Step 5: Preventing Setbacks

Since the beginning of Campus Crusade for Christ, I (Bill) have made it my policy never to be alone with any woman other than my wife, Vonette. I have seen the way other Christian leaders have failed in the area of sexual purity and have brought disaster upon their ministries as a result. Even the appearance of wrongdoing can be harmful. So although I love Vonette dearly, and although I do not fear other women, I have made the choice not to be alone with women. I take sin seriously and want to make matters easier for myself by cutting off this potential for temptation.

That sort of definite action in avoiding temptation is in keeping with Jesus’s shocking words when He said, “If your eye—even if it is your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. … And if your hand—even if it is your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29-30). The Lord was clearly using exaggeration to make a point. But it is equally apparent that, according to Jesus, we should be willing to take radical action to keep from sinning. To do that, we need to follow the fifth and last step of breaking a sinful habit: flee from temptation.

The apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18, NIV) and “Flee from the worship of idols” (10:14). He told Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22, NIV). In other words, get away from temptation as fast as you can.

As a tool to help us in avoiding temptation and preventing relapses in our spiritual healing, we can remember the acrostic FLEE. The four aspects of FLEE are capable of leading us away from the danger of temptation and toward the holiness we seek.

Focusing on Your Relationship with God

People who are struggling with sin often get fixated on their most troublesome temptation. Such a reaction may be natural enough. But is it any wonder that they go back to the sin?

Imagine you are on a diet and someone sets a freshly baked chocolate cake on the kitchen table. If you hang out in the kitchen and keep eyeing the cake, how long will it be before you cut off a piece and take your first bite? Probably not long. The more you look at the cake, the more you want it. But if you leave the kitchen and get involved with something else, you will most likely be able to resist the temptation to break your diet.

In the same way, someone who has a problem with alcohol might keep thinking about taking a drink. Or someone who is bearing a grudge might spend time crafting the next cutting comment with which he will wound his enemy. Sometimes our thoughts can get caught in harmful loops like this. We need to break out of these loops and establish more profitable pathways for our thoughts.

If you have been a Christian for any time at all, you have a history with the Lord. Think about what you have learned of God. Think about all He has done for you and the victories He has given you. Spend time cultivating your relationship with God through such spiritual disciplines as worship, prayer, and devotional reading. With your mind on higher things like these, you will be far less susceptible to the pull of sin. Not only will you have distracted yourself from temptation; you also will have garnered greater confidence in your ability to be healed of your habitual sin.

The writer of the book of Hebrews compared the life of faith to a footrace. He encouraged his readers to strip off every weight that would slow them down, “especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.” Then he said, “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” How? “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

While fixing our eyes on temptation makes us more liable to give in to it, fixing our eyes on Jesus gives us strength to use against temptation. He is standing at the finish line of life, beckoning us on. We have His help in our struggles against sin day by day.

Click here to continue reading abridged chapter 7:  STEP 5:  PREVENTING SETBACKS

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