No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The word temptation has come to mean something bad and to be avoided today, and we tend to use the word in a negative context. Temptation itself is not sin; it is something we are bound to face simply because of our fallen human nature. It represents our struggle between doing what is right and what is wrong. If we say that we do not face any temptation, we either have no sense of right or wrong or we are so depraved that we are beyond contempt.
Temptation is not something that we can escape from. Temptation comes in the form of a thought suggesting to us that we could be better off in finding pleasure or satisfaction or achievement by yielding to the temptation. Temptation confuses our thoughts and our ability to distinguish what is right from what is wrong, or from what is good from what is bad. When we yield to temptation, we have made lust a god, and our yielding to the temptation becomes proof that we desire to live for ourselves, our own wants and desires, rather than for God.
Our personal make-up determines the kind of temptation that we face. Temptation fits our inner nature and reveals our true self. We actually determine or set the level of our own temptation because the kind of temptation that we will face is the kind of temptation that will challenge our inner nature.
Before you accepted Christ as your personal Saviour, the only kind of temptation that you face is the kind mentioned in James 1:14, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” But when we are born again in Christ, the kind of temptations that we face are those that challenges the biblical values that we hold true in our lives and attempts to draw us away from living a life that is pleasing to God. As Christians, we live under a new set of values that would lead us to face, not the kind of temptation that the common man faces, but the kind of temptation that our Lord faced while He was on earth.
After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Yet He did not become weary or exhausted. He went through the temptation “without sin,” and He retained all the possessions of His spiritual nature completely intact. Therefore, we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Our Lord’s temptations and ours are in different realms until we are born again and become children of God. The temptations of Jesus are not those of a mere man, but the temptations of God as Man. The devil does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things – he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us through regeneration, namely, the possibility of being of value to God. He does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view about what is right in God’s eyes. Only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.
The temptations that we face, especially those at the spiritual level, are the same temptations that Jesus faced in the desert that will test our faith, our trust and our obedience to God. If you truly love God, you will want to keep His Word and obey Him. We have to expect that we will continue to face the same types of temptations throughout our earthly life as long as Jesus lives in us.
I often think that I ought to minimize my contact with the world so as to shield myself from temptation. But I have come to realize that some of the temptations that I face have been allowed by God to test my faith, my trust and my values in God. God does engineer our circumstances to see whether we are going on with Jesus, or siding with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must face up to the challenges while continually abiding in Him.
God does not intend to deprive us from pleasure or satisfaction or achievement, He desires that we pursue a life that does not seek pleasure, satisfaction or achievement that is of temporal value but pleasure, satisfaction, achievement that builds up the Kingdom of God and that has eternal value. As Jesus wisely said: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but yet lose his soul? (Mark 8:36)”
When tempted, know that you will not be tempted beyond what you can bear. God does not save us from temptations – He sustains us in the midst of them (Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 4:15-16). Because Jesus has overcome, He can help you to overcome too.