Resisting temptation

Don Davis
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"Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought." Those words from nineteenth century Scottish novelist Margaret Oliphant reveal a marvelous understanding of human nature – an understanding few today seem to possess.

Can you remember the last time you were "tempted" to perform an unselfish act of kindness for another human being, expecting nothing in return? Most of us will occasionally do something good for someone else, but we expect reciprocation. "I'll do you a favor, if you'll do one for me," is the common attitude we see around us. Rare indeed is the person who will eagerly seek to serve others without expectation of reward.

Regrettably, people are usually tempted by things they think will make them feel good or give us some advantage in the short-term, without regard for the long-term consequences. The human tendency is often to overeat, to drink to excess, and to consume substances that damage our bodies and brains. Our choice of entertainment too often corrodes the mind, stirring up inordinate desire to imitate the evil we see on the computer, television or movie screen. Not only do we give in to temptations to engage in self-destructive activities; we return to them time and time again until they become habitual.

Every one of us has at least one bad habit. What is yours, and what do you propose to do about breaking it?

Some may answer, "I have so many problems that I don't know how to start resolving them." If that is your response, you are not alone. We all experience complicated, intertwining issues that seem to make it impossible to overcome any one by itself. But when we feel that we cannot save ourselves from the temptations that are overpowering us, like the never-ending crash of waves along a coastline, what should we do? Must we endure the physical, emotional and mental pain our bad habits cause us until the day we die?

No! We can be free of our bad practices. The first step is that we must want to be free of the habits and addictions that hold us captive. Next, we need to set realistic and achievable goals that can help us measure our success in breaking free. Those battling a weight problem might find it helpful to count calories and keep a chart of their daily weight. People struggling to quit smoking might mark on a calendar each day they have stayed tobacco-free. A visual record of your previous success can give you strength and encouragement to resist temptations when they come.

We should also consider confiding in a friend and asking for help. It can be embarrassing to admit that we have a particular weakness, but a true friend will understand and want to help us break a bad habit. Finally, we should realize that no one wants to help us more than our Savior, Jesus Christ. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (1 Peter 5:6-9).

If you truly desire to turn your life around, help is available. The Christian life is not just about obeying Jesus Christ; it is about knowing that if we surrender and obey Him, He will give us the strength to overcome all our sins, problems and bad habits. Contact us if you would like to counsel with a minister of Jesus Christ in your area, or read our helpful booklet, What Is a True Christian? to learn what the Christian life can mean for you!