16/8/2020 [Thematic Message 112] www.lifechurchmissions.com
Blessed Is The Man Who Endures Temptation! <1 Co 10:13; Heb 5:8-9; 1 Th 1:4-8>
Prelude: As a Christian, one of the greatest pains and struggles that our sinful humanity brings us is “temptation”. Some people think, “My character is more upright and I am more cautious of my behavior, so I won't be easily tempted.” This sentence itself is definitely not true. This is because the Bible tells us that temptation is common to mankind <1 Co 10:13>. In this world that is dominated by the ruler of the kingdom of the air, temptation is universal. Indeed, everyone born on earth and clothed in human nature (including the son of Man our Lord Jesus) will face temptations by the evil one. Some people may be more easily tempted in certain areas because of their background or some bad habits, but this does not mean that people without this background will not be tempted. Some people may not commit adultery, but always love to seek pleasure among those of the opposite sex. Some people may not gamble, but they may evade taxes. Some people may not pursue reputation and power, but they care a lot about how others view them and hence always display their excellent qualities in front of others. For a believer whose heart has been cleansed by the truth, when he is tempted, he will feel the pain in his heart, like battling within his spirit. He would be like what Paul said, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do---this I keep on doing.” <Ro 7:19>. Of course, <Jas 1:13> tells us that our good God does not tempt us. But why does God allow us to be tempted? Sometimes, God even seems to lead us into a tempting environment, just as the Holy Spirit led the Lord Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil <Mt 4:1.>. Where is God's perfect will in this? Sometimes, we hear some parents say, “If my child did not go to this school, he would not mix with bad company, then he would not be tempted”, or a wife says, “My husband would not be involved in such an inappropriate relationship with a female colleague if he did not join this company.” Then, when we encounter certain situations that tempt us, we confirm that there is God’s guidance in it, but because we or our loved ones also fall into temptation in that situation, we then blame God and men. In fact, when God allows a situation to tempt us, along with it is also a test. For example, when we start to have money, we will feel the temptation to spend imprudently. But within it is also a test to see if we can be a good and faithful steward in managing money. Think about it, if we encounter a setback (such as business failure, marital problems, single and not being able to find a partner, infertility, etc.), that situation will first naturally tempt us to sin, but at the same time, it will also test the beliefs, values and character of our entire life, to see if our life is faithful to the Lord's word. At that time, perhaps many solutions that are not permitted by God, which are also not faithful to the truth that we are taught, will appear in our hearts. We may even be tempted to rationalize the methods we are inclined toward. However, that situation may also be the path to refine us, leading us to rely on the Lord singleheartedly, and be satisfied in the Lord. In fact, when <1 Co 10:13> talks about temptation (peirasmos), it means “to test” or “to prove”. In other words, it is not used in a negative sense. But it is to prove or show our love for the Lord, and how much we know Him, such that we can be assured that what we believe in surpasses the short-lived pleasure that sin brings. But we should also know that in temptation, the desire to lure us to sin will also arise at the same time. If we do not reject that desire, then temptation will become an inducement for us to sin. Today, many believers do not understand the test within temptation and only lament that temptations are very tough, without knowing when they will end. In the midst of this, they do not draw near to God, but develop many misunderstandings toward God, eventually compromising with temptations. However, we see that when our Lord Jesus Christ overcame the test within temptation in the wilderness, angels came to attend to Him. His glorious ministry also began from that moment.
1. Blessed is the man who endures temptation!
1）Temptations, trials, sufferings are natural laws which God has determined for humans to educate them
<Heb 5:8-9>: Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. This verse tells us two very important truths. First, no one is immune to temptations and trials, because God wants to use them to teach the lesson on submission. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is already perfect, but Father God still determined that He had to go through all kinds of trials and temptations on earth. That does not mean that Jesus is imperfect and has to attain perfection, but it is meant to fulfil perfection, such that in the process of His growing up, He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man <Lk 2:52>. Second, none of us can learn submission without trials and temptations. Today, many parents fail in child education because they take away the challenges their children should go through, so as to create an environment for them which seems to be “without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, and let them enjoy the fruits of others’ labour since young. Some children are busy with their studies and still have to come to church, the parents will say, “Oh, it is fine to attend less church gatherings.” Some believers easily complain about one co-worker or criticize another brother or sister. Are the co-workers they meet really so bad? Actually, their problem is they have been too comfortable right from the beginning, thus they never been through struggles and contention with people, after which they can learn how to understand and love others more. Thus, in the matter of temptations, we must know that God does not tempt people, but God permits temptations, in order to teach us how to submit. Of course, we do not deliberately place temptations before others, but in God’s good will, temptations are inevitable.
2）Not bypass temptations, but persevere under temptations
What God has determined for saints is not to bypass temptations but to persevere under them. Thus, the Bible never promises us that we can avoid temptations, it only promises that we can persevere under temptations. When the Bible talks about overcoming temptations, it never says that temptations will suddenly disappear, and we will no longer be tempted by money, sex, fame, etc. Only in the process of persevering under temptations, then we can learn how to submit to God in all these things (such as: money, sex, good name, etc). In the days of our life, we constantly face the tests brought by temptations, such that we know how to truly love the Lord, rely on Him and obey Him. This is like after Satan used material goods, fame and the glory of the world to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, his temptations never end. Sometimes, Satan used people’s attention and expectations of Him <Jn 6:15>, sometimes he used the unbelief and pressure of His family members <Jn 7:3-5>, and he even used the emotional bond of His dearest disciple Peter to weaken His heart of going to the cross <Mt 16:23>. Thus, we know that temptations will come upon us from all angles and all channels. That fallen angel, who is also the ruler of the kingdom of the air, has the right to tempt people. Therefore, we should not think that temptations are simply the common perception that a person is tempted to steal and rob due to poverty, insufficiency, or having no money to eat. Perhaps after we become someone in the limelight, we may be tempted to win man’s favor and live before man. At that time, we still have to learn how to persevere under temptations.
3）The only way to overcome temptations is to “persevere”
The only and most important answer the Bible offers us when we are overtaken by temptations is to “persevere”. In fact, we all know that only by relying on the Lord can we overcome temptations, but relying on the Lord during temptations is to persevere under temptations. Why must we persevere? First, because that temptation is temporary. When facing temptations, many people forget that behind every temptation, there is the work of the good and faithful God. He certainly will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. Second, only perseverance can produce character and hope, so that the Holy Spirit’s love can be poured out into our hearts <Ro 5:4-5>. Some people want to be mature without perseverance, they want victory without submission. They always hope that once they pray, God will quickly remove that temptation, so that their heart will not have the feeling of being tempted. Actually, that is not the way to overcome temptations. To overcome temptations is to go through perseverance. If a believer does not learn the lesson on perseverance, he certainly cannot love the Lord, and also cannot develop real hope about the future resurrection. Think about it, if faith living on earth is so easy, who will still hope in that sinless and eternal kingdom? In fact, when a saint is persevering under temptations, he can continue to get to know the realness and destructiveness of sin, then he can keep comprehending the Lord’s grace and mercy in his heart. Thus, the Bible says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under temptation!”
2. Three types of believers who face temptations
1）Once temptations come, immediately compromise
Some temptations come as God intends to test us, so that in that difficult situation, we can produce perseverance, and our faith can be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Then our hearts will be satisfied in the Lord and we will set our minds to follow Him. In fact, that temporary gain and loss is only momentary, after that as a result of our perseverance and faith, we will be able to take up and fulfil greater things. However, some believers do not even consider this, but are only preoccupied with the desires of their hearts and the gains before their eyes. Often, such people’s thinking does not contain God’s word, their hearts do not hear the Lord, thus they cannot see the Lord who is present with them. Some of them may even be holding onto some positions given by the Lord, or doing the work of the Lord, but they do not face the Lord. This is like Aaron, once he faced the pressure of the people, he did not even struggle but immediately compromised and made a golden calf according to the wishes of the people <Ex 32:1-7>. This is like king Saul, time and again he compromised. First, he acted on his own will to offer the burnt offering <1 Sam 13:11-12>, after that he did not obey the Lord’s instructions and spared the king of Amalekites and kept the best of the animals and everything good <1 Sam 15:9>. From here, we will know that he was certainly not a king who wanted to obey God. If he obeyed God, that was merely to gain certain benefits. In today’s church, we see many of such church-goers. Once temptations come, they simply compromise without even thinking about it. Examples: Pre-marital sex, dating non-believers, investing in shares, engaging in speculation, using deceitful ways to do business, adopting assisted reproductive technology, etc, are things they easily accept. Their main ideology is whether the masses accept or not, instead of whether God permits or not. Especially in an era which is so technologically advanced, they usually think that as long as it can be done or it can work, then it is fine. The aim of their faith is not to submit to God, but for God to bless them in all they do.
2）Seem to struggle a while, but eventually still compromise with temptations
In addition, when some believers face temptations, they seem to struggle a lot, but eventually, they still compromise with temptations. They may think that since they struggle a bit, it demonstrates their piety or at least they are commendable, but in the eyes of God, such people are still someone who compromises. It was said that when Singapore was considering to open two casinos, many Christian ministers and members of parliament voiced out their objections in Parliament, but when casting their votes, they still compromised with the pressure of the party and let the proposal be passed successfully. In fact, the Bible contains a few characters who initially struggled because of temptations, but ultimately compromised. They were like Lot who lived in Sodom <Gen 19:1>, the rich young man who came to look for Jesus to receive eternal life <Mk 1:17, 22>, and Demas who eventually left Paul because of the love for this world <2 Ti 4:10>. Why do some people struggle yet cannot walk away from temptations? Their misery lies in their misunderstanding toward God. The struggles in their heart are: “God forces me to choose one”, instead of: “God wants to give me the best blessings”. If we think that what we want is good, and God’s will is for us to let go of “what we think is good” and obey Him, then our hearts will automatically stay away from this God. Even if such a person initially seems to be persevering and not compromising, his heart clearly does not have the joy of the Spirit, eventually he will still compromise with temptations.
3）Receive the joy of the Holy Spirit while persevering under temptations
<1 Th 1:6> tells us that the Thessalonian believers received great joy given by the Holy Spirit while persevering under severe suffering. Why were they able to be joyful? In today’s church teachings, every time the church talks about believers’ ability to rejoice, it is because they receive certain material blessings or liberation from illnesses, otherwise it is deliverance from some troubled situations. However, in <1 Th 1:4-7>, we did not see Thessalonian believers receive any of these things. On the contrary, they only faced repeated tribulations and persecutions. Yet, because of the gospel preached to them by Paul with power, the Holy Spirit and deep conviction, they clearly knew God and turned to Him, after that they faced tribulations due to what they believed in, but they were instead all the more joyful. In the midst of the temptations brought by great affliction, such believers did not persevere in misery, but rather, while persevering under temptations, they experienced the love of the Holy Spirit being poured out into their hearts <Ro 5:5>, such that the natural outflowing of their lives became a testimony to various churches in Greece <1 Th 1:7-8>. Today, if we cannot receive joy while persevering under temptations, that is because we have yet to truly know God, or the gospel we know is wrong. Perhaps the gospel we know only let us focus on things on earth, such that earthly gains or losses steal our joy.
3. Not one temptation permitted by God will harm us in the end
1）God will certainly help us when we face temptations
Today, no matter what temptations we face, we must know that God is helping us in the midst of it. The Lord who loves us will certainly not abandon us in our misery, struggles and shame when faced with temptations. Think about it, God even sent angels to Sodom to save such a weak person like Lot who was distressed being in sinful Sodom, after that then God destroyed that city, will God not care about our lives when we struggle due to temptations? Even if we are very miserable or distressed, we must not doubt God’s good intentions. Think about Job’s suffering and his end and we will know God’s faithfulness. Even if the devil wants to destroy our lives through temptations, God wants to use those temptations to test our lives and let us produce perseverance and mature faith in the midst of it. Once our hearts are reconciled with God, we can gradually overcome the lure of temptations, and persevere under it. When the Lord taught the disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” <Mt 6:13>, it does not mean that we should ask God to take away all our temptations because that is not possible. But we are to ask God not to let the evil one, Satan, use temptations to make us fall into sin, but enable us to persevere under temptations by relying on the Lord, and in the midst of these, view light and momentary troubles more and more trivially and yearn for the eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2）Do not sink deeper and deeper when we are temporarily overcome by temptations
We may fail temporarily when faced with temptations, but we will not fail for long. In the Bible, there were many who were greatly miserable and broken because they fell into temptations, yet they were eventually greatly used by God. The most typical example in the Old Testament is David. We all know that he fell into temptation and did outrageous things, which were considered shameful in the eyes of both God and man. However, in his agony, he wrote <Ps 51>, and he deeply experienced God’s grace and mercy. After he repented, the son born to him was Solomon, who inherited his throne. In addition, the classic example in the New Testament is Peter. Because he was tempted, he denied the Lord thrice; after that, he wept bitterly. However, after he was strengthened by the Lord, he rose to preach boldly about Christ on the day of Pentecost, such that 3000 people repented and believed in the Lord. Let us not lose heart while persevering under temptations, but remember what the Lord said in <Heb 12:4-7>, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”” Indeed, when we are contrite because of our sin, we will surely see the Lord’s abundant grace later on, enabling us to produce a harvest of righteousness.
3）When the temptation is unbearable, you must seek the power of collective prayer
Very often, we under-valued the prayers of others. However, when we are tempted, the intercessions from brothers and sisters who love us will give us the greatest support. At that time, what we need are not solutions, but spiritual support. Therefore, when Paul talked about helping those believers who were caught in sin, he instructed disciples to carry each other’s burdens <Ga 6:1-2>. Even when Lord Jesus was facing the greatest temptation of His life, He instructed His disciples to pray, so that they would not fall into temptation <Lk 22:40>. If we truly believe that there is the evil one behind our temptations, all the more we must believe in the importance of interceding for one another. Sometimes, when we tell a brother or sister about the temptation we are facing, amazingly we will have the power to overcome the temptation. Before that, we may have remained in darkened thoughts and lifestyle, but once we confess our sins to one another, intercede for one another, we can slowly come out from the temptations. Therefore, we must never face temptations alone, but instead rely on the help of brethren so that we can persevere.