The one good thing about long traffic signals in Indian cities is that it gives enough time for checking mails, updating social media pages, day dreaming, planning for the day, praying and sometimes even quick naps. But at times it could turn out to be the source of strong cravings as well. Waiting at one such 5-minute traffic signal in Bangalore, I looked to my right to realize that I’m just a few inches away from boxes loaded with currency notes. The highly secured van belonged to a professional valuables-move-management company and could have been on its way to a bank or an ATM. Loads of money at arm’s reach took my thoughts to all sorts of odds…what if they had forgotten to lock the rear door and what if the money start to fall off from the vehicle? What if I got all that cash or at least a few bundles? How all my needs and unfulfilled dreams could have been fulfilled if I had got that money? The merciless honking of the vehicles in unison brought me to quick realisation that the signal’s turned green and it’s time to move. As I drew off, I was thankful to God that I could let it go before my imaginations turned wild into powerful temptations.
The inevitability of temptation is a fact of life! How much ever we try to seclude ourselves from the outside world or choose to live in a monastery, temptation still remains as a sheer reality. But the more disturbing truth about temptation is that it’s hard to let it go! In a public setting such as above, it would be comparatively easy to let the thought go away as there are limited opportunities to yield to such inducements. However, if those lustful thoughts are cherished and nourished in a private setting, chances are extremely high that one would succumb to its pull, sooner or later.
“Every time I yield to temptation I decide not to do it again. But after few weeks I’m lured to do the same. Is there a way out?” asks one young professional in his twenties. Many minds that have experienced the enticing pull of temptation have the same question – “What to do when temptation comes calling?” Here are a few practical steps that’ll help you resist temptation.
Here’s the principle – ‘When it comes to temptation, the best time to say a NO is always the first time!’ Be it the case of a friend tempting you to join a drinking party or the pressure to make unethical compromises at work or any other, the rule of the thumb remains the same. Learning the art of saying No, the very first time, helps in successfully resisting the present and future onslaughts of temptation. In other words, when you fail to say a No to the temper’s call in the first instance, you are making it even more difficult or almost impossible to say a No in subsequent times.
Take for example- an accounting professional who has succumbed to the pressures of his manager to make some manipulation in the company accounts will have to continue to do so till his tenure in the company. Failing to take a stand against sin the very first time makes it even more difficult to do so in the subsequent occasions, as one would be answerless to the tempter’s question: “if you can do it last time, why not this time?”
Have you ever wondered why the ancient warriors wore masks during the time of war or why the modern day terrorists make it a point to cover their face while performing atrocious crimes? If you thought it’s just for protective helmet, you got it wrong! The use of human masks is a classic example on the destructive power of anonymity. Studies show that the state of anonymity or concealing one’s identity provides the inner strength and courage required to perform heinous crimes. “When someone is anonymous, it opens the door to all kinds of antisocial behaviour”, says Stanford University professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo, whose studies have demonstrated this fact.
Going incognito may help boost security, not morality! This principle applies not just while involving in heinous crimes, but covers all aspects of human behaviour. That explains why children who are well-behaved in familiar social and family settings, conduct differently while away for studies in a distant city. For those who seek sensual pleasures from the internet and electronic media through pornography, chats etc., anonymity remains the favourite way to disguise their identity. Fake social media profiles, chat ids, private browsing sessions and IP masking techniques are all primarily directed to help the user do what they wouldn’t do in a public setting or while revealing one’s original identity. Avoiding such anonymous behaviour whether on the cyber world or elsewhere helps in restricting oneself from engaging in such sinful pleasures. However, the ultimate motivation that restrains one from indulging in such inordinate pleasures should be the fear of God, who will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of the heart on the day of judgement.
When it comes to sexual temptations, the fact is- saying a no or fighting the tempter isn’t just enough! The many examples of the present and past bear out the plain truth that whoever has tried to resist illicit sexual desires by will power, have ultimately succumbed to the temptation. The power of sexual temptation is such that if a person crosses stage 1 of temptation i.e. the ‘fleeting thoughts’ to the stage 2 of ‘conception of sin’, the chances are extremely high that they would end up in the dangerous stage 3 of ‘engaging with sin’. That explains why God’s Word categorically commands us to ‘Flee’ from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22).
It is to be noted that when it comes to sexual immoralities, God does not want us to resist, fight or run, but ‘flee’. The word flee carries a much powerful message than the word ‘run’, for to flee means ‘to run with all your might’. How much ever spiritual, godly or church-going person you might be, it would be utterly foolish to think that you can stay in a sexually alluring situation and not give in to it. The principle is- if you unexpectedly find yourself in a sexually tempting situation, get out of there with all your might.
Most people know their inherent weaknesses and their biggest temptations. But that piece of information remains useless, unless one takes proactive steps to transform it into temptation encounter plans. Proverbs 22:3 advises, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” Many nibble their way into great sins for the simple reason that they don’t think or plan ahead.
Studies show that those who foresee the temptations they would face in a given situation and plan overcoming tactics, have a better chance of being victorious over such assaults, than the one who takes a surprise head-on. Someone who foresees the persuasions they would face while joining a college would be better prepared mentally, when faced with such challenges. Or consider the case of resolutions- If you want to reduce your TV viewing hours this year, then have a clear plan in place on how and what to replace it with. For having a wish and having a plan are two different things which bring two different results. The key is to set goals that are reasonable, list down the hindrances you would face in reaching towards it and make plans to overcome those temptations.
Those who have fallen victim or have experienced the enticing powerful pull of temptation (that would bring together all of humanity and some angels under one roof) would agree to the fact that the power from within isn’t just enough to resist temptations. That leads us to the topic of the need for a higher power or divine help in overcoming allurements. While it is absolutely necessary to make mind to do all that is required to not allow a passing-by thought to grow into a temptation, the power to resist such onslaughts come from above- through Prayer and depending on God’s Word. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, He did not do any wonders or use His divine powers to chase out the Satan, but merely quoted from the Scriptures and pledge His allegiance and obedience to the Word of God. This is what we ought to do to resist the sinful desires of our flesh and the temptation of the devil. For the Psalmist also testifies about the power that stopped him from sinning – “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11).
If you have been yielding to a temptation over and over again or if you’ve been struggling to overcome the enticement of temptation, ask this question to yourself, “how is my prayer life?” In the model prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to pray to their heavenly Father to “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. If you sincerely and earnestly ask God to save you from a temptation, He will give you strength to overcome its powers or stop you in your paths that you may not face the tempter.
Living in this sinful world, it’s difficult or rather impossible to have complete control on the things that appear before our eyes, the words that we hear and the thoughts that fleet through our mind. However there is hope, for the problem of temptation isn’t something that abruptly came into existence with the advent of internet technologies and smart phones, but an issue that can be traced back to the origin of humanity in the Garden of Eden, to the Son of God in the desert of Palestine, to the very present moment. It is true that there are times where we find the craving too intense that we feel compelled to give in. But, even then let us not give up, for God has done all that is required to harness the power of temptation, including sending His Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. Let us trust in His unfailing power alone.