January 12, 2005
Encouragement for Today
Mary Southerland, Director of Development, author and speaker
"Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour." 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
During the first week of boot camp, the new recruits were taking a written examination. When one of them was asked why he wasn't working, he replied, "Sir, I have neither paper nor pencil." "Well," exclaimed the instructor, "what would you think of a soldier who went into battle with neither rifle nor ammunition?" The recruit thought for a moment, and then answered, "I'd think he was an officer, sir."
Unfortunately, too many Christians today think they are "officers" in God's army and don't really have to prepare for the battle. Not true and very dangerous thinking! The best way to avoid sin is to stay prepared to face temptation. The minute that we let our guard down or the minute that we are unprepared, the enemy strikes. We must take three actions in order to be on guard against temptation.
Action One: Be alert!
"Alert" literally means "to stay on guard" or "to keep watch". Our Father wants us to stay alert and always be on guard! Columnist Herb Caen wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. And every morning a lion wakes up knowing that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up you'd better be running." It doesn't matter how long we have known God, we must get up each day, prepared to guard against sin, knowing we will face temptation. The best way to stay alert and the greatest deterrent to sin is the word of God!
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11 (NIV)
It is important to remember that God's truth came before Satan's lies. When God's truth comes first in our lives, we will be able to recognize the lies of Satan and temptation will be easier to withstand. When we get away from God's word, however, we become an easy target for temptation and sin. Sin will keep us from God's Word or God's Word will keep us from sin.
Eve either did not know God's command very well or she chose to forget God's command. When Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted, He won the battle of temptation by using the word of God. Every time Satan tempted Him, Jesus responded with scripture. If it was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for us. The best way to prepare for temptation is by knowing the Word of God.
Action Two: Pray continually!
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "never stop praying". But many times, we pray only as a last resort. I read about a kindergarten class that went to the fire station for a tour. The fireman was explaining what to do in case of a fire. "First go to the door and feel the door to see if it's hot. If it is hot, fall to your knees! Does anyone know why you should fall to your knees?" A little voice spoke up, "Yeah, to start praying and asking God to get us out of this mess!" How true!
The power to withstand temptation comes from a praying heart. The devil will do anything to keep us from praying! He laughs at our religious activities and mocks our human wisdom, but he trembles when we pray! I wonder what choice Eve would have made if she had talked to God about Satan's temptations.
Action 3: Practice self-control
"Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death." James 1:14-15
Temptation is the first step on the road to sin. It begins in human desire and can stop there if we learn how to control those desires. While speaking for a conference in Sterling, Colorado, I often saw cows on the country roads. I even spotted a sign that read "If you hit a cow you pay for the cow". A local farmer explained that cows often escape and get lost. When I asked how a cow could possibly get lost he explained, "Well, the cow starts nibbling on a patch of green grass. When it finishes it looks ahead to the next patch of grass and starts nibbling on that one. Then it nibbles on a clump of grass right next to a hole in the fence. On the other side of the fence is another patch of grass, which the cow nibbles. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost." Sin is not usually one giant leap but the result of many small steps. Eve chose to give in to, rather than control her natural desires and physical appetites.
"When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Genesis 3:6 (NIV)
Today, we are tempted just like Eve was tempted. When she ate that fruit, it was more than just a rebellious act. It was choosing to value her own desires over God's will. It was choosing to believe the lies of Satan. Adam was just as guilty as Eve - not just because he ate the fruit but because he said nothing. Silence is always agreement. Self-control is the choice to do the right thing in preparation for facing temptation. To win the war with temptation we must be prepared by staying alert, praying continually and practicing self-control.
My prayer for today:
Lord, today I choose to become a student of the bible. Strengthen me through your truth and empower me to stand against temptation and sin. I also choose to make prayer a natural part of every day. Make me more aware of your presence and power, Lord. I want to be a godly woman, a woman of discipline, a woman whose life honors you and draws other to you. Amen.
Recognize the power of prayer against temptation.
Admit that you have allowed the enemy to "sneak" into your life.
Identify the areas in your life that are out of control.
Choose to surrender those areas to God.
Make me aware of your power and presence in my life.
Look back over your life in order to see the affects of sin. Are there broken relationships, shattered dreams, wasted years or lost purpose? How can the power of God strengthen me to withstand temptation and avoid the devastation of sin? Am I ready to become a woman of excellence and godly discipline?
"So we should not be like other people who are sleeping, but we should be alert and have self-control." 1 Thessalonians 5: 6 (NCV)
"God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid. He gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control." 2 Timothy 1: 7 (ICB)
Pray for strength against temptation. Luke 22:40 (NCV)
Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. James 1:14 (NLT)
Message of the Month Club offered by Proverbs 31 Ministries
Living the Life You've Always Wanted (tape set) by Mary Southerland
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa Terkeurst
P31 Woman Magazine
Originally published Wednesday, 12 January 2005.