DAY 27 Defeating Temptation Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts ... but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. 2 Timothy' 2:22 (LB) Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) There is always a way out. You may sometimes feel that a temptation is too overpowering for you to bear, but that's a lie from Satan. God has promised never to allow more on you than lie puts within you to handle it. He will not permit any temptation that you could not overcome. However, you must do your part too by practicing four biblical keys to defeating temptation. Refocus your attention on something else. It may surprise you that nowhere in the Bible are we told to "resist temptation." We are told to "resist the devil,' I but that is very different, as I'll explain later. Instead, we are advised to refocus our attention because resisting a thought doesn't work. It only intensifies our focus on the wrong thing and strengthens its allure. Let me explain: Every time you try to block a thought out of your mind, you drive it deeper into your memory. By resisting it, you actually reinforce it. This is especially true with temptation. You don't defeat temptation by fighting the feeling of it. The more you fight a feeling, the more it consumes and controls you. You strengthen it every time you think it. Since temptation always begins with a thought, the quickest way to neutralize its allure is to turn your attention to something else. Don't fight the thought, just change the channel of your mind and get interested in another idea. This is the first step in defeating temptation. The battle for sin is won or lost in your mind. Whatever gets your attention will get you. That's why job said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman." And David prayed, "Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless." Have you ever watched a food advertisement on television and suddenly felt you were hungry? Have you ever heard someone cough and immediately felt the need to clear your throat? Ever watched someone release a big yawn and felt the urge to yawn yourself? (You may be yawning right now as you read this!) That is the power of suggestion. We naturally move toward whatever we focus our attention on. The more you think about something, the stronger it takes hold of you. That is why repeating "I must stop eating too much ... or stop smoking ... or stop lusting" is a self-defeating strategy. It keeps you focused on what you don't want. It's like announcing, "I'm never going to do what my mom did." You are setting yourself up to repeat it. Most diets don't work because they keep you thinking about food all the time, guaranteeing that you'll be hungry. In the same way, a speaker who keeps repeating to herself, "Don't be nervous!" sets herself up to be nervous! Instead she should focus on anything except her feelings-on God, on the importance of her speech, or on the needs of those listening. Temptation begins by capturing your attention. What gets your attention arouses your emotions. Then your emotions activate your behavior, and you act on what you felt. The more you focus on "I don't want to do this," the stronger it draws you into its web. Ignoring a temptation is far more effective than fighting it. Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. So when temptation calls you on the phone, don't argue with it, just hang up! Sometimes this means physically leaving a tempting situation. This is one time it is okay to run away. Get up and turn off the television set. Walk away from a group that is gossiping. Leave the theater in the middle of the movie. To avoid being stung, stay away from the bees. Do whatever is necessary to turn your attention to something else. Spiritually, your mind is your most vulnerable organ. To reduce temptation, keep your mind occupied with God's Word and other good thoughts. You defeat bad thoughts by thinking of something better. This is the principle of replacement. You overcome evil with good. Satan can't get your attention when your mind is preoccupied with something else. That's why the Bible repeatedly tells us to keep our minds focused: "Fix your thoughts on Jesus."5 "Always think about Jesus Christ." "Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable." If you're serious about defeating temptation you must manage your mind and monitor your media intake. The wisest man who ever lived warned, `Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts." Don't allow trash into your mind indiscriminately. Be selective. Choose carefully what you think about. Follow Paul's model: "We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ." This takes a lifetime of practice, but with the help of the Holy Spirit you can reprogram the way you think. Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. You don't have to broadcast it to the whole world, but you need at least one person you can honestly share your struggles with. The Bible says, "You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone.... If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble." Let me be clear: If you're losing the battle against a persistent bad habit, an addiction, or a temptation, and you're stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention-failure-guilt, you will not get better on your own! You need the help of other people. Some temptations are only overcome with the help of a partner who prays for you, encourages you, and holds you accountable. God's plan for your growth and freedom includes other Christians. Authentic, honest fellowship is the antidote to your lonely struggle against those sins that won't budge. God says it is the only way you're going to break free: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Do you really want to be healed of that persistent temptation that keeps defeating you over and over? God's solution is plain: Don't repress it; confess it! Don't conceal it; reveal it. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. Hiding your hurt only intensifies it. Problems grow in the dark and become bigger and bigger, but when exposed to the light of truth, they shrink. You are only as sick as your secrets. So take off your mask, stop pretending you're perfect, and walk into freedom. At Saddleback Church we have seen the awesome power of this principle to break the grip of seemingly hopeless addictions and persistent temptations through a program we developed called Celebrate Recovery. It is a biblical, eight-step recovery process based on the Beatitudes of Jesus and built around small support groups. In the past ten years over 5,000 lives have been set free from all kinds of habits, hurts, and addictions. Today the program is used in thousands of churches. I highly recommend it for your church. Satan wants you to think that your sin and temptation are unique so you must keep them a secret. The truth is, we're all in the same boat. We all fight the same temptations, and "all of us have sinned." Millions have felt what you're feeling and have faced the same struggles you're facing right now. The reason we hide our faults is pride. We want others to think we have everything "under control." The truth is, whatever you can't talk about is already out of control in your life: problems with your finances, marriage, kids, thoughts, sexuality, secret habits, or anything else. If you could handle it on your own, you would have already done so. But you can't. Willpower and personal resolutions aren't enough. Some problems are too ingrained, too habitual, and too big to solve on your own. You need a small group or an accountability Partner who will encourage you, support you, pray for you, love you unconditionally, and hold you accountable. Then you can do the same for them. Whenever someone confides to me, "I've never told this to anyone until now," I get excited for that person because I know they are about to experience great relief and liberation. The pressure valve is going to be released, and for the first time they are going to see a glimmer of hope for their future. It always happens when we do what God tells us to do by admitting our struggles to a godly friend. Let me ask you a tough question: What are you pretending isn't a problem in your life? What are you afraid to talk about? You're not going to solve it on your own. Yes, it is humbling to admit our weaknesses to others, but lack of humility is the very thing that is keeping you from getting better. The Bible says, "God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble. So humble yourselves before God." Resist the Devil. After we have humbled ourselves and submitted to God, we are then told to defy the Devil. The rest of James 4:7 says, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.' We don't passively resign ourselves to his attacks. We are to fight back. The New Testament often describes the Christian life as a spiritual battle against evil forces, using war terms such as fight, conquer, strive, and overcome. Christians are often compared to soldiers serving in enemy territory. How can we resist the Devil? Paul tells us, "Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The first step is to accept God's salvation. You won't be able to say no to the Devil unless you've said yes to Christ. Without Christ we are defenseless against the Devil, but with "the helmet of salvation" our minds are protected by God. Remember this: If you are a believer, Satan cannot force you to do anything. He can only suggest. Second, you must use the Word of God as your weapon against Satan. Jesus modeled this when he was tempted in the wilderness. Every time Satan suggested a temptation, Jesus countered by quoting Scripture. He didn't argue with Satan. He didn't say, "I'm not hungry," when tempted to use his power to meet a personal need. He simply quoted Scripture from memory. We must do the same. There is power in God's Word, and Satan fears it. Don't ever try to argue with the Devil. He's better at arguing than you are, having had thousands of years to practice. You can't bluff Satan with logic or your opinion, but you can use the weapon that makes him tremble-the truth of God. This is why memorizing Scripture is absolutely essential to defeating temptation. You have quick access to it whenever you're tempted. Like Jesus, you have the truth stored in your heart, ready to be remembered. If you don't have any Bible verses memorized, you've got no bullets in your gun! I challenge you to memorize one verse a week for the rest of your life. Imagine how much stronger you'll be. Realize your vulnerability. God warns us never to get cocky and overconfident; that is the recipe for disaster. Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond Cure. That means we are good at fooling ourselves. Given the right circumstances, any of us are capable of any sin. We must never let down our guard and think we're beyond temptation. Don't carelessly place yourself in tempting situations. Avoid them. Remember that it is easier to stay out of temptation than to get out of it. The Bible says, "Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about Selfconfidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence. " DAY TWENTY-SEVEN THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE Point to Ponder: There is always a way out. Verse to Remember: "God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it." 1 Corinthians 10:13b (NLT) Question to Consider: Who could I ask to be a spiritual partner to help me defeat a persistent temptation by praying for me?