Fighting temptation describes a battle that is as much spiritual as it is emotional or physical. To be tempted is not a sin. Everyone is tempted and at different levels. Even Jesus was tempted! Temptation happens when the opportunity is presented to do what we know is wrong, whether against God, ourselves, or others. Being tempted is not wrong – it’s the decision to do wrong and the corresponding action that follows.
Sometimes we can confuse temptation with God’s testing of our hearts, but temptation and God’s testing are very different. Most of the time, though, what we’re experiencing is both! God’s testing presents the opportunity to do that which would please Him. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham was being tested – both his heart to obey God and his ability to trust Him (Genesis 22). God’s Word clearly states that He tries the heart and tests of faith. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.”
At the time we are experiencing it, we may not be able to distinguish the difference between testing and temptation. Afterward, if we are seeking God’s purposes in our dilemma, we will likely understand God’s intent.
Temptation can occur on many levels. We may be tempted to eat something we shouldn’t for health reasons, we may be trapped in a harmful pattern of thinking, or dangerously involved in a lifestyle that is harmful. In all cases, a temptation is rarely a one-time event.
Tests may occur more than once in similar ways, but the temptation is almost always cyclical. James 1:12-16 discusses the process of being tempted, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.”
Fighting temptation is combat God allows because it is won or lost at the spiritual level. He desires that we endure when we are tempted and promises that there is a way out. When we are sorely tempted, it may not seem that there is a way out, but the God who made us knows what we can endure and bear, and it is He who provides a way of escape. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Depending on what His goal is in our lives, God’s way of escape might be to take us through the temptation, or He may give us the strength to overcome it. His desire is that we don’t fall into temptation, but that we proceed through it and master it, rather than it mastering us. God wants us to overcome! 1 Peter 1:3-8, reminds us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”