"Temptation is the pull of man's own evil thoughts and
wishes ... [that will] lead to evil actions."1
Did you ever stop to think that what the mind dwells
on the body acts on!
Consider, for example, how temptation works. A thought
comes to mind from seemingly nowhere--maybe from
ourselves or from the tempter Satan. We choose (mostly
unconsciously) to harbour and dwell on that thought
and, as we do, it hooks into our emotions, and the
more we think about it, the stronger we feel about it.
Then we begin to visualize in our mind what we want to
do and then, unless we make a conscious choice to stop
thinking about it, we give in to the temptation.
The battle is won or lost in the mind before we ever
act out the temptation.
One of many dangers in continually giving into
temptation is, as another has pointed out: "If we
don't live the life we believe, we will end up
unhappily believing the life we live."
We do this because as long as we don't consistently
live the life we believe, our mind experiences what is
called "cognitive disconance"; that is, mental
disharmony. Because we can't tolerate this mental
conflict, we can end up changing our beliefs to match
our behaviour and rationalize everything we do--a
dangerous path to follow. The Bible calls the
consequence having a dead conscience.2
In other words, "If we don't live the life we believe,
we will end up unhappily believing the life we live"--a
dangerous and self-destructive way to live.
No wonder the Bible teaches us to "take captive every
thought to make it obedient to Christ."3 And,
"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever
is admirable--if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy--think about such things."4
When I am battling a temptation, I like to pray,
"Jesus help" or "Holy Spirit help." When I am
consistent with this prayer and truly mean it, soon
the tempting thoughts leave my mind. This is a simple
way to "take captive every thought to make it obedient
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to guard against
harbouring negative thoughts that could lead me into
temptation and sin. Help me to remember to look to you
for help, and to dwell on positive and wholesome
thoughts that will lead to positive and wholesome
living. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer.
Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
The Difficulty of Indecision
Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light."
Like those who lie abed not summoning the will to arise, we sometimes make our lives more difficult, and ourselves more miserable, by not deciding what to do about God. Shrinking from the difficulty of this great decision, we plunge ourselves into the much greater difficulty of indecision.
It has been said that we face a basic choice in life: either we accept the pain of discipline right now, or we suffer the pain of regret later on. If we take what seems to be the course of least resistance, ducking our difficult choices when they first come up, what we find in the long run is that our lives sink in a swamp of discouragement and deep sadness. Rather than accumulating a treasury of memories that enrich our later years, we find that we've built a museum of regrets. We live out our last days plagued with the pain of decisions unmade and duty undone. Contrary to the devil's lie, there is nothing easy about laziness. It turns out to be the hardest taskmaster of all. The most troubled person in the world is often the one whose highest aim was to avoid trouble.
There is no use denying that life in the real world makes demands of us, some of which are difficult. If we are to make any worthwhile progress, we must deal with our daily decisions straightforwardly. If they seem difficult this morning, they will seem even more so this afternoon. And by this evening, they may have become practically impossible. Concerning progress, Albert Schweitzer made this observation: "Progress always consists in taking one or another of two alternatives, abandoning the attempt to combine them." The question of our commitment to God is hardly a trivial matter. To delay dealing with this issue is dangerous, and perhaps even disastrous. Do we not see the dishonor that is done to God by our procrastination? If it turns out that God is God and that we are indeed His creatures, we will want to have done more than stagger through life in a stupor. We will want to have lived, and lived decisively.