(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
Once you have accepted responsibility for your life, you will be tempted to backtrack, to lay the blame for your ups and downs, your troubles and defeats at someone else’s door. But don’t become discouraged here–or misled. Temptation is something you hold in common with all people. And it too is something you must meet with whatever resources you have and be responsible for your response to it.
What is temptation? Smiley Blanton, noted psychiatrist, offers a good definition:
Every day of your life, no matter how sheltered you are, you face some choice in which the wrong action is so seductive, so plausible, so pleasurable that it takes a conscious effort of will to reject it. Temptation is universal, as old as the Garden of Eden. Much of your happiness or unhappiness depends on your ability to handle it–instead of letting it handle you (“How to Handle Temptation,” The Reader’s Digest, May 1961, p. 188).
You drive down a highway in a powerful car. The speed signs limit you to 55 miles an hour. But the way is clear; no one is around; you know the car really purrs at 75. The temptation is to step on the gas.
As a Christian, you are committed to give of your income to the Lord, but the furniture is shabby and the sales are on. You are tempted to rationalize withholding your tithe “just this one time.”
You have promised to spend the evening with your family. A fellow worker, however, has two tickets to the deciding ball game of a crucial series. He wants you to go with him. You are tempted to go.
Temptation does not always appear as a terrible, undesirable, evil thing that you won’t want to do. You may have little or no problem with something that you aren’t interested in doing. But you may be greatly tempted by something you want to do but know you shouldn’t. (Or it could be the reverse–-something that you should do but don’t want to.)
At the moment of temptation, the thing may seem so right. An impulsive purchase that wrecked the household budget seemed so right at the time. To teach a man a lesson who deserved a knuckle-rapping seemed so right in the passion of emotion. So right–-except your heart that tells you “it’s right” can be so deceitful.
Mrs. Craig, expecting guests, was cleaning the house when the telephone rang. Some friends were meeting downtown for lunch. They wanted to know if she could join them.
“I’d love to meet you, but you know my husband. He’s fussy about the way the house looks for company.”
“It’s just a quick lunch.”
“Well, I don’t know.” It was a difficult decision. She certainly wanted to join her friends. But should she suit herself or please her husband? She faced temptation.
Mrs. Van Waggoner and her neighbor were golfing. They were about to tee off for the third hole when two men approached the women and asked if they could play through. Mrs. Van Waggoner and her partner readily agreed. But before the men went on, one suggested that the women join them in their game. The women looked at each other. Mrs. Van Waggoner had never faced this situation before. She was quite uneasy about the suggestion, but her neighbor said OK before she could think much about it.
The men proved to be cheerful company–and most attentive. Mrs. Van Waggoner’s partner teed up her ball for her, pulled her cart, and helped her improve her iron shots. Perhaps he was a bit too friendly, yet she enjoyed the attention.
After the game the foursome drank iced tea in the clubhouse. As they were about to leave, Mrs. Van Waggoner’s partner suggested they have lunch together at a nice little restaurant he knew of. She was tempted–-the morning had been so pleasant. To refuse took a definite act of her will, but she did it.
At home she was upset that she had responded so warmly to this strange man. The morning had been filled with temptation, and she wondered what to tell her husband. She found out–-as you probably have–-that temptation can pop up in the most unexpected places and in the most unusual ways. It can make you aware of desires that take you by surprise.
The Bible says: “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-16).
The temptations that bother most people are not those that would clearly lead into sin. Not many people struggle hard with the temptation to steal. But the semi-visible testings are something else. It was not perfectly clear that it was wrong for Mrs. Craig to drop her housecleaning to join her friends downtown. Each person has his own personal, private standards that he has chosen to live by; to fall short is to cause himself personal anxiety. If Mrs. Craig has set for herself a goal of getting the house cleaned and then drops the project, it is likely she will not enjoy the luncheon or get the job done either. The Apostle Paul said: “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Rom. 14:22).
Everyone faces tempting circumstances constantly. While I was writing this book, I was tempted to lay down my pen and attend a professional golf tournament that was playing in town. To take a break might have been all right, but I had committed myself to a deadline for finishing the manuscript. I resisted the temptation every day but one.
It was an exciting tournament. My enjoyment of it, however, was dampened by the fact that I had left an unfinished task behind. I constantly condemned myself for the thing I had allowed.