Last month (September 2007), we began a review of keys that will help us to overcome temptation and sin. The first three are:
1) We must not place ourselves in the way of temptation. The Bible tell us: “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14. “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” Job 31:1.
2) If we are placed in the way of temptation because of circumstances, God will be with us as He was with Daniel and Joseph. (1 Corinthians 10:13.)
3) We should notice situations that bring temptation and try to stay away from such situations as much as possible. For instance, If you are impatient, perhaps it is because you are intemperate. “It is impossible for intemperate persons to be patient. They must first reform bad habits, learn to live healthfully, and then it will not be difficult for them to be patient.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 393.
God allows us to struggle or to suffer sometimes so we may gain the victory. You may have noticed that this was often the case in the examples given in the Bible. For instance, God saved Daniel in the lions’ den, not from it.
“He who understands well his own character, who is acquainted with the sin which most easily besets him, and the temptations that will be most likely to overcome him, should not expose himself needlessly and invite temptation by placing himself upon the enemy’s ground. . . . Self-knowledge will save many from falling into grievous temptations, and prevent many an inglorious defeat. In order to become acquainted with ourselves, it is essential that we faithfully investigate the motives and principles of our conduct, comparing our actions with the standard of duty revealed in God’s word.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 517.
“To know one’s self is great knowledge. . . . Self-knowledge leads to humility and trust in God; but it does not take the place of efforts for self-improvement. He who realizes his own deficiencies should spare no pains to reach the highest possible standard of physical, mental, and moral excellence.” Special Testimonies on Education, 50.
“True self-knowledge will lead to a humility that will allow the Lord to train the mind, and mold and discipline the character. The grace of humility is greatly needed by the workers for Christ in this period of the world’s history.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 525.
“You need to cultivate watchfulness and humility, and to be diligent in prayer. The more closely you live to God, the more clearly will you discern your weaknesses and your dangers. A practical view of the law of God, a clear discernment of the atonement of Christ, will give you a knowledge of yourselves and will show you wherein you fail to perfect Christian character. In short, you . . . need a daily experience in God’s will concerning you. When you see your great spiritual lack you will realize the fact that human depravity, specified in the word of God, is true in your experience. . . .
“Self-knowledge you need so much. The ignorance of your own hearts leads you to overlook the necessity of a daily, living experience in the divine life. In a degree you overlook the necessity of having a divine influence constantly with you. . . . If you neglect this, and pass on in self-confidence and self-sufficiency, you will be left to make very great blunders. You need constantly to cherish lowliness of mind and a spirit of dependence. He who feels his own weakness will look higher than himself and will feel the need of constant strength from above. The grace of God will lead him to exercise and cherish a spirit of constant gratitude. He who is best acquainted with his own weakness will know that it is the matchless grace of God alone that will triumph over the rebellion of the heart.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 321, 322.
“Many are in danger, after having preached to others, of themselves becoming castaways; for they do not see the importance of self-knowledge; they do not watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. By watchfulness and prayer they might become acquainted with those points in their character where they are most easily overcome by the enemy; by resistance of every attack, their weak points might become their strong points. Every follower of Christ should daily examine himself, and by constant prayer arm himself for conflict.
“There are many who neglect self-examination. This neglect is positively dangerous.” Review and Herald, July 30, 1901.
“The self-abasement manifested by the publican [Luke 18:10-13] is wholly acceptable to God. To know ourselves is to be humble. Self-knowledge will take away all disposition to entertain the Most High with a recital of our own excellent qualities. Realizing our sins and imperfections, we shall come to the feet of Jesus with earnest supplication, and our petitions will not be passed by unheard.” The Signs of the Times, February 19, 1885.
I remember as a child that when my family would be preparing to travel I was always ready to go before everyone else. I would have my bags packed, and I would be sitting in the car waiting on the others. I love to travel, and it does not take too much time for me to be ready. When I am ready, I have a hard time waiting for others.
I used to wonder why it took so long for everyone to get ready to go; it seemed like forever when I was young. As I grew older, I began to realize why it took so long to get our family on the road. First we had to mow the lawn, water the trees, change the oil in the car, clean the kitchen, pack a lunch and other food items, pick up in the house, and whatever else needed to be done. I soon realized that if I helped to get these things done around the house, we would get on the road sooner, and I would forget my frustration, because I would be busy. I also realized that other people in our house really liked the help. Instead of being impatient, waiting for people to be ready to go, I was making them happy by being helpful. Instead of being frustrated with everyone and the situation, I was happy.
Now, consider these additional keys to overcoming.
Where Temptation Starts
4) Temptation to sin starts in the mind. We must be ready to fight when the thought enters. Temptation is not a sin. Just because we are tempted with bad thoughts and sin does not mean that we are not Christians. Temptation is a problem when we yield to it. (11 Corinthians 10:5, 6.)
“All are free moral agents. And as such they must bring their thoughts to run in the right channel. Their meditations should be of that nature which will elevate their minds, and make Jesus and heaven the subjects of their thoughts. Here is a wide field in which the mind can safely range. If Satan seeks to divert the mind from this to low and sensual things, bring it back again, and place it on eternal things; and when the Lord sees the determined effort made to retain only pure thoughts, he will attract the mind, like the magnet, and purify the thoughts, and enable them to cleanse themselves from every secret sin. . . . The first work for those who would reform, is to purify the imagination. If the mind is led out in a vicious direction, it must be restrained to dwell only upon pure and elevated subjects. When tempted to yield to a corrupt imagination, then flee to the throne of grace and pray for strength from Heaven. In the strength of God the imagination can be restricted to dwell upon things which are pure and heavenly.” An Appeal to Mothers, 29.
5) A key to overcoming is to stay busy, so you do not have time to be looking for temptation. Idleness is not sanctioned in the Bible. (See 11 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 6:6-11; 24:30-34; Matthew 25:26; Hebrews 6:12; Genesis 3:19.) We are given the blessing of work to keep us from idleness.
“God could not have inflicted a greater curse upon men and women than to doom them to live a life of inaction. Idleness will destroy soul and body. The heart, the moral character, and physical energies are enfeebled. The intellect suffers, and the heart is open to temptation as an open avenue to sink into every vice. The indolent man tempts the devil to tempt him.” Our High Calling, 222.
“Law and service are a part of every true life. Idleness is sin. Money is supposed to carry its possessor above service, and because a man has money he is allowed to spend his time in idleness. But the devil engages all such in the meanest kind of work. It is the Lord who has a right to our service. The more an individual lives for himself, and the less for the good of others the less noble and pure will he be in his own life. His moral power degenerates while living for himself. Compare that idle life with the one who looks his responsibilities in the face, and takes up his life work for God and for his fellowmen.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 237.
“Idleness and riches make the heart hard that has never been oppressed by want or burdened by sorrow. The love of pleasure was fostered by wealth and leisure, and the people [of Sodom] gave themselves up to sensual indulgence. ‘Behold,’ says the prophet, ‘this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.’ Ezekiel 16:49, 50. There is nothing more desired among men than riches and leisure, and yet these gave birth to the sins that brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. Their useless, idle life made them a prey to Satan’s temptations, and they defaced the image of God, and became satanic rather than divine. Idleness is the greatest curse that can fall upon man, for vice and crime follow in its train. It enfeebles the mind, perverts the understanding, and debases the soul. Satan lies in ambush, ready to destroy those who are unguarded, whose leisure gives him opportunity to insinuate himself under some attractive disguise. He is never more successful than when he comes to men in their idle hours.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 156.
6) Do not become discouraged if it takes a long time to overcome. (See Mark 16:9; Luke 18:1-8.)
“Mary [Magdalene] had been looked upon as a great sinner, but Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life. He might have extinguished every spark of hope in her soul, but He did not. It was He who had lifted her from despair and ruin. Seven times she had heard His rebuke of the demons that controlled her heart and mind. She had heard His strong cries to the Father in her behalf. She knew how offensive is sin to His unsullied purity, and in His strength she had overcome.
“When to human eyes her case appeared hopeless, Christ saw in Mary capabilities for good. He saw the better traits of her character. The plan of redemption has invested humanity with great possibilities, and in Mary these possibilities were to be realized. Through His grace she became a partaker of the divine nature. . . .
“Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration. . . . He is today standing at the altar of incense, presenting before God the prayers of those who desire His help.
“The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature. They stand beside the great Sin Bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God.” Conflict and Courage, 309.
“When temptations assail you, as they surely will, when care and perplexity surround you, when, distressed and discouraged, you are almost ready to yield to despair, look, O look, to where with the eye of faith you last saw the light; and the darkness that encompasseth you will be dispelled by the bright shining of His glory. When sin struggles for the mastery in your soul, and burdens the conscience, when unbelief clouds the mind, go to the Saviour. His grace is sufficient to subdue sin. He will pardon us, making us joyful in God.” God’s Amazing Grace, 259.
Invasion of Normandy
During World War II and the invasion of Normandy, some rangers were sent to the beach head ahead of the ground troops to disable the German guns. Unfortunately, they got a little off course and were late to their target, giving the Germans time to spot them and to be prepared for them. Consequently, instead of a surprise attack, the Germans were ready for them. As they came up the embankment, the Germans started shooting at them. One of the men who was in that group of rangers said that even though they were late and the Germans were shooting at them, they had to keep going and get their mission accomplished or more soldiers would die. So they kept at their assigned duty. We must have the same determination. If we give up, we will lose the battle.
Sir Winston Churchill once declared, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” <www.winstonchurchhill.org> July 22, 2007.
7) We must keep our focus in the right direction instead of looking at the hopelessness of a situation. (See Matthew 19:29.) Look at the big picture! Is there anything to which we want to cling and for which we would give up heaven? Is there any experience too hard to pass through to make it to heaven?
“Oh! we must be terribly in earnest to impress upon every soul that there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. Every energy of the soul must be aroused to force their passage, and seize the kingdom by force. Satan is active, and we must be active too. Satan is untiring and persevering, and we must be the same. There is no time to make excuses and blame others for our backslidings; no time now to flatter the soul [that] if circumstances had only been more favorable, how much better, how much easier [it would be] for us to work the works of God. We must tell even those who profess to believe in Christ, that they must cease to offend God by sinful excuses.
“Jesus has provided for every emergency. If they will walk where He leads the way, He will make rough places plain. He, with His experience, will create an atmosphere for the soul. He closes the door and brings the soul into seclusion with God, and the needy soul is to forget everyone and everything, but God. Satan will talk with him, but speak aloud to God and He will drive back the hellish shadow of Satan. With humble, subdued, thankful hearts they will come forth saying, ‘Thy gentleness hath made me great.’ [Psalm 18:35.] The sincere seeker comes forth from the alliance with God, rich in the assurance of His love, to go forth to distill a heavenly prayer wherever he goes. He can talk of the righteousness of Christ; he can talk [of] the love of God with sincerity. He has trusted and he knows the Lord is good.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 336, 337.
“What is our aim? . . . Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror; victory, however long the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” Sir Winston Churchill. <ezinearticles.com> July 22, 2007.
8) Memorize the promises in God’s Word and start to repeat them when tempted. “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed [art] thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as [much as] in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:11-16.
“Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. ‘It is written,’ He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. Satan demanded of Christ a miracle as a sign of His divinity. But that which is greater than all miracles, a firm reliance upon a ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ was a sign that could not be controverted. So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage.” The Desire of Ages, 120.
“Compared with the Word, everything else is weakness itself. The Word of God is the weapon of our warfare. Educate, train the people to be doers of the Word, and they will then abide in Christ, and Christ will abide in them. Then they will discern the delusions of Satan; they will not be ignorant of his devices.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 188.
If It Offends
9) A Bible principle states: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:29, 30. In the Bible, it states that if your hand offends you to cut it off. For example, the right kind of music can be helpful and the wrong kind a hindrance. If the music to which you are listening is not helping in your spiritual experience, then perhaps it should be cut off and cast away.
In a personal testimony, Ellen White counseled: “The character of your music was not such as to encourage elevated thoughts or feelings, but rather to degenerate.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 321.
“Probably the most conspicuous ancient thought about music is the doctrine of ethos, which describes the effects of sound on human behaviour [sic] and therefore its moral influence. Aristotle, in his Politics, explains how the different kinds of music, imitating specific feelings (anger, kindness, love), can affect a human being with the same kind of feelings. Therefore, says Aristotle, someone who listens to the wrong kind of music will grow up to be a bad person, and vice-versa. Consequently, Aristotle (and also Plato) recommended the right kind of music in the education of young citizens.” <http://www.guitarpress.com> July 22, 2007.
“One reason that there is not more sincere piety and religious fervor, is because the mind is occupied with unimportant things and there is no time to meditate, search the Scriptures, or pray. If the consciences can be aroused to see the errors in the preparation of the food, and the influence upon the moral tendencies of our nature, there would be in every family decided reforms. Intemperance in desire resulted to our first parents in the loss of Eden. We generally find, even among Seventh-day Adventists, that inclination; habit; delicate, unhealthful preparations in cooking; and unhealthful habits of dress are weakening physical, mental, and moral efficiency, and making it impossible to overcome temptation. Now what shall we do? This subject is a sadly neglected matter. . . .” Counsels to Writers and Editors, 125.
“Envy, malice, evil thinking, evilspeaking, covetousness¾these are weights that the Christian must lay aside if he would run successfully the race for immortality. Every habit or practice that leads into sin and brings dishonor upon Christ must be put away, whatever the sacrifice. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. One sin cherished is sufficient to work degradation of character and to mislead others.
“ ‘If thy hand cause thee to stumble,’ the Saviour said, ‘Cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell.’ Mark 9:43-45, R.V. If to save the body from death, the foot or the hand should be cut off, or even the eye plucked out, how much more earnest should the Christian be to put away sin, which brings death to the soul!” The Acts of the Apostles, 312, 313.
“Any habit or practice that would lead into sin, and bring dishonor upon Christ, would better be put away, whatever the sacrifice. That which dishonors God cannot benefit the soul. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. And one sin cherished is sufficient to work the degradation of the character, and to mislead others.” The Desire of Ages, 439.
[All emphasis added.]
To be continued . . .
Jana Grosboll serves Steps to Life as its Network Administrator. She may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.