I'd like to add a little to that message by talking about our ability to recognize when we are being tempted. I call these 'Temptation Indicators', and they may be more subtle than you think.
In economics, there are certain measures that analysts look at to determine what may be coming in the near future. Consumer confidence, for instance, tells us how optimistic or pessimistic people are about the coming months. If they're scared, they'll tighten up and spend less and vice versa.
If the cancer is in remission, regular testing often provides indicators that the disease is becoming active again, allowing the doctor to begin treatment before the patient is symptomatic.
When a husband and wife look at their schedules together for the coming month, if they have not blocked any time for an investment in their marriage, it's likely an indicator that 6 weeks later they'll be snapping at each other and generally grumpy about it!
And it occurs to me that there are some 'Temptation Indicators', too. These red flags should give us pause, allowing us to stop what we're doing and re-evaluate before we do something that is costly to us and those around us.
What are some Temptation Indicators? I'm glad you asked!
- When you say, "I want" in front of a decision you are about to make.
- "I want to buy that house/car/boat/_____."
- "I want a divorce."
- "I want to quit."
- "I want a lot of money."
- "I want _____________."
It's not that "I want" is always a bad statement. We all use it. I do, too. Denying that we want certain things out of life is like lying. We all want certain things in this moment and for our future. That's ok.
But before we make a decision, we have to follow 'I want' with 'Is this also what God wants me to do?' If you are making a decision and are unwilling to consider if what you want is consistent with what God wants, then THAT IS an indicator that the Tempter is in your midst! Refusal to ask, 'Is this what God wants' is a sure sign that temptation is happening to you!
2. When the pit of your stomach is knotted up.
I'm not sure if this is completely recognized by the medical community, but I think God gave each of us a gut so that he could twist it during moments of temptation. When I'm about to make a decision and I double over from the stress of it, it could be an indicator that I'm being tempted to move where God doesn't want me to go. (Though not always...I'm sure Jesus' gut was in knots as he was about to be crucified. He sweat drops of blood, for crying out loud! So, this is just a possible indicator, that's all.)
I have heard people use the phrase, "I just couldn't get any peace about that decision." That's a good way to put it. God has a way of reassuring us when we are headed where he wants us to go, and we have a certain- often unexplainable - peace about it. AND he has a way of knotting us up when we're being tempted to go in the wrong direction.
3. We want to keep our decision a secret.
These are usually the things that we know are wrong, but we're trying to rationalize or justify.
- The inappropriate affectionate relationship we have with that person at work or neighbor or other friend. Maybe it hasn't become sexually intimate yet, but if you wouldn't want others to see you flirting, that's a secret. And it probably means you are being tempted.
- The covert way you slip down to the dealer, in the dark, to get your next fix. You've hid it from your parents, friends, family. The hiding of your secret is a temptation indicator.
- Deleting your browsing history to cover your tracks is a secret.
- Telling others that you only have one or two a night instead of 2 or 3 times that many is a secret.
- Lying is, by it's nature, attempting to keep something a secret. If you are lying, you might be in the presence of the Tempter!
Secrets are an indicator that we are being tempted or that we are giving into temptation.
What's the solution?
- Make a commitment that I won't do anything unless I honestly believe that I'm doing what God wants, not just what I want.
- Do a 'gut check' by asking a few close friends to pray with you and for you to see if they can confirm the direction you are considering.
- If you are about to do something that you wouldn't want anyone to know, RUN to the nearest friend and dump the truck. This is called accountability, and it's a very effective tool for repelling temptation.
- Don't give in to the temptation to create a secret.
Remember what James says (You might even memorize this verse!) "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you." (James 4:7-8, NIV)
Temptation doesn't have to win! Pay attention to the indicators and resist the devil, draw near to God, and you'll find one fleeing that the other standing shoulder to shoulder with you!