How to Meet Temptation
J. R. Miller
Temptation has a mission. Our Lord was led by the Spirit into the wilderness—to be tempted. If he had missed being tempted—he would have missed something that was necessary to the complete development of his manhood. For any man, temptation is an opportunity. If the soldier never had a battle, how could he become a hero? How could he ever learn the art of war? It is foolhardy for anyone to seek to be tempted—but when temptation comes to us while we are in the line of duty, as we follow the divine guidance—we dare not shirk it, nor run away from it; we must meet it with faith and courage, and in doing so we shall take a blessing from it. In this way lie crowns, which can be won only by those who are victorious in temptation.
Yet there is no fear that any of us may be overlooked in this matter, or may miss this opportunity. Soldiers sometimes chafe in time of war, because they are kept in the camp while their comrades are in the field. They are eager to become real soldiers. But none miss struggle with temptation. No one escapes the experience. Then, our foes are also real. They are not fancied or imaginary. They are of two classes—there are enemies in our own heart, and enemies fighting outside.
The enemies within complicate the struggle. In war, a traitor in the camp may do great mischief. He is unsuspected. He knows all that is going on inside, the movements that are planned, the strength or weakness of the citadel, the resources at command. Then he can open the door for the enemy—and deliver the place into his hands.
So the enemies in our heart have vast power of hurting us. They may betray us in the very time of our battle with some outside foe, and cause us to lose the victory; or after we have been victorious in the struggle—they may cause us to fall into some other subtle sin. These hidden evils in our own heart make it easy for the assailants without to break through the gate. They parley with them over the wall, and treacherously slip the bolt on some door and let them in. We have much to fear from the unholiness that we carry within us. If every feeling, disposition, affection, desire, and impulse in our heart were pure and altogether like Christ; if the enemy came and found nothing in us—we would be far safer in the midst of this world's wickedness.
But there are also outside foes. We are like little forts in an enemy's country. All about us swarm those who are hostile to us, watching every opportunity to break in at some gate, or to climb over the ramparts to take possession. We must never forget that this world is not a friend to grace.
We are in danger of imagining in quiet days, that the antagonism around us has ceased, and that we shall no more be assailed by evil. This is always a fatal mistake for anyone to make. The tempter is never better pleased, that when he gets us into this kind of confidence. We are then off our guard, and it is easy for the foe to steal in. When the sentinels at our heart doors and the outposts of the enemy get on familiar terms—our danger is greatly increased. We are safest—when we are fully aware of our danger. We are kept then ever watchful and on the alert. An important counsel, given over and over again in the Scriptures, is, "Watch that you enter not into temptation." Incessant watchfulness is half of every Christian's defense!
We should never forget that no hand but our own—can open the door to the tempter. Every man's house is his castle, and no one can cross the threshold, but by his permission. This is true of the good, as well as of the evil. No angel of heaven can gain access to our heart, unless we show him hospitality. With all the gifts of divine love in his hands for us, Christ comes to our door and knocks, and stands and waits. We must open the door if he is to come in. The same is true of evil. No temptation can ever compel its way with us. Our quiet, persistent "No!" will keep it out. If we resist the devil—he will flee from us. We cannot hinder temptations flying about us like birds—but it is our fault- if they build their nests in our heart!
The enemies outside us—are of many kinds. There are evil men who are under the control of Satan, filled with his spirit, and who come to us continually with temptations to sin. We need to be on our guard against these. They are among those whom we meet daily in our common interaction. We cannot keep ourselves apart from them, and we need, therefore, to watch against their unholy influence. Many a young person is led away from God and into sin—by a friendship which at first seems altogether harmless, and even sweet.
The upas tree which grows in Java has an acrid, milky juice which contains a virulent poison. According to the story told by a Dutch surgeon, the exhalations of this tree are fatal to both animal and vegetable life. Birds flying over the tree fall dead. No flower or plant will live near the tree. The story illustrates human lives in this world, whose influence always leaves a blight on others. They may be winning and attractive. They may come in the guise of friendship, and wear the garb of innocence—but they have absorbed the poison of evil until their very breath is deadly! One cannot be with them, accepting their friendship, or coming under their influence, without being hurt by them. The sweet flowers of purity wither in their presence. There are men and women whose merest touch is defiling, who carry moral blight for other lives wherever they go!
How can we hope to live unhurt—in this world so full of evil and danger? This is one of the most serious problems of Christian living. Yet it is possible for us to do it—through the grace and help of Christ. We can never do it without Christ—but we are assured that he can keep us. One inspired word tells us that he is able to keep us from stumbling, and to set us before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy. The secret of safety lies, therefore, in staying ever in the keeping of Christ.
We miss much of the comfort we should get from Christ, by narrowing our thought of his redeeming work. This was not all wrought on the cross, when he there gave himself to die for us. Comfort should come to us from the knowledge that he was tempted in all points like as we are—yet without sin. That is, he met every form of temptation and of evil, and was victorious. This assures us, first, of his sympathy with us in all our temptations—he knows what the struggle means. Then, having himself overcome—he is able to help us to overcome.
We should never forget that Jesus Christ is living. He is our personal friend, with us in every battle. Too often this element of faith is lacking in our experience. We look back to the cross for help—while our help is close beside us. Moses endured, as seeing him who is invisible. He did not see God—no eye can see him; but it was as if he saw him. His faith made God as real to him—as if God were actually visible to his sight. If we have such faith in the living Christ, no temptation can ever overmaster us; we shall be more than conquerors, through him who loved us.
The trouble with us ofttimes is, however, that we forget Christ—and then we fall. If we would always believe that he is with us, and then always remember it—we would not fall in temptations.
When Frederick Arnold was writing the life of F.W. Robertson he went to Brighton to talk with Robertson's friends, to find incidents for his biography. Among other places, he went to a bookseller's shop, and learned that the proprietor had been a constant attendant upon Robertson's ministry and had in his parlor a picture of the great preacher. The bookseller said to Mr. Arnold, "Do you see that picture? Whenever I am tempted to do an evil thing—I run back here and look at it. Then I cannot do it. Whenever I feel afraid of some difficulty or some obstacle, I come and look into those eyes—and I go out strong for my struggle."
If the mere picture of the great preacher, had such a power over this humble man, how much more power will a vision of the Christ have in helping us to overcome temptation! If always in the moment of danger, we would run to Christ and look into his face—we could not commit the sin! This is one of the great secrets of meeting and overcoming temptation.
Thus temptation may be so met—as to be transformed into a help; so met at least as to be compelled to yield up a blessing to the victor. We are stronger for having overcome. Then the experience of struggle and victory, prepares us to be a guide, helper, and friend to others in their time of temptation. But we should never forget that only in Christ, can we overcome. He who enters the terrible conflict without the aid of the strong Son of God, can only fail and perish on the field.