Building their nests in our hair!

(J. R. Miller, "In His Steps" 1897)

The experience of temptation is universal. Every life must grow up amid unfriendly and opposing influences. Some of them are subtle and insidious, like a pestilence in the air. Some of them fierce and wild, like the blast of storm, or the rush of battle.

The question in life is not how to escape temptation—but how to pass through it so as not to be harmed by it. Christ's way of helping us, is not by keeping us out of the conflicts. This would leave us forever weak, untried, and undisciplined. The price of spiritual attainment and culture, is struggle. Jesus Himself was made perfect through suffering.

All the best things in life—the only things worth obtaining—lie beyond fields of battle, and we can get them only by overcoming. It would be no kindness to us—were God to withdraw us into some sheltered spot whenever there is danger; or if He were to fight our battles for us, thus freeing us from all necessity to struggle.

Yet there is a way of so living in this world—as not to suffer harm in even the fiercest temptations—to pass through them and not be damaged by them. There is even a way of so meeting temptations as to get benefit and blessing from them! "Blessed is the man who endures temptation—for when he has been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him."

Rightly meeting and victoriously resisting temptation, puts new fiber into the soul. The Indians say that when a warrior kills a foe—the spirit of the vanquished enemy enters the victor's heart and adds to his own strength. This is true in spiritual warfare. We grow stronger through our struggles and victories! Each lust conquered, each evil subdued—adds to the strength of our soul.

The question, then—is how to meet temptation so as to overcome it, and thus win the blessing there is in it. We must remember, first of all, that we are not able in ourselves successfully to fight our battles. If we think we are, and go forth in our own name and strength, we shall utterly fail. Life is too large, and its struggles and conflicts are too great—for the strongest human, unaided by divine power.

We must settle it once for all—that we can conquer only in the name and by the help of the strong Son of God. We may come off the field more than conquerors—but only through him who loved us. We can pass safely through all the fierce dangers of this world and be kept unspotted amid its sin and foulness—but only if we have with us, Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and set us before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy. Self-confidence in our own ability to overcome temptation—is fatal folly!

Men and devils may tempt us—but men and devils cannot force us to yield! Others may seek to influence us—they may plead, entreat and persuade—but they cannot compel us.

We cannot avoid being tempted—but we ought to avoid yielding to temptation. Luther used to say, "We cannot keep the birds from flying over our heads—but we can prevent them from building their nests in our hair!" Just so, we cannot keep temptations away from our ears, nor prevent them whispering their seductive words close by us—but we can hinder them making their nests in our hearts!