Why Extra Temptation Can Be Good For You


Since we started the campaign to read through the Bible this year, I have received a number of e-mails from people both locally and around the nation who have written to testify about the personal blessings they have already received. I think the most interesting comment has come from someone who is also memorizing Psalm 119. As he has worked his way through the first two stanzas (verses 1-16), he made a fascinating discovery: “Since taking on this challenge, I have been tempted more than usual.” It’s almost as if the devil is now working overtime since he started memorizing God’s Word. As I pondered this fact, something Martin Luther said floated into my mind. Three things are necessary, he said, to make a true minister of God: prayer, meditation and temptation. Prayer and meditation are easy enough to understand. When we pray, we are talking to God. When we meditate on God’s Word, God is talking to us. How does temptation fit into that picture? Temptation is necessary because no one can become a truly mature Christian without facing many trials. There is no shortcut to spiritual growth. If it pleased the Father that his own Son should learn obedience through the things he suffered (Hebrews 5:9), how can we expect to become like Christ unless we too go through the fires of personal affliction? I find this a comforting thought because it means that in those moments when I feel like quitting or lashing out or compromising or running away, when the fire seems hot in my personal furnace, Jesus knows from personal experience what I am going through. At this point the thoughtful reader may notice that I am not making any big difference between a testing of my faith and a temptation to sin. The line between the two is actually very thin. The same event may be a test or a temptation depending on how I respond. It may lead me to a struggle that results in growth or, if I go another direction, I may find myself in the valley of iniquity. God knows this, and so does the devil. And that’s why any new effort to move forward spiritually is almost always met with new temptations. Satan will not stand idly by when we make a firm commitment to grow in God’s Word. Make no mistake. The devil wants you to watch more TV this year. He would much prefer that teenagers spend more time playing video games and less time reading the Word. He knows that every moment we spend reading or memorizing the Bible leads us away from his infernal control. And he won’t give up without a fight. No pain, no gain. Do you want to grow in 2002? Keep reading. Keep memorizing. Extra temptation is a positive sign that you’re on the right track.

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