Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13, HCSB
In recent weeks, God has shown me His presence through various scripture passages. Among them was the book of Nehemiah. Rebuilding the walls and securing the gates has taken new life in my mind as I seek God’s Will. Each year I choose a theme for the life and work of Tar River Baptist Association. A time will come--or may have come already--when you find yourself facing intense temptation. As I shared my struggle with several this year, I often joked that it should be “Whatever It Takes To Be Acts 1: 8.” What did NAMB choose for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering but “Whatever It Takes.”
In reading Nehemiah, I began to sense what Nehemiah had determined to do when God called him to the task. Whatever it would take to accomplish the task, he would not be distracted by his enemies and neglect his responsibility. In Nehemiah 6: 3 he sent the message that he should not leave the important work he’d been called to do to respond to their distraction- their overall purpose was to destroy him.
In the end, I determined the 2012 theme would be based on Nehemiah 6: 3. The theme is “This ONE Thing: Whatever It Takes To BE Acts 1: 8.” TRBA must do all that we can to assist the local church, to strengthen it and help it impact the lostness of THIS generation. The “all caps” is not by accident. “ONE thing implies the singular priority of Christ. The necessity of being obedient to the commands of God to do the work that He has called us to do.
Then the emphasis becomes the word “BE.” Whatever it takes, we must be faithful to the call/obedient to the command to BE the church. What does it mean to BE the church? It means we are to ABIDE in Him and from our abiding in Him, the NATURAL result will be the production of fruit that remains.
The scripture I listed at the beginning should be our prayer as we seek to be obedient to the commands of Christ. Deliverance from the evil one may not always be a “dramatic escape.” Instead, it could be a subtle nudge of the Holy Spirit to remain faithful instead of yielding to temptation or compromising biblical principles to do “good thing” as opposed to the “God things” He has commanded.
Even when we do not deliberately go out looking for it, the powerful voice of temptation can still call you and lure you to be disobedient to God’s call upon your life. We are OFTEN asked to compromise in the area of sex, lying, or stealing. People may pressure us to get into alcohol, drugs, or gambling. It could be anything and if we are not careful, the enemy will simply lure us “off track.” We can quickly come to the edge of giving in, so we must ABIDE in Him.
Sin is a serious thing. We must never forget that. It is the goal of the enemy to destroy us, our witness. It is Satan’s desire to completely destroy us, but if that is not possible he is content for us to simply drift away a little and “miss the mark.” I was taught the definition of sin is “missing the mark.” Sin, whether it is “big” or “small” is SIN. And SIN keeps us from being all that God would have us to BE in Him.
Too often, we “play with sin.” Too often, we like to get as close to temptation as we can. We justify our actions because “after all, it isn’t________________ like real sinners do.” Sin is sin—we don’t need to “flirt” with it. Often times, our “innocent flirtations” bring disastrous results as we do not pull back at the last minute and fall into deeper sin. We are NOT strong enough to pull back at the last minute. Then to our dismay, we discover that temptation is not as easily resisted as we thought. Sin is a much more powerful foe than we realize. WE have to ABIDE in Him!
Don't walk blindly through life, spiritually weak and unprepared for the temptations you'll meet. Every day when you pray, look to the Model prayer of Jesus:
For background, I encourage you to read and meditate on Matthew 6: 9 – 15, Nehemiah 6: 1 – 14 (maybe at least the first 6 chapters of Nehemiah for full context), Psalm 27: 1 – 3, John 15, and Ephesians 6: 10 – end of chapter.
"For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently." 1 Corinthians 10: 13 - Amplified Bible
Believers need to UNDERSTAND that we , in effect, have the assurance of an "escape clause." I chose the Amplified Bible rendition because it so vividly declares the truths of this scripture. The lessons we need to learn include:
1. Temptation has and always will be a struggle for Christians. We sometimes act as if no other person has endured the trials, tribulations, temptations, etc. that we have. There is some peace in simply knowing that we are NOT alone.
2. God won’t allow you to face more than you can bear. To understand that God's "hedge of protection" around His children filters trials/temptations is reassurance to us as believers. NOTHING overcomes us that, with His help, can not be overcome!
3. He will ALWAYS provide a way out - a "means of escape to a landing place." As we look back to those times we have yielded (and we do every day), we can often times see where God had vividly displayed the escape hatch to our failures. We need to learn from those past failures to see through spiritual eyes more quickly and NOT yield to the temptation that lures us. As we grow in Him, that can take place!
We need to recognize Satan wants us to fail, but God wants us to live victoriously over sin. God has provided the way for that to take place every day! That "sure escape clause" is not JUST a "way out" of a mess when we recognize it. Understanding it fully/trusting God as a result, is a means to not yield to the lure/the temptation that is before us. As we abide in Him, we will see with spiritual eyes and trust God more, going His way.
In a recent devotion using this verse the author wrote, "I complain when the fire drill sounds. Whether it’s cold outside or I’m just busy, I don’t want to exit a building that’s not on fire. However, the first time I experienced a real fire emergency, I was thankful for the drills that prompted me to find the safest escape route." That's a good analogy for a lot of things we encounter day-to-day. Spend time with God. Learn from Him. Trust His Word. Learn from past experience. You'll know better how to react in times of real crisis/temptation.
Unfortunately, like the people of Corinth, many people are not looking for an escape route from temptation. The city was synonymous with rampant immorality. The culture of today is much the same! Paul tried to teach believers in Corinth how to live for Christ in corrupt, ungodly surroundings. His lessons can still be taught today, and we need to learn how to live for Him, despite the rampant temptations to forsake His ways and follow the ways of the world.
Take some time today to "look around you" and see how God has prepared the way for EVERYTHING you will encounter. The scripture teaches that He goes before us; He goes with us; we can trust Him in every circumstance. Take the time and you will grow as a result of the knowledge that He has not left you alone or forsaken you. He is with you right now!
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!