Fighting Temptation with Purpose

The other night I was up against a deadline.  It was time for me to finish and share a devotional for the week with my Bible study.  All week the words and lesson had evaded me.  I kind of knew what I was going to write—but I lacked inspiration.  It was frustrating to put it off to the last minute, but I was determined to make my (self-imposed) deadline. 

But on the flipside…I just really wanted a glass of wine.  I wanted to sit on the sofa, have a glass of wine, watch a silly movie, and unwind from all of my busyness.  The problem with that plan, however, is that Steve and I had decided to fast from alcohol this month.  It was only a couple of days from the end of the month but I was ready to just call it and open that bottle.  For most of the month I hadn’t really been tempted, but for some reason that night I just had a craving.

I was torn: write the Bible study or open a bottle of wine.  I decided to compromise: finish writing the devotional and then enjoy a glass of wine as a reward.  That would be fine—best of both worlds.

By the time I finally got kids to bed and dishes done and settled down with my laptop, it was already later than I wanted it to be.  I sat there with my fingers on the keyboard just stuck.  I had nothing worthwhile to write.  Usually the inspiration just hits me and flows, but there was nothing.  It wasn’t for lack of prayer or research or trying.  Lord, you’ve been blessing this study all year, why the sudden silence?  I sat on the sofa with my laptop for two hours, making no progress.  I kept glancing over to where we keep the wine, wondering if I should just give up for the night and see if inspiration would come in the morning.  It felt like I wasn’t going to finish writing that night so I wondered if I should just stop trying.

But I didn’t.  The minutes ticked by and I stubbornly clung to my purpose.  The calling to write the devotional was louder than the bottle of wine calling to be opened.  Then suddenly a moment came where I knew what I was supposed to write about.  It was completely different than what I expected, and brand new insight for myself.  I typed typed typed, barely even knowing what I wrote.  I finished and submitted it—only a couple of minutes before midnight. 

Whew!  Mission accomplished.  I was tired.  Wine didn’t even sound appealing anymore—the temptation to break the alcohol fast was gone.  As I drifted off to sleep I had the strongest feeling that the timing of my devotion-writing was very much on purpose.  God knew that I would be facing a temptation battle Sunday evening, so He provided purpose for me as a means of escape.  It’s not that He had been withholding inspiration from me during the week—He had been saving it for the right time.  He knew that my pressing purpose would give me the strength I needed to overcome that temptation, so He kept me from finishing until the temptation had passed. 

He also knew that I would share the lesson (like I’m doing right now!) and the impact would be multiplied beyond my one little evening.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The middle of that verse is quoted so frequently!  How many times have I heard “God won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can bear”!  And it’s a great reminder.  However, I realized with fresh perspective the other night how the last part of the verse comes to life.  “He will provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

There may be times where God throws us a very specific lifeline when we are drowning in temptation.  As I experienced the other night, sometimes that rescue takes the form of purpose.  However, it’s not always such an obvious task at hand that we can cling to.  I think more frequently we must be intentional about remembering the purpose of God for our lives.  When we are able to do this, we find that we can endure through the temptation and continue to make spiritual progress.

Each season of life, and even each day, brings Godly purpose.  We are called to follow Him and love Him.  We are called to glorify Him with everything we do.  As a parent our purpose is to train up our children.  As a spouse we commit to love and respect the other.  If we are an employee, perhaps our purpose is to set an example to the people we encounter.  If we are in ministry, we are called to serve.  If we have a neighbor, we have been told to love them.  If we have breath in our lungs, our purpose is to praise the Lord.

God has given us these purposes as gifts, not burdens.  They give us energy and motivation to do what is right.  The callings in our life also call our attention back to Him.  As Christians, we are not wandering through life aimlessly with no objective.  We can be thankful for what God has called us to, just as He delights in our obedience to those callings. 

Our purposes, callings, commitments…these things do not give us the strength to resist, but they inspire us to tap into the strength we already have.  The strength that God has already provided us.  The strength we have in Him.  He has given us His word, and His word has given us these purposes, callings, and commitments.  They are an essential key to overcoming temptation instead of being overcome by temptation.

  • When you are tempted to give in to unrighteous anger…remember that you have been called to be humble, gentle, and loving (Ephesians 4:2)
  • When you are tempted to consume things that you are not supposed to consume…remember that the purpose of your body is to be a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19)
  • When you are tempted to be lazy and ignore God’s promptings…remember that you were created with a purpose to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • When you are tempted to lie for personal gain…remember that you were called to worship in truth (John 4:24)
  • When you are tempted to do something ungodly…remember that your purpose as a Christian is to be a light (Matthew 5:16)

Whatever your temptation…remember that you have purpose which can help you get through it without giving in.  Remember your callings, so you will not cave.  Remember your commitments, so that you will not compromise.  All of these things take our focus off of ourselves and our own desires.

When I have something important to do in the morning, I am much more likely to resist the temptation to hit snooze a bunch of times.  I have a reason to get up—I have purpose motivating me and therefore strengthening my resolve to leave the comfort of my bed.  So it is with our spiritual purposes and callings.  If we recognize their importance, then we can be excited and privileged to leave the comfortable habits that tempt us.  We can see that God has provided a way out, and we find the strength to endure since our focus is on glorifying Him.

How about you?  What purpose in your life can you keep in mind when temptation attempts to distract and derail you?  What have you been called to do which the enemy is trying to thwart?  Keep looking for the way out of temptation that God said He will provide—He will never let you down.

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