In the September 2007 and October 2007 issues of LandMarks, we reviewed keys that will help us to overcome temptation and sin. In summary:
1) We must not place ourselves in the way of temptation. The Bible tells 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.
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. (II Corinthians 10:5, 6.)
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 II 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.
6) Do not become discouraged if it takes a long time to overcome. (See Mark 16:9; Luke 18:1–8.)
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?
8) Memorize the promises in God’s Word and start to repeat them when tempted. (See Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:11–16.)
9) In the Bible it says that if your hand offends you to cut it off. (Matthew 5:29-30.) 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.
We continue with this important counsel.
10) Pray when the temptation first comes. (See Mark 14:38; Matthew 26:41.)
I have found that if I parlay with the devil, I am no match, but if I pray when the temptation first comes, God gives the power to resist. Usually, if I do not pray, then I am sunk, so to speak, as far as falling for temptation.
“In the daily life you will meet with sudden surprises, disappointments, and temptations. What saith the word? ‘Resist the devil,’ by firm reliance upon God, ‘and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.’ ‘Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.’ [James 4:7; Isaiah 27:5.] Look unto Jesus at all times and in all places, offering a silent prayer from a sincere heart that you may know how to do His will. Then when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard for you against the enemy.” The Adventist Home, 214.
“If you will only watch, continually watch unto prayer, if you will do everything as if you were in the immediate presence of God, you will be saved from yielding to temptation and may hope to be kept pure, spotless, and undefiled till the last.” Ibid., 338.
“There is no danger that the Lord will neglect the prayers of His people. The danger is that in temptation and trial they will become discouraged, and fail to persevere in prayer.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 175.
“If the Saviour of men, with His divine strength, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals feel the necessity of prayer—fervent, constant prayer! When Christ was the most fiercely beset by temptation, He ate nothing. He committed Himself to God, and through earnest prayer, and perfect submission to the will of His Father, came off conqueror. Those who profess the truth for these last days, above every other class of professed Christians, should imitate the great Exemplar in prayer.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 52, 53.
“None will be placed beyond the reach of temptation; for in every character there are weak points that are in danger when assailed… In earnest prayer and living faith is their only safety.” Counsels on Health, 411.
“If we look at the picture of the days that were before the flood, and then turn our attention to the habits and practices of society today, we shall see that our earth is fast ripening for the plagues of the last days. Men have corrupted the earth by their sinful course of action. Satan is playing the game of life for the souls of men. Those who are doers of the words of Christ will find that they will have to watch and pray continually in order that they may not be led into temptation.” Counsels on Stewardship, 135.
“Daily beset by temptation, constantly opposed by the leaders of the people, Christ knew that He must strengthen His humanity by prayer. In order to be a blessing to men, He must commune with God, pleading for energy, perseverance, and steadfastness. Thus He showed His disciples where His strength lay. Without this daily communion with God, no human being can gain power for service.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 323.
“While you pray, dear youth, that you may not be led into temptation, remember that your work does not end with the prayer. You must then answer your own prayer as far as possible by resisting temptation, and leave that which you cannot do for yourselves for Jesus to do for you.” God’s Amazing Grace, 166.
Replace and Praise
11) When overcoming a bad habit, we must replace it with something good. (See Romans 12:21; Luke 11:21–26.)
12) Praise the Lord for what He has done for you. (See Psalms 103:1–3; 107:13–15.) An attitude of gratitude will lift your spirits even when you do not feel like it and things are not going the best.
Choose Associates Carefully
13) We must choose those with whom we associate wisely, because those are the ones who have an influence on us for good or for evil. There is danger in worldly associations. “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26.
“There is danger in departing in the least from the Lord’s instruction. When we deviate from the plain path of duty, a train of circumstances will arise that seems irresistibly to draw us farther and farther from the right. Needless intimacies with those who have no respect for God will seduce us ere we are aware. The fear of offending worldly friends will deter us from expressing our gratitude to God, or acknowledging our dependence upon him.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 115.
“Wrench yourself away from hurtful associations. Count the cost of following Jesus, and make it, with a determined purpose to cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Eternal life is worth your all, and Jesus has said, ‘Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.’ [Luke 14:33.] He who does nothing, but waits to be compelled by some supernatural agency, will wait on in lethargy and darkness. God has given his word. God speaks in unmistakable language to your soul. Is not the word of his mouth sufficient to show you your duty, and to urge its fulfillment?” Christian Education, 117.
“Great care should be taken by Christian youth in the formation of friendships and in the choice of companions. Take heed, lest what you now think to be pure gold turns out to be base metal. Worldly associations tend to place obstructions in the way of your service to God, and many souls are ruined by unhappy unions, either business or matrimonial, with those who can never elevate or ennoble. Never should God’s people venture upon forbidden ground. Marriage between believers and unbelievers is forbidden by God. But too often the unconverted heart follows its own desires, and marriages unsanctioned by God are formed. Because of this, many men and women are without hope and without God in the world. Their noble aspirations are dead; by a chain of circumstances they are held in Satan’s net.” Review and Herald, February 1, 1906.
“The association of the God-fearing with the unbelieving in these societies does not make saints of sinners. When God’s people voluntarily unite with the worldly and the unconsecrated, and give them the pre-eminence, they will be led away from Him by the unsanctified influence under which they have placed themselves. For a short time there may be nothing seriously objectionable; but minds that have not been brought under the control of the Spirit of God will not take readily to those things which savor of truth and righteousness. If they had had heretofore any relish for spiritual things they would have placed themselves in the ranks of Jesus Christ. The two classes are controlled by different masters and are opposites in their purposes, hopes, tastes, and desires. The followers of Jesus enjoy sober, sensible, ennobling themes, while those who have no love for sacred things cannot take pleasure in these gatherings, unless the superficial and unreal constitute a prominent feature of the exercises. Little by little the spiritual element is ruled out by the irreligious, and the effort to harmonize principles which are antagonistic in their nature proves a decided failure.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 542.
“Association with worldly-minded men and women dims the spiritual perception; for it is in direct disobedience to the plain injunctions of the word of God. In worldly society an earthly influence is at work, an atmosphere of poisonous miasma is there which is disastrous to personal piety. Those who truly love God will not cultivate the society of those who do not love Jesus. They will have some realization of their own individual weakness, and they will study prayerfully the word of God, that they may feed upon the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God, and they will find that Christian society and conversation is food to the soul, that in the society of those who love God, they breathe in the atmosphere of heaven. Christians will exercise love and sympathy one for another. The encouragement given one to another, the esteem manifested one for another, the helps, the instruction, the reproofs, warnings, the Christian counsel that should be found among the followers of Christ, will further them in the spiritual life; for Christian fellowship is according to God’s plan. Christians are to cultivate self-restraint, love, forbearance, and unity one to another by the cords of brotherly love. Thus they will together exercise faith, hope, and love toward God; they will have tender consideration for all of like precious faith, and will draw toward those who love God. There will be fellowship such as the world knows not of.” Review and Herald, November 27, 1894.
Surrender to God
14) Surrender to God when you first wake up, before you jump out of bed, before the devil has time to start sending you temptations. Ask God for help throughout the day. “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct [it] to You, And I will look up.” Psalm 5:3.
“Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’ This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.” The Faith I Live By, 125.
“The Christian life is one of daily surrender, submission, and continual overcoming. Every day fresh victories will be gained. Self must be lost sight of, and the love of God must be constantly cultivated. Thus we grow up into Christ. Thus the life is fashioned according to the divine model.” Lift Him Up, 65.
Study Christ’s Life
15) We must spend time studying the life of Christ. As we study His life, we become like Him and are changed. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13.
“The power of evil is so identified with human nature that no man can overcome except by union with Christ. Through this union we receive moral and spiritual power. If we have the spirit of Christ we shall bring forth the fruit of righteousness, fruit that will honor and bless men, and glorify God.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 230.
“It is the will of God that each professing Christian shall perfect a character after the divine similitude. By studying the character of Christ revealed in the Bible, by practicing His virtues, the believer will be changed into the same likeness of goodness and mercy. Christ’s work of self-denial and sacrifice brought into the daily life will develop the faith that works by love and purifies the soul.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 249.
“It is only by acquaintance and association with Christ that we can become like him, the one faultless example.” The Signs of the Times, September 10, 1885.
16) Work for others. Get your mind off yourself and your situation. Jesus our example went about doing good, helping others. (Acts 10:38.)
17) Take care of your body so you can have the best possible health. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” III John 2.
“One of the greatest aids in the perfecting of pure and noble characters in the young, and strengthening their capacity to resist temptations to do evil, to indulge appetite or to fall into any debasing excesses, is the possession of sound physical health. The mind and body are intimately connected. If the former is to be firm and well-balanced, the latter should be in the best possible condition. Conscience and right principles of life should be sustained by firm, quiet nerves, a healthful circulation, and the activity and strength of general health.” The Health Reformer, November 1, 1877.
My personal favorite promise for help in fighting temptation and overcoming the devil is I Corinthians 10:11–13:
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 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].”
“With the consecrated worker for God, in whatever place he may be, the Holy Spirit abides. The words spoken to the disciples are spoken also to us. The Comforter is ours as well as theirs. The Spirit furnishes the strength that sustains striving, wrestling souls in every emergency, amidst the hatred of the world, and the realization of their own failures and mistakes. In sorrow and affliction, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone,—these are the times when, in answer to the prayer of faith, the Holy Spirit brings comfort to the heart.
“It is not a conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian because he manifests spiritual ecstasy under extraordinary circumstances. Holiness is not rapture: it is an entire surrender of the will to God; it is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; it is doing the will of our heavenly Father; it is trusting God in trial, in darkness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not by sight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence, and resting in His love.” The Acts of the Apostles, 51.
“All are accountable for their actions while in this world upon probation. All have power to control their actions, if they will. If they are weak in virtue and purity of thoughts, and acts, they can obtain help from the Friend of the helpless. Jesus is acquainted with all the weaknesses of human nature, and if entreated, will give strength to overcome the most powerful temptations. All can obtain this strength if they seek for it in humility. Jesus gives all a blessed invitation who are burdened, and laden with sin, to come to him, the sinner’s friend.” An Appeal to Mothers, 31, 32.
“You may see that you are sinful and undone; but it is just on this account that you need a Saviour. If you have sins to confess, lose no time. These moments are golden. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (I John 1:9). Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled; for Jesus has promised it. Precious Saviour! His arms are open to receive us, and His great heart of love is waiting to bless us.” God’s Amazing Grace, 139.
“Abundant grace has been provided that the believing soul may be kept free from sin; for all heaven, with its limitless resources, has been placed at our command. We are to draw from the well of salvation.…
“We are living in the day of preparation. We must obtain a full supply of grace from the divine storehouse. The Lord has made provision for every day’s demand.” Ibid., 181.
“He who repents of his sin and accepts the gift of the life of the Son of God, cannot be overcome. Laying hold by faith of the divine nature, he becomes a child of God. He prays, he believes. When tempted and tried, he claims the power that Christ died to give, and overcomes through His grace. This every sinner needs to understand. He must repent of his sin, he must believe in the power of Christ, and accept that power to save and to keep him from sin. How thankful ought we to be for the gift of Christ’s example!” A New Life, 40.
“He who through His own atonement provided for man an infinite fund of moral power, will not fail to employ this power in our behalf…. In the whole Satanic force there is not power to overcome one soul who in simple trust casts himself on Christ.” Ibid., 41.
Weak points can become strong ones. From the heroes of faith chapter, Hebrews 11, we read, “… quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” Verse 34. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” II Corinthians 12:9.
It is like exercising. If you want strong muscles, you must exercise them, or they will be weak. As your muscles become strong when you exercise them, so also does the Christian experience become strong as it is exercised.
“Before honor is humility. The Lord can use most effectually those who are most sensible of their own unworthiness and inefficiency. He will teach them to exercise the courage of faith. He will make them strong by uniting their weakness to His might, wise by connecting their ignorance with His wisdom.” Conflict and Courage, 126.
“The Lord sees and understands, and He will use you, despite your weakness, if you offer your talent as a consecrated gift to His service; for in active, disinterested service the weak become strong and enjoy His precious commendation. The joy of the Lord is an element of strength. If you are faithful, the peace that passeth all understanding will be your reward in this life, and in the future life you will enter into the joy of your Lord.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 34.
“There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God. All who consecrate body, soul, and spirit to His service will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical, mental, and spiritual power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own Spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in mind and heart. Through the grace given us we may achieve victories that because of our own erroneous and preconceived opinions, our defects of character, our smallness of faith, have seemed impossible.
“To everyone who offers himself to the Lord for service, withholding nothing, is given power for the attainment of measureless results.” God’s Amazing Grace, 208.
“He who is fully consecrated to the service of God will be made strong for the battle. He will be strengthened with ‘all might.’ He who feels his weakness, and wrestles with God as did Jacob, saying, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’ (Genesis 32:26), will go forth with the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. The atmosphere of heaven will surround him. He will go about doing good. His influence will be a positive force in favor of the religion of Christ.” In Heavenly Places, 314.
“Men’s weakness shall find supernatural strength and help in every stern conflict to do the deeds of Omnipotence, and perseverance in faith and perfect trust in God will ensure success. While the past confederacy of evil is arrayed against them He bids them to be brave and strong and fight valiantly for they have a heaven to win, and they have more than an angel in their ranks, the mighty General of armies leads on the armies of heaven. As on the occasion of the taking of Jericho, not one of the armies of Israel could boast of exercising their finite strength to overthrow the walls of the city, but the Captain of the Lord’s host planned that battle in the greatest simplicity, that the Lord alone should receive the glory and man should not be exalted. God has promised us all power; for the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Conflict and Courage, 118.
“The Redeemer of the world came from heaven to help man in his weakness, that, in the power which Jesus came to bring him, he might become strong to overcome appetite and passion and might be victor on every point.” Counsels on Health, 125.
“If the Christian feels his weakness, his inability, by putting his trust in God, he will find the grace of Christ sufficient for every emergency….
“Man has little power, and can accomplish but a small work at his very best… God is omnipotent, and at every point where we need divine help and seek for it in sincerity, it will be given. God has pledged His word that His grace will be sufficient for you in your greatest necessity, in your sorest distress. Christ will be to you a present help if you will appropriate His grace.” God’s Amazing Grace, 260.
Why is overcoming important? It is the key, if we are going to go to heaven. Through our overcoming experiences, we can help others by sharing with them what God has done for us.
There are three things we must fight against as we become overcomers: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
We must acknowledge that our condition is that of hopeless sinners in need of help. Christ and His merits is the solution. We must cooperate with Him.
“Never give up your faith and hope in God. Cling to the promises. Do not trust in your feelings, but in the naked word of God. Believe the assurances of the Lord. Take your stand upon the plain thus saith the Lord, and rest there.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, 410.
[All emphasis added.]
Jana Grosboll serves Steps to Life as its Network Administrator. She may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.