“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12 :1-2, NKJV)
Diane had been a Christian for two years, spiraling upward, open and eager for all the Spirit was teaching. Then she made a discovery. She took a class I taught on the Christian life. The assignment was to write a paper on developing a battle plan for overcoming temptation. The paper wasn’t just about how to overcome temptation. The assignment was very personal: “A Strategy for overcoming My own Strongest Temptation.” Diane should have known about temptation – even Jesus had to slug it out with the devil! But in the exuberance of her newfound faith, she missed the issue of dealing with temptation. She added a note to her paper: As a “toddler” Christian, I had had very little knowledge about Satan and his tactics. I never felt plagued by temptation. Consequently, when you gave the assignment, I did not feel a need to devise a plan to overcome temptation. After researching this paper, life isn’t as comfortable. I now realize the devil is working in my life, and I see the temptations that beset me. This discovery is both terrible and wonderful. I’ve already defeated Satan in one way, because I’m no longer ignorant of and oblivious to his attacks in my life.
Students really got into the project, some writing almost book-length theses, many testifying that the project was life-transforming. “My life has been radically changed. For the first time I’m beginning to see progress toward victory.” Once in a while I get a letter from a former student, “Remember the assignment on developing a strategy to overcome temptation? That was the turning point in my Christian experience.” Each of these students discovered that being filled with the Spirit doesn’t lift one beyond temptation. In fact, the battle will escalate! Unfortunately, this battle catches too many sincere, growing Christians off guard – faltering before they know what hit them. Others know they are being tempted; but they don’t know how to defend themselves, so they go down in defeat.
Each of the papers I received from students was unique. Each student offered a different approach to overcoming temptation, but the temptations were similar. Men most often wrote of sexual temptation. “How can I control my lustful thoughts and even my eyes?” Often the women spoke of emotional struggles. Sandra is 38, single, and worried she’ll never get married. An unsaved guy keeps asking her out and she knows she can’t marry an unbeliever, but . . . Maribelle has lots going for her and she knows it. It’s hard not to feel a little smug when she sees someone else who isn’t as well-dressed, attractive, or intelligent. Even weak Christians are fair game for her condescension. She hates herself when these attitudes erupt.
Everyone needs a workable battle strategy to conquer temptations. Apparently some seek to deal with temptation in a different way. Once or twice in every batch of papers I found a “paper” that was one-sentence long: “I have no strategy; the Holy Spirit lives in me and that’s all the strategy I need.” Which will it be? Do I get out of the way and let God do it all, or do I personally slug it out with the enemy? We may be tempted to go to one extreme or the other – to opt for a spectator role and leave it up to God or develop a do-it-yourself mind-set.
The Bible teaches both a faith that rests and a faith that wrestles. We trust the Spirit to do the work of remaking us. But we must also use the weapons He provides to fight the evil in our lives. If we concentrate solely on what He does, we may slip into complacency or presumption and get ambushed by the enemy. If we concentrate exclusively on our responsibility to fight the good fight, we may become battle weary and discouraged-even give up the battle. The spiritual war differs from all other battles. In this battle, surrender is victory . The first step in winning spiritual war is surrendering ourselves to the Lord
Are you battle weary? Or perhaps you got so far out of God’s way you can’t recognize temptation when it comes. Why not examine your battle and ask God to give you strength for the battle and wisdom to know when to get out of his way when he wants to accomplish victory?