Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Tempted and overcoming

Following on from my last blog entry about sexual ethics and their changing nature according to the times in which one lives, I think it important to note that Christians are far from immune when it comes to sexual temptation. Sadly, every now and then we hear of a prominent Christian who has fallen into sexual sin and at a local church level we still hear of our fellow brothers and sisters whose marriages have been destroyed because of the same.
Christians, like everyone else in this world, are born with a fallen nature. Our default setting, programmed into us at birth, is to sin. When we commit our lives to Christ, whilst we are living in this fallen world, though we have received the Holy Spirit, we still battle with this old nature within us.
In a culture in which immorality is accepted, Christians are exposed to lots of temptations. In addition, the nature of Christ within us is so attractive, that non-Christians may be drawn by it into a desire for intimacy with that person which leads to emotional dependency and the risk of a sinful relationship.
Consider the following fictional scenario: He is a non-Christian man whose former partner has just walked out on their relationship. She is a caring Christian workmate who always has a smile and word of encouragement. He seeks her company in the lunch room and she shows an interest in his problems. At the same time her Christian husband is working long hours on business and organises youth camps. He’s exhausted and not at all attentive to her. Suddenly she finds herself looking forward to the company and compliments of her workmate. After all, it’s only coffee in the lunch room. It’s nice to have somebody who doesn’t know her all that well wanting to discover more about her. Then he asks her to look at some furniture he’s considering buying, so they leave the office and go for a walk together. The following week he invites her to try out a new coffee shop down the road. She wonders if she should. After all, he’s just a friend, isn’t he?
What’s happening here? Two people are having their egos boosted by a mutual interest in one another. Both are feeling lonely. Their work situation is providing a background of romantic meetings. There is mutual attraction. And if it continues, it may well lead to a sexual encounter and a destroyed marriage on the woman’s part.
What should she do?
The Bible tells us clearly that we will face temptation in many areas throughout our lives. But there is good news:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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.”
Satan always makes temptations attractive. He starts out with little temptations, and builds to bigger ones. And he always has excuses and lies.
God provides His principles for those who want to follow His will and walk in His ways. As we start to overcome small obstacles, He will give us the ability to overcome larger ones. As George Eliot once observed in the novel “Daniel Deronda”  “The reward of one duty is the power to fulfil another.”  Far from the excuses and lies which ultimately destroy us, God provides truth and enlightenment and spiritual gifting to those who obey Him. When looking at God’s messages to the churches of Revelation, again and again we see the words, “to him who overcomes”. To those who overcome, God will grant the wonder of His presence in deeper and ever more fulfilling relationship.
I would suggest that it’s easier to overcome temptations if our relationship with God is one of love. When we know God in a loving relationship, we value that relationship so much that we don’t wish to grieve Him or destroy the relationship we have with Him. That puts us in the right frame of mind to deal fairly and appropriately with others.
An altruistic form of Christian caring is also to realise that if we deal inappropriately with another person and tempt them into sin, it destroys their standing with God, as well as our own. If they are not a Christian, it destroys our credibility, their opinion of the Christian faith and the likelihood of them becoming a Christian.  
What should the lady in the scenario do? My suggestion to her would be to get back to basics with God: deepen her relationship with Him through regular Bible reading, prayer and fellowship in a caring Christian church. Discover again her first love, the One who created her to love and serve Him. Enjoy His presence and understanding and care. Then attend to those aspects of her marriage that are missing – which might need some frank discussion and adjustments in lifestyle for both partners. Finally, it’s time to honestly appraise the situation with the workmate, to stop meeting alone and reduce contact to strictly professional interactions. If it’s the case that she feels she will always be attracted to this person, perhaps it’s time to look for another job. Flight is not necessarily a bad option when it comes to temptation. God’s worth it.
Sacrifice is not a very common concept in a world which encourages everyone to have as much of everything as they want, but sacrifice is very much part of the Christian walk. Many people may not have the relationships that they feel drawn to in this life because of their desire to please God rather than their own nature. Chastity and celibacy are not popular concepts, but they are valid options. I am absolutely convinced that God deeply honours sacrifices made to obey His word.
The principles of overcoming temptation apply in a variety of situations. Develop a healthy relationship with God. Build healthy relationships with others. Overcome small temptations – get out of websites that offer visually tempting links; put honest times on your timesheets; take responsibility for your errors; and you will be more equipped to overcome larger temptations. Be neither overly proud of your successes, nor overly discouraged by your failures, because Satan will capitalise on either end of the spectrum, but rather give God the position in your life and credit that He deserves. Depend upon Him to encourage and equip you each day through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.
To God be the glory eternally.  

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