait, do not parley with it, do not think about it, don’t allow it to enter your mind.
Christ met the father of lies with the truth. His weapon was the Word of God; the book of Ephesians says “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Ephesians 6:17. When Satan came to Jesus Christ and tried to instill doubt with Him, Jesus did not parley with the devil in any way. He quoted the truth and the devil had to flee. “Not by even a thought did He [Christ] yield to temptation….so long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us. God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that we may attain to perfection of character.
“And how this is accomplished, Christ has shown us. By what means did He overcome in the conflict with Satan? By the Word of God.” The Desire of Ages, 123
What did Eve do? She thought about it. She let her mind wander into it. She was enticed. She looked at the tree, and what did she see? A fruit, pleasant to the eyes. Now it became more lovely than ever, “desirable to make one wise.” She stood there and parleyed with Satan.
“Only by the word could He resist temptation. ‘It is written,’ He said. And unto us are given ‘exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ 2 Peter 1:4. Every promise in God’s word is ours. ‘By every work that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ are we to live. When assailed by temptation, look not to circumstances or to the weakness of self, but to the power of the Word. All its strength is yours. ‘thy word,’ says the psalmist, ‘have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.’” Ibid.
The Bible says, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” 1 Peter 1:13, 14
What does it say? “Gird up the loins of your mind.” With what? “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.” Ephesians 6:14. In other words, we need to fill our minds with the Word. In ancient times, a man would gather his fold of outer garments and tuck them into his girdle. So, likewise, we are to prepare our minds for the diligent study of the Word. As Christians we are to gather up the loose ends of our unprofitable thoughts and exercise our minds on the great truths of salvation.
Think about this: The temptation that comes to you is common to all men. You are not getting something that somebody else does not get, but it is proportionate to your faith. “Temptation is not sin, and is no indication that God is displeased with us. The Lord suffers us to be tempted, but He measures every temptation, and apportions it according to our power to resist and overcome evil. It is in time of trial and temptation that we are enabled to measure the degree of our faith and trust in God, and to estimate the stability of our Christian character.” Signs of the Times, December 18, 1893. The secret is to immediately pray, “Lord give me a greater measure of Your faith,” and not yield by even a thought.
She continues and says, “If we are easily jostled and overcome, we should be alarmed; for our strength is small. Let us consider the words of comfort that have been left on record for our instruction: ‘There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye be able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.’ God has apportioned the temptation in proportion to the strength He can supply.” Ibid. You know, that gives me hope. It means that I do not have to fall.
“Our heavenly Father sees the hearts of men, and He knows their characters better than they themselves know them… He puts these persons on trial and in His wise providence brings them into different positions and under a variety of circumstances, testing them that they may reveal what is in their hearts and the weak points in their characters which have been concealed from their own knowledge… To men, whom God designs shall fill responsible positions, He in mercy reveals their hidden defects that they may look within and examine critically the complicated emotions and exercises of their own hearts, and detect that which is wrong; thus they may modify their dispositions and refine their manners. The Lord in His providence brings men where He can test their moral powers and reveal their motives of action, that they may improve what is right in themselves and put away that which is wrong. God would have His servants become acquainted with the moral machinery of their own hearts. In order to bring this about, He often permits the fire of affliction to assail them that they may become purified.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 84, 85
Count it all joy when you enter into divers temptation. Rejoice glory in tribulation. God is revealing your defects of character and measuring and testing your faith.
When tempted, how will God supply the strength to overcome? In Psalm 50:15 we read, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
“When the first suggestion of wrong is hear, dart a prayer to heaven, and then firmly resist the temptation to tamper with the principles condemned in God’s Word.” Sons and Daughters of God, 164. When the thought comes, do not play with it. Dart a prayer to heaven; resist in the firmness you can have in Christ. Let the thought go or it will lead you right to the fulfilling of the lust.
“We know nothing about the strength of our faith until it is tried.” Review and Herald, May 19, 1891. You may think you are strong in the Lord, but when the trial comes, you really get to see how strong your faith is.
“Angels that excel in strength were on the battleground, guarding the interest of the tempted soul, and ready to resist the foe. This is always the case in the trial and temptation of any one of the human race; when man is assailed by the tempter, and the powers of darkness press upon the soul, the angels of heaven are on the ground to fly to the aid of him who would resist evil and follow after righteousness.” Review and Herald, April, 24, 1894. Just imagine, there are angels standing beside you, waiting to help you; but you have to make the choice.
“Will human beings now act their part in resisting the devil? If they will do this, he will surely flee from them. Angels, who will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves, are waiting for you cooperation.” Review and Herald, July 4, 1899. They are waiting for our cooperation, for us to cry out to God that we may glorify Him in overcoming.
She continues, “They are waiting for you to respond to the drawing of Christ. Dreaw nigh to God and to one another. By desire, by silent prayer, by resistance of satanic agencies, put your will on the side of God’s will. While you have one desire to resist the devil, and sincerely pray, Deliver me from temptation, you will have the strength for your day. It is the work of the heavenly angels to come close to the tried, the tempted, the suffering ones. They labor long and untiringly to save the souls for whom Christ has died. And when souls appreciate their advantages, appreciate the heavenly assistance sent them, respond to the Holy Spirit’s working on their behalf; when they put their will on the side of Christ’s will, angels bear the tidings heavenward. Returning to the heavenly courts, they report their success with the souls for whom they have ministered, and there is rejoicing among the heavenly hosts.” Ibid. Isn’t that beautiful? Here is a tempted, tried saint, and the angels are ready to fly. My Bible says in James 4:7 that if I submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from me.
Friends, you may gain one victory, but that is not enough. We must gain victory after victory. You know, the Bible tells us again in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” You see, the man who faces the problems of life may at times regard himself as unfortunate and may be so regarded by others. However, the apostle James desires to correct this viewpoint and set before you a new perspective that envisions the result of faithful evidence as well as a clear view of how the trials began. He says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation.” Do not think that this is a bad thing that has happened to you. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation.”
God allows the trials to come, again, to reveal our weaknesses and to remove our defects of character. He permits trials but never with the intent that any man should fall. Remember, He measures it, He looks at it, and gives it in proportion to the strength that we have. In allowing the temptation, He is seeking to reveal our weakness so that, by faith, we will learn to depend on Him. You see, it is God who is the Refiner, and the trials are the fire. Satan’s purpose is to defeat us; but it is God’s purpose to strengthen our characters, to build up our faith through exercise.
“Every one of us needs to have a deep insight into the teachings of the Word of God. Our minds must be prepared to stand every test, and to resist every temptation, whether from without or from within. We must know why we believe as we do, why we are on the Lord’s side. The truth must keep watch in our hearts, ready to sound an alarm and summon us to action against every foe. The powers of darkness will open their batteries upon us; and all who are indifferent and careless, who have set their affections on their earthly treasure, and who have not cared to understand God’s dealings with His people, will be ready victims. No power but a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, will ever make us steadfast; but with this, one may chase a thousand, and put ten thousand to flight.” Review and Herald, April 29, 1884
Gird up the loins of your mind with the Word of God. Exercise faith and prayer for the angels of God to aid you. Do not let anything worldly creep into your mind; guard the avenues of the soul and fill your mind, again, with the Word of God.