Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 65; 147:1-11, Esther 6:1-14, Acts 19:1-10, Luke 4:1-13
Ever long for the day when your faith is so strong, temptation will never taunt you again? Spoiler alert: it will be a long wait. Even Jesus, when he spent forty days in the desert preparing for his ministry, felt the devil’s temptations to abandon his ministry for a life of worship and power.
Temptations can shame us. We think we are the only people tempted to think or act a certain way. Ironically we are especially reluctant to confess to those who could counsel us best, because we want to keep their respect. Instead we battle urges in silence and solitude, and the very thing we try to avoid – food, sex, gossip, drugs, alcohol – becomes the center of our attention because we have nowhere to banish it. Scriptures like Matthew 5:28 (“anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”) convince us temptation has already condemned us.
When we speak openly to trusted counselors or support groups about our temptations we find that we are not alone. We also find speaking the truth unlocks the mental prison where we are trapped alone and wrestling with guilt. We learn scriptural words like “lust” and “covet” don’t refer to casual thoughts, but to ungoverned desire. We learn to check casual thoughts before they become ungoverned desire. Most importantly, we learn sunlight is the best disinfectant even for spiritual ailments.
When we pray “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” what are we really asking? To avoid all instances of temptation? Unrealistic. We are acknowledging temptation is part of life, and that we depend on God to help us cope. Tempted until the end of his ministry, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that his burden might pass. The important lesson is that he submitted his will to God’s.
Don’t be discouraged – experiencing temptation doesn’t mean we’ve already lost the battle! Resisting temptation in small things helps us build strength in case serious temptations arise. Let’s follow the example of Jesus, and acknowledge our temptation, but choose to submit to God.
Comfort: God is greater than temptation; we just have to invite him in.
Challenge: If you struggle with temptation, find a place to talk about it.
Prayer: God of strength, deliver us from evil. Amen.
Discussion: How do you deal with temptation?
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