A temptation is defined as a strong desire or enticement to have or do something wrong. Eve was tempted to have the fruit God said they were not to eat. Cain was tempted to kill Abel. Samson was tempted to cut his hair. David was tempted by someone with beautiful hair. Judas was tempted with money. Everyone is tempted. Jesus was tempted. Jesus never gave in to temptation. He is the only one who has consistently said "No" to it.
Both sinners and Christians are tempted. Both can say "No" to temptation. But only Christians have the spiritual nature and power to withstand every temptation that comes their way. If a person is not a Christian, they are being ruled by darkness, and eventually as a principle of slavery they will do what they are told by their master... sin.
Sometimes people get the wrong idea when they come to Christ. They may think that life becomes easy, especially in this area of temptation. Some may even believe that temptation will end. But this is not true. In fact, it is very possible that for the Christian the temptations will increase in amounts or in strength. After all, the enemy has to work harder against those who are now under the authority of God. So God will free you from the penalty, pollution, and power of your former life of sin. But He does not make you exempt from temptation.
This is an important concept to remember, so let me put it this way. God will completely deliver you from things you will have to continue to say "No" to. That may sound contradictory, but it is not. This is about being in the world but not of it. Like I said, even Jesus had to deal with temptation during His earthly experience. No exemptions from temptations. But there is deliverance and power... and promises.
One of the promises from God to the believer is this...
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Here are four things we know about temptation from this verse written to Christians.
1 - Temptation is against you. It overtakes you, which means it is chasing you... which means it is behind you. As a new creation in Christ, your natural desires are guided by God's divine desires. Evil comes from Satan. We have desires that God gave us. These have been corrupted in the fall. As Christians we are still in a world that is distorted by sin. So the enemy attacks our natural desires to get them to go against our Godly desires. The Bible tells us, "No one undergoing a trial should say, 'I am being tempted by God.' For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15)
2 - You are not special. You get tempted just like everyone else. Don't wear the special badge. The guy sitting next to you at work is tempted just like you... perhaps in different areas of life, but his temptations are just as dangerous as yours. And don't try to play the 'Woe is me... I am human, but Jesus was divine' card. The Bible says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) He didn't give into the temptation, but He was tempted just like you.
3 - God is controlling temptation. In the life of the sinner, temptation comes and goes as the Devil sees fit. As a Christian, God allows you to be tempted only according to what you are able to withstand at this time in your faith walk. Satan sets you up for failure by overwhelming you with temptations. God does not want you to fail. So He manages the temptations... He filters them, if you will. God is controlling temptation from His end so we can combat temptation on our end. James tells us, "Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (James 4:7-8)
4 - You have an escape. Every temptation that comes to the believer has an escape hatch. If Satan sends you a temptation, God includes an escape door... EVERY TIME. You do not have to give in to temptation because you can ALWAYS get out of the temptation. God is just good like that. Even Cain was told by God before he killed his brother Abel in jealousy, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
Temptation is real for everyone. Those who have not been reborn in Christ will have a tougher time with it, and are actually doomed to fail. Christians will have to deal with more sustained bombardment from their true enemy, but they also have supernatural power to withstand it, and a God who is managing the battle.
Today, if you are a believer, know that God is with you. Do not fear temptation. Face it in faith, knowing that Christ knows your battle, and is fighting with you.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.