Imagine you're in the greatest ice cream shop in the world. It's a beautiful place and has any flavor of ice cream you could possibly want. And (for the purposes of this story), you love ice cream!
So you order a dish of ice cream – and it's absolutely your favorite flavor. As you're about to take a bite, which you've been salivating over at just the thought of, you feel the cold steel of the barrel of a gun at the back of your head. Then you hear a "click" as the gun is cocked and a threatening voice behind you say, "If you eat that ice cream, you're going to die."
How much do you love it now? Would you be able to set it down and walk away from it? I'm sure your answer is "Yes!" The temptation to indulge in the ice cream is easy to resist when the choice to have it or not means life or death.
Now, this is an extreme example of how we can be motivated to resist temptation, but I want you to get my point: You'd be surprised how much you can control yourself if you really realized every action has a consequence.
You Can Do What You Really Want to Do
There are lots of common temptations: giving up, being judgmental of others, feeling sorry for yourself, unforgiveness, lying, greed, jealousy, laziness, procrastination…just to name a few. It's easy to make excuses for giving in to temptation.
But when we choose to submit to our temptations rather than what God wants us to do, we are walking in the flesh – our mind, will and emotions – instead of being led by the Spirit of God. Walking in the flesh will only lead you to ruin, decay and destruction, but walking in the spirit will lead you to everlasting life (see Galatians 6:7,8).
God wants to use you to do great things. He has a great plan for your life, but won't make you choose His plan. We must choose to submit to Him and follow His lead.
The good news is, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we not only receive forgiveness of our sins, but the Holy Spirit – God's Spirit – comes to live in us. He's our guide, teacher, counselor and helper. He helps us to understand what God wants and empowers us to choose that instead of what we want, think and feel.
My mind and feelings tell me what I want, not what God wants and feels. As I submit to God, through reading the Bible and prayer, I learn what He wants me to do. But again, it's a choice I have to make whether I do it or not.
The hard part is, I don't always feel like doing things His way. Just understanding what God wants doesn't make it easy. And we all experience temptation to follow our flesh instead of God – it's part of life.
The Key to Resisting Temptation
It's interesting to me how Jesus teaches us to pray in The Lord's Prayer (see Matthew 6:13). He didn't pray, "Father, keep us from temptation." He prayed, "Father, lead us not into temptation. So when we face temptation, we should pray for the strength to resist it.
Strength is found in God's Word, the Bible. In fact, there's inherent power in the Word. In John 6:63 (NKJV), Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."
Meditating on the Word feeds life to your spirit. And when you're strong enough spiritually, you can do what God wants you to do, no matter what pressure the flesh is putting on you. So whatever the temptation is that you're facing, be encouraged. You can resist it. You can have the self-control you need, by God's grace, to say, "I'm going to do what God wants. I'm led by His Spirit and living His great plan for my life!"