Every change in your life - big or small - is what the Biblical writer James refers to as a 'trial' (James 1:2, 12). And every trial comes embedded with temptation, the opportunity to take this gift from God and to use it for truly godless purposes. Each and every day, in countless ways throughout the day, you find yourself having to fight your way out of temptation.
I'm writing this at 7:30 this morning and already I have been tempted to hold a grudge, respond to a situation apathetically, become anxious about my future, demand perfection, believe that I am worthless and to crave the cotton candy of mindless amusement. In each situation - trial - I can either follow Jesus or wander away from him after a very real yet distinctly counterfeit treasure. The choice is clear: fight or fall into temptation. But what does it look like to fight temptation?
Look at Jesus praying in the garden (Luke 22:39-46). Be stunned by the ferocity of his resistance to temptation (bloody sweat, anyone?) and the particularity of his request ('not my will but your will'). Learn the lesson Jesus teaches us about how we fight against the temptations, big and small, that you and I will face today. When temptation comes, we fight back by asking God for something better.
Asking for something better means that we pray, 'offering up our desires to God'. Like Jesus, we tell God about what we feel and what we want ('remove this cup'). We cling to the hope that we exist for something better. While prayer takes on many different forms at various times and seasons of our life, when temptation comes we ask. And ask again. And ask some more. Jesus prayed three times in the garden. And we fight temptation by asking for something better until the shadow passes, and we find ourselves enjoying the sunshine of God's love.
The Scriptures invite us to a way of life that is marked by intoxicating joy in God; a better life than the gifts that God gives us can produce on their own. You and I were made for gladness, to enjoy the fullness and richness of life that we discover when we come into contact with God himself through his gifts. God did not create us to reject his gifts. But in asking for something better than those gifts, we resist the urge to reject him in favor of his gifts.
'Help me. I need more than this. I need you.' Here is the prayer that I have begun to pray when I am tempted to give my head, heart and life to anything or anyone other than God. It is not elaborate. It fits every temptation I face. It serves as a temporary bridge to connect my heart to the heart of God. I need more than my intentions and efforts. It is good to sing and say: 'Our souls declaring/Jesus is better/Make my heart believe.' Amen.
For more on how Jesus helps us fight temptation, listen to last week's sermon below. Or, even better, subscribe to the Christ Community podcast on iTunes.
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