Our perspective on constant temptations can color the way we see ourselves. But we can learn to view our path toward holiness in light of God’s mercy.
Imagine a panicked family member waking you in the night. You must follow them immediately. Your high-rise apartment building is unsafe. Collapse may be imminent.
You join the throngs of neighbors rushing down the stairs, stumbling in your sleepy, frightened haze. As you exit to the street the lights of dozens of emergency vehicles blind you. A kind volunteer hands you a blanket and a cup of coffee.
Through the commotion, you spot police officers leading a man away from the building in handcuffs. At first, you think your weary eyes deceive you. But you realize it’s true. The man is your building’s maintenance supervisor. He is the reason your building may soon crumble to dust.
One brick at a time
It was one brick at first. It came loose so easily, down there in the basement where the supervisor worked. He thought, I could use this to build that retaining wall in my yard. No one will miss it.
The brick becomes two, then five, then a dozen. Each day as the residents go about their lives, the man removes bricks from the building’s foundation. He never intended to cause harm, but to make a nice area around his home where he could plant flowers. And nothing seemed wrong – until the first crack showed in the foundation wall.
And no one knew what was happening to the building. Until the crack moved through the wall, up the floor, into the lobby. And even the crack seemed harmless. Until someone a few floors up felt that first small movement.
One temptation at at time
You may not experience the crumbling of your faith to dust. But the nagging, vexing daily struggle against sinful desires can weaken the foundation of your resolve. The desires of the eye and the flesh, the want to boast about what you have and what you do – even the most mature Christian may give in from sheer exhaustion.
In this final device from chapter 4 of Thomas Brooks‘ Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, the author focuses on our perspective. Satan wants to wear us down with an onslaught of temptations. He picks away at the core of our spiritual strength with enough of the right lures. The result may be our remaining “sad, doubting, and mourning.”
This is not the perspective of a victorious Christian. We ought to remain strong, faithful, and rejoicing. The weight of temptation does not indicate God’s absence. Rather, the reality of our internal struggle is proof of the Holy Spirit’s activity within us.
When your soul is weary of life and you wonder where God is as one temptation arrives on the heels of another, allow three truths to help you maintain the right perspective.
Perspective 1. The most loved are the most tempted
Check your perspective about God’s love when you are tempted. When your enemy feels near, this does not mean your Heavenly Father is in retreat.
Let’s be clear about one thing: God is not the source of your temptations.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.James 1:13–15, ESV
It’s better to think of temptation as a consensual relationship between us and Satan. He deliberately attacks us. We willingly give in. “The devil made me do it” doesn’t work.
Our enemy can rob us of our peace and joy through temptations, but he cannot take the life Christ has given us. He’s like a jealous sibling who eyes our shiny Christmas present with envy. His barbs and jabs are merely proofs of the love the Father shows us.
What better company could you be in than the disciples, than King David, than Christ himself? Your desires to disobey won’t cease until your time on earth is done. Bear up under these trials with the strength God supplies. Know that Jesus is with you, having resisted and defeated Satan for you.
Perspective 2. Our temptations bring God’s mercies
“Why did Jesus have to die?” It’s one of the most profound questions a person can ask. Going deeper one might ask: “Why did God decide, even before laying the foundation of the world, to sacrifice his Son to save sinners?”
The most simple and straightforward answer is: to show his mercy. We would not have known what mercy was had God not displayed it to us in Christ. His love, glory, holiness, wisdom, tenderness, kindness … all these things in abundance, to be sure. But how else could God reveal his mercy unless we needed it?
God’s mercies in resisting temptation are a mere part of his gifts. Pastor Philip Ryken expertly summarizes the Bible’s sweeping story of mercy.
God shows his mercy in predestination, choosing sinners for salvation in Christ. He shows his mercy in justification, granting them the free gift of righteousness through the person and work of Jesus Christ. God shows his mercy in adoption, receiving lost sinners as his very own sons and daughters. He shows his mercy in sanctification, making his adoptive children holy like his one and only Son. God shows his mercy in perseverance, preserving his people through every struggle until they finally reach his glory. And he will show his mercy then, too, transforming every one of us into the glorious beauty of Christ.Ryken, Philip Graham. City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church. United States, Moody Publishers, 2003. p. 120
When constant temptations wear you down, remember God’s mercies. Find joy in the truth that your salvation is secure and his help is certain. Allow the weight of your struggle to bring you to your knees in prayer. Thank your Father for reminding you to seek him in your need.
Perspective 3. Resistance is your greatest weapon
If the agonies of temptation are the worst you experience in life, consider yourself blessed. The regrets and consequences of sin are far worse.
Brooks uses the most ink on this final point, and with good reason. In the throes of temptation we may think that relenting will end our pain. But giving in is opening the door to more heartache. We will find relief from our enemy only in resisting him.
Defiant, repeated resistance is our ultimate weapon against Satan’s arrows. There is no shortcut or secret trick to ward off his attacks. We can expect a wide range of tactics as our enemy tries one thing and then another to tempt us. The author identifies some.
- Sin contrary to our personalities or natures – Vespasian and Julian were Roman rulers who lived about 300 years apart. They were both known for their intellects and creativity. Brooks argues their murderous legacies went against their better selves.
- Sin in a way that brings us no gain – think of gambling away your paycheck.
- Curse God or reject our faith – the very heart of our standing in Christ
- Indulge in that which repels us – if you ever find yourself longing for something you despise, be sure the devil is behind it.
Decided, strong, and constant resistance. Open defiance. These are the winning countermoves against Satan’s onslaught. Jesus resisted 40 days in the wilderness, using Scripture – the sword of the Spirit – as his defense. Eve lost her battle in the garden, trying to argue her way out.
Giving in so the temptation will end is the worst move. Sinning a little in search of relief will only bring more heartache.
Despite the seriousness of his final point, Brooks provides hope, the assurance that resisting the devil will bring victory. Our chief hope, however, lies in Christ’s ultimate victory over sin, death, and the devil.