The Weakest Link
Temptation has been around since the dawn of time. It is something we all face and it is usually at our unguarded points that we are attacked. ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’ (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Is there a way to avoid temptation? I don’t think we can avoid it altogether. We can reduce the ferocity of the physical temptation by not going to certain places, buying certain foods or watching particular TV programmes, but we will never avoid it 100 per cent because it always begins in the mind.
The crux of temptation is about choosing to do things God’s way rather than our own. Just because you manage to resist temptation today, doesn’t mean you will tomorrow. We are given grace for the moment.
Every day we need to make the choice to obey God. Jesus told us to live for today and this is the most simple and yet most profound advice.
Jesus wasn’t exempt from temptation. Just after God confirmed at his baptism he was right behind him and that he was loved, the devil tempted Jesus to disown his Father.
Satan can’t stand it when we revel in the Father’s love, because it is something he will never experience again and he will do anything he can to get us to focus on anything but the truth — just like he did with Eve and like he tried to do with Christ.
Listen to his tactics: ‘Did God really say?’, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’, ‘If you are the Son of God, then throw yourself down’.
In the first temptation, the devil tried to get Christ to meet his immediate need of hunger by doing something miraculous, but it wasn’t time for Jesus to do miracles. He was not going to meet his own need at the expense of doing his Father’s will. God had a time for him to do miracles and it wasn’t now.
The second temptation was going to the heart of God’s love for Jesus: ‘Come on now! Prove to me that he loves you. Just throw yourself off this mountain and, if he really loves you, then he will come and rescue you, just like he promised’.
You can almost hear his ‘reasonable’, but sneering, tone as he says these words. He wouldn’t let you perish! But God’s Word was precious to Jesus and he was ready with a reply: ‘Do not test God’.
God wants us to trust him, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. How many times have you faced the temptation to doubt God’s love?
How often are we defeated because we respond with our emotions and experiences rather than the truth? We know our emotions are unreliable. Emotions are amazing, but they should be our servants and not our masters.
How often are we tempted to get God to do something to prove his love? Jesus didn’t waste time on his ego or self-image. He used his time to become all the Father wanted him to be.
Not one to give up, the devil changed tack and tried to convince the Lord Jesus that he could be king without doing it the Father’s way: ‘All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:9).
He wasn’t putting a cross in front of him, just a simple bending of the knee. But Jesus knew that he must do his Father’s will and totally rejected the suggestion.
The Lord Jesus Christ is able to keep us from falling. He hasn’t promised that we won’t be tempted, but he has said he is able to keep us from falling. A lot of the time, the reason we give in to temptation is because we want to fit in with the crowd. We have judged the standard set by ‘the crowd’ as the one to aim for.
We are tempted to use our words to become part of the crowd, even if they hurt someone else. We might be tempted to borrow beyond our means, just to have what everyone else has. We might dress like the crowd, even if it is immodest.
The crowd is a powerful force, but the Lord will give us the power to stand and do the right thing rather than the popular thing — if we turn to him. There is no point having a petrol lawnmower and then trying to cut the grass with scissors! That is effectively what we do when we try and cope in our own strength.
But Jesus stands by and says, ‘I can help you. All you have to do is ask. Just ask me and I will give you the strength, the power to stand’. We have that choice to listen and obey him.
Temptation is something that we will face until the day we die. We will never get to the point where we are beyond temptation.
Even when we are old and frail, we will have to fight the temptation to not just live on the past and wallow in self pity. We will have to fight to live in the present as gracious old people instead of grumpy old people.
An elder in my church used to say that the first garment we put on when we are born is the robe of self-righteousness, and it is the last garment we take off before we die. All our lives we will fight the temptation of living a self-righteous life.
In the show The Weakest Link, the contestants need to know more than the right answers; they need to know when to bank the money and the best strategy when voting off other players.
The contestant who is voted off hears the words, ‘You are the weakest link. Goodbye!’ And they have no choice but to disappear, along with their opportunity of winning.
Ann Robinson is quite ruthless when she tells them to go, but we could learn a thing or two from her about how to deal with weaknesses in our lives.
We need to be ruthless with sin instead of nurturing it. We need to be prepared to say goodbye to the things that are stopping us getting to the finishing line with the most winnings. We must run the Christian race to win.
I don’t know what temptation you are facing or will face, but remember how Jesus dealt with it and be encouraged to always look to him to give you a way out. Flee it, and if you can’t flee it, face and fight it, with the Lord Jesus holding your hand. Don’t let go of his hand; remember the scars it bears for you.
© Dena Macleod