My niece convinced me to play Pokémon Go—a game played on a smartphone, using the phone’s camera. The object of the game is to capture little creatures called Pokémon. When one appears in the game, a red and white ball also appears on the phone’s screen. To capture a Pokémon, the player has to flick the ball toward it with the movement of a finger. Pokémon are more easily caught, however, by using a lure to attract them.
Pokémon characters aren’t the only ones who can be lured away. In his New Testament letter to believers, James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us that we “are dragged away by [our] own evil desire” (1:14, emphasis added). In other words, our desires work with temptation to lure us down a wrong path. Though we may be tempted to blame God or even Satan for our problems, our real danger lies within.
But there is good news. We can escape the lure of temptation by talking to God about the things that tempt us. Though “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone,” as James explains in 1:13, He understands our human desire to do what’s wrong. We have only to ask for the wisdom God promised to provide (1:1–6) to avoid losing more than a video game.
There’s a street with an intriguing name in the city of Santa Barbara, California. It’s called “Salsipuedes,” which means “leave if you can.” When the street was first named, the area bordered on a marsh that sometimes flooded, and the Spanish-speaking city planners dubbed the location with a not-so-subtle warning to stay away.
God’s Word cautions us to stay away…
My desk sits close to a window that opens into our neighborhood. From that vantage point I’m privileged to watch birds perch on the trees nearby. Some come to the windows to eat insects trapped in the screen.
The birds check their immediate surroundings for any danger, listening attentively as they look about them. Only when they are satisfied that there is no danger do they settle down to feed. Even then, they pause every few seconds to scan the area.
The vigilance these birds demonstrate reminds me that the Bible teaches us to practice vigilance as Christians. Our world is full of temptations, and we need to remain constantly alert and not forget about the dangers. Like Adam and Eve, we easily get entangled in attractions that make the things of this world seem “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen. 3:6).
“Be on your guard,” Paul admonished, “stand firm in the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13). And Peter cautioned, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
As we work for our own daily bread, are we alert to what could start consuming us? Are we watching for any hint of self-confidence or willfulness that could leave us wishing we had trusted our God?
Joie started the children’s program with prayer, then sang with the kids. Six-year-old Emmanuel squirmed in his seat when she prayed again after introducing Aaron, the teacher. Then Aaron began and ended his talk with prayer. Emmanuel complained: “That’s four prayers! I can’t sit still that long!”
If you think Emmanuel’s challenge is difficult, look at 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray continually” or always be in a spirit of prayer. Even some of us adults can find prayer to be boring. Maybe that’s because we don’t know what to say or don’t understand that prayer is a conversation with our Father.
Back in the 17th century, François Fénelon wrote some words about prayer that have helped me: “Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them.” He continued, “Talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them: show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them . . . . If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say.”
May we grow in our conversation with God so that it might become our joy to spend time with Him.
From my window I can see a 1,700-meter hill called the Cerro del Borrego or “Hill of the Sheep.” In 1862, the French army invaded Mexico. While the enemy camped in the central park of Orizaba, the Mexican army established its position at the top of the hill. However, the Mexican general neglected to guard access to the top. While the Mexican troops were sleeping, the French attacked and killed 2,000 of them.
This reminds me of another hill, the Mount of Olives, and the garden at its foot where a group of disciples fell asleep. Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
How easy it is to sleep or become careless in our Christian walk. Temptation strikes when we are most vulnerable. When we neglect certain areas of our spiritual lives—such as prayer and Bible study—we become drowsy and let our guard down, making us easy targets for our enemy, Satan, to strike (1 Peter 5:8).
We need to be alert to the possibilities of an attack and pray to maintain vigilance. If we remain watchful and pray—for ourselves and for others—the Spirit will enable us to resist temptation.
When my friend Elaine was recovering after a bad fall, a hospital worker placed a bright yellow bracelet on her wrist. It read: Fall Risk. That phrase meant: Watch this person carefully. She may be unsteady on her feet. Help her get from place to place.
First Corinthians 10 contains something like a “Fall Risk” warning for believers. With a glance back at his ancestors, Paul noted the human potential to fall into sin. The Israelites complained, worshiped idols, and had immoral relationships. God grew unhappy with them and allowed them to experience consequences for their wrongdoing. However, Paul said, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us . . . . So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (vv. 11–12).
It’s easy to trick ourselves into believing that we’re done with a particular sort of sin. Even when we’ve struggled through the worst of it—admitting our problem, repenting, and recommitting ourselves to following God’s ways—temptation may come calling. God makes it possible for us to avoid falling back into the same patterns. He does this by providing a way out of the sinful act we’re considering. Our part is to respond to His offer of escape.
As I ventured out several weeks after shoulder surgery, I was fearful. I had become comfortable using my arm sling, but both my surgeon and physical therapist now told me to stop wearing it. That’s when I saw this statement: “At this stage, sling wear is discouraged except as a visible sign of vulnerability in an uncontrolled environment.”
Ah, that was it! I feared the enthusiastic friend who might give me a bear hug or the unaware friend who might bump me accidentally. I was hiding behind my flimsy baby-blue sling because I feared being hurt.
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be scary. We want to be loved and accepted for who we are, but we fear that if people truly knew us, they would reject us and we could get hurt. What if they found out we are not smart enough . . . kind enough . . . good enough?
But as members of God’s family, we have a responsibility to help each other grow in faith. We’re told to “encourage one another,” to “build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11), and to “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).
When we are honest and vulnerable with other believers, we may discover we have mutual struggles battling temptation or learning how to live obediently. But most of all, we will share the wonder of God’s gift of grace in our lives.
Around our home, the words “some assembly required” have been the cause of great frustration (mine) and great humor (my family). When my wife and I first married, I attempted to make simple home repairs—with disastrous results. A repaired shower handle worked perfectly—if the plan was for the water to run between the walls. My fiascoes continued after we had children, when I assured my wife, Cheryl, I “don’t need instructions” to put these “simple” toys together. Wrong!
Gradually, I learned my lesson and began to pay strict attention to the instructions and things went together as they should. Unfortunately, the longer things went well, the more confident I became, and soon I was again ignoring instructions with predictably disastrous results.
The ancient Israelites struggled with a similar tendency: they would forget God, ignoring His instructions to avoid following after Baal and the other gods of the region (Judg. 2:12). This produced disastrous results, until God, in His mercy, raised up judges to rescue them and bring them back to Himself (2:18).
God has reasons for all of the instructions He’s given us to keep our affections on Him. Only by a daily awareness of His loving presence can we resist the temptation to “construct” our lives our own way. What great gifts He has given us in His Word and His presence!
Hearing testimonies about how God did something spectacular in someone else’s life can challenge us. While we may rejoice to hear about answers to prayer, we may also wonder why God hasn’t done anything amazing for us lately.
It’s easy to think that if God showed up in astonishing ways for us like He did for Abraham, then we would be more inspired to be faithful servants of God. But then we remember that God showed up for Abraham every 12 to 14 years, and most of Abraham’s journey was rather ordinary (see Gen. 12:1-4; 15:1-6; 16:16–17:12).
God’s work is usually done behind the scenes in the ordinary things of life. As our text says, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out” (1 Cor. 10:13). Every day God is busy shielding us from devastating onslaughts of Satan that would otherwise leave us helplessly defeated. And when temptation hits, He is making exit ramps for us so we can escape.
When we put our head on the pillow at night, we should pause to thank God for the amazing things He has done for us that day in the midst of our ordinary lives. So, instead of longing for Him to do something spectacular for you, rejoice! He already has.