Lent is a time for preparing our hearts and lives to meet our risen and victorious Saviour anew at Easter. It is a time of seeking greater depths of God in our lives and of seeking to align ourselves with the greatness of his love for us both corporately and individually.
In this context I thought I’d share two keys that I have found in resisting and overcoming temptation, these two keys have helped me find greater victory over temptation and the resultant sin when I give in to the temptation.
The first is one that is well known by many at St Paul’s. Every now and then (not very often for me so far) a sermon illustration takes on a life of its own and that happened at St Paul’s a number of years ago with an illustration I used which ended with the words ‘Get your head out of the fridge!” Here’s the full illustration and it is a real, helpful and powerful way of overcoming temptation:
Willie likes chocolate. He LOVES chocolate and in the summer his mother keeps the chocolate in the fridge to prevent it from melting. Early one morning she hears Willie creeping down the stairs and follows him to see what he’s up to. She finds him in the kitchen standing in front of the fridge with the door open and his head just inside. She surprises him and asks ‘What are you doing?’ Willie replies ‘I’m resisting temptation!’ Mum replies ‘Then GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE FRIDGE!’
If you want to resist and overcome temptation and the resultant sin then ‘Get Your Head Out Of The Fridge!’ If you’re tempted by chocolate (especially during Lent!) then don’t buy it and when you go shopping don’t walk down the sweets aisle in Tesco’s. If you’re tempted by negativity and depression then don’t read depressing books and watch depressing TV programs. If you’re tempted by magazines on the top shelf then avoid the newsagents or if it’s pornography on the computer then get a broadband with ISP filtering on it. If you’re tempted to overspend at the shops then restrict your shopping to what is necessary. Etc. etc. you get the idea. This is not about avoiding the temptation that jumps out at us as we go about our daily lives; it is about not putting ourselves in this situation where we know we will be tempted.
You know what your own areas of weakness to temptation are, one key to overcoming it is:
GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE FRIDGE!
The second key is one that I have come to recognise over the past few years and that I have become aware of again whilst here in Redding. It is simply this, the closer you are to God the less power temptation has over your mind.
The more your mind is set on God the less room there is for temptation.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…” And Romans 12:2 says: “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Prevention is far better than cure. When we’re tempted we can call on the emergency services using arrow prayers, calling scripture to mind etc. But far better to put in preventative measures so that the temptations can’t actually get to us in the first place. Hebrews 12 doesn’t say to look to Jesus when we’re in trouble (although we can and should do that), we are to ‘fix our eyes’ or ‘keep our eyes’ on Jesus. We are to do that, and keep doing that as an active intentional part of our lifestyle. In the life of Jesus we see this right from the beginning of his ministry. The temptations were at the end of a 40 day fast. Jesus had spent 40 days alone in the wilderness with his Father and then he was tempted and had the strength to overcome temptation. Time and again in the gospels we read that he took time out to be with his Father.
In one of my recent blog posts I commented on the awareness of God’s presence that has struck me while I have been here at Bethel. That awareness of His presence isn’t an accident or a coincidence; it is the result of years, probably decades, of the intentional pursuit of God’s presence by the leadership and community of Bethel Church. It pervades the services, the meetings, the healing rooms the housegroup and the people. And, contrary to some of what I have seen and experienced in the past, it is in no way a culture where the people simply want to be blessed for themselves. They are seeking God’s presence so that they can give away what he is giving them. Over this coming two weeks over 1,000 people from Bethel will be going on over 50 mission trips to over 30 nations across the world! The testimonies that I have heard of from the last set of mission trips are amazing in conversions, healings and miracles. They pursue God’s presence firstly to honour, bless and magnify God. But then so that through them he would transform a community, a city, a nation and the nations of the world. In fact one of the things that has surprised me is that almost every person outside the church who I have spoken to here has heard of Bethel Church! The cop at the Shasta Dam, the Ranger at Whiskytown Lake, the shop assistants at Sears and Maceys, and the checkout person at Costco had been to the Bethel Healing Rooms and was very positive about the experience.
So what, you may say, I’m not part of that church and I’m not there with you? The same principles apply for all of us. If we will intentionally pursue God, fix our eyes, our attention, our focus on him, then temptation will have less access to our hearts and minds and we will experience his love, grace and power for ourselves and the overflow will transform those around us.
How? may be the next question? Well, an hour on a Sunday morning isn’t what this is about! This is about a lifestyle committed to growing in relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So what will that look like?
Starting on Sundays it means “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” Heb 10:25. It seems to have become the habit of many these days to see gathering with other Christians for corporate worship as something that competes with family, recreation, shopping and sport. There is no competition if we want to intentionally pursue God and his presence. Sunday gatherings and small group meetings will simply come first unless we are on holiday or unable to physically get there! And it means that we’re there not because we have to be but because we want to be.
It takes time. It also looks like regular times alone with God. Time spent in His word and in prayer, listening as much as speaking, after all this is meant to be a two way relationship! Time spent in worship (not just on Sundays), and an expression of worship that feeds your relationship with God whatever that looks like for you.
It looks like a person who spends their money to support their love of God in buying (and reading!) books that help, in buying and regularly listening to worship music (whether that is New Wine worship or Handle’s Messiah), in spending money and time on conferences and other events that help them to know God better. It is a commitment of our time, or money and all of ourselves.
Although Bethel is a great place to be (yes I’m enjoying my time here and especially the worship), God is not restricted to any time or place, he can meet you wherever you are today. I met a lady this week who has recently retired from working in the health services here. Her intentional time with God was in her breaks every morning and afternoon. There was a lot of pressure on her to forego them because of the work that needed to be done but they were so precious to her that she absolutely insisted on taking them and everyone knew and respected it. When a new member of staff joined and asked where she was someone replied ‘Oh that’s her time with God.’
Do you want help with resisting and overcoming temptation? Here are two keys:
- Get Your Head Out Of The Fridge
- Intentionally pursue God and his presence
Then look to see what God does in and through you.
Photo by clevercupcakes