Biblical Actions for Overcoming Temptation

We’ve all been tempted. Even Jesus was tempted, yet without ever sinning (Heb. 4:15). In the throes of temptation it can be difficult to think about anything other than the thing we are tempted to do, but it is possible not to give in. The Bible has a lot to say about temptation, especially concerning how to overcome it and not give into it. With this in mind, here are some of the biblical actions prescribed to help saints overcome temptation.

“Take Heed”

The Bible tells us, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Realizing that temptation comes from my own desires (Jas. 1:13-15), I must be honest with myself and recognize that I’m not above sinning or being drawn away into temptation.

A little bit of earnest self-inspection goes a long way. We should be aware of our own weaknesses and areas where we are more likely to be tempted. Then, we should work on being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2), mindfully seeking the guidance of God’s Word in the areas we struggle most. To do this, we may have to face some embarrassment and empty ourselves of some pride, but it will always be worth it to take heed lest we fall. 

Avoid Triggers 

One easy way to resist temptation is to try not to get into tempting situations. Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid every possible tempting situation because we don’t know the future, but we can avoid some of them. If we know there is a certain sin we struggle with, we should strive to avoid the things that make that sin easier if we can. The book of Psalms opens with this description of a blessed individual: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Ps. 1:1). Avoiding the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seats of scoffers can help us resist temptation. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:33 admonishes us, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 

The company we keep and the activities we engage in can go a long way to us being more or less likely to give into temptation. If I know myself well enough to know what I struggle with, I can get out ahead of temptation by avoiding those situations altogether. These “triggers” are personal to me based on my desires and my past, but they are worth avoiding whenever possible. This may require me to draw some boundaries and miss out on some opportunities, but holiness is worth that cost (Matt. 5:29-30; Heb. 12:14). 

Look For the Way of Escape 

God has promised that He has given a way of escape for every tempting situation, enabling us to endure it: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). God can help us endure and escape temptation!

Sometimes that looks like literally fleeing, like Joseph who had to run from the clutches of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:11-12). Thus, the Bible tells us to “flee youthful passions” (2 Tim. 2:22), “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), and “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14).  

SEE ALSO: 20 Truths About Temptation

Learn to Say “No” 

We have all been in a situation where another person compels us to do something we know we should not do. We need to learn to say no. God’s wisdom tells us, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10). The word consent is key in that verse. Rarely will somebody literally force us to do something we do not want to do. Our peers may coax us, influence us, guilt trip us, and plead with us, but we do not have to yield.

When we feel the social pressure to do that which God calls sin, we must remember that we have the power to say “no.” If they make fun of us for not going along with them in sin, we will be blessed (Matt. 5:10-12). We must remember that we live for the approval of God, not the approval of people (Gal. 1:10).   

Pray, Pray, Pray

One of the most underutilized weapons in the Christian’s arsenal is prayer. The crowning aspect of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 is “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). We should listen to the hymns we sing and take the messages to heart. We sing verses like Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged: Take it to the Lord in prayer (“What a Friend We have in Jesus”) and In seasons of distress and grief My soul has often found relief, And oft escaped the tempter’s snare, By thy return, sweet hour of prayer (“Sweet Hour of Prayer”). Another hymn admonishes us, When you met with great temptation, Did you think to pray? By His dying love and merit, Did you claim the Holy Spirit As your guide and stay? (“Did You Think to Pray?”). 

May God help us to train ourselves to make prayer our automatic response to temptation! Jesus told His disciples in the garden to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41) and taught His disciples to pray to God, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). God wants us to endure temptation more than anybody (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Thess. 4:7), we should solicit His help when we are facing seemingly unendurable temptation!  

Utilize God’s Word 

Likewise, we cannot underestimate the power of God’s Word in our fight against temptation. God’s Word is “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) and is living, active, and sharp (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word was Jesus’ tool when the tempter sought to lure Him into sin (Matt. 4:1-11), and it should be ours as well. 

There are a couple of ways in which a familiarity with and meditation on God’s Word can help us overcome temptation. In the first place, God’s Word helps us to have our minds transformed so that we can discern between what is good and what is evil (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:17; Heb. 5:13-14). Also, having the Sword of the spirit stored in our heart gives us instant help in tempting situations: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). The more we meditate on and internalize God’s Word, the better equipped we are to overcome temptation. 

The psalms tell us that the blessed person delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night (Ps. 1:2). It is not automictically the case that those who know more of God’s Word will sin less, but it is true that God’s Word is our greatest offensive weapon against being overwhelmed by temptation and conforming to the world. If we find ourselves struggling with sin and giving into temptation more than we used to, we likely need to flee to God’s Word for refuge: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Prov. 30:5).

Take Responsibility and Seek Accountability 

Finally, to help us overcome temptation, we should take responsibility and seek accountability. If our sin is always somebody else’s fault, we are not taking responsibility as we should. God does not tempt us, but our own desires lead us astray (Jas. 1:13-15)! When it comes to sin, we are in the driver’s seat. As God encouraged Cain before he murdered his brother, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). We can choose to rule over sin. 

There is no sin that we must commit. So, when we sin, we should take responsibility for our actions by admitting that we’ve done wrong and seeking God’s mercy: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). 

God has given us Christian brothers and sisters to help us when we are struggling with temptation. Our time together in fellowship, worship, and community is designed to create an atmosphere of accountability and genuine spiritual concern for each other. If we neglect to assemble with the saints and spend time with our brothers and sisters, we will be more susceptible to caving into temptation. The wisdom of God tells us that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1). 

We should confess our sins to one another, reach out for help, and be willing to be held accountable by our brothers and sisters (even if that means receiving rebuke). We are commanded: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-12). We are told to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (Jas. 5:16). When we are struggling, we should be with the church more, not less! 

Everyone is tempted, but we can fight against temptation with God’s help. 

Forest Antemesaris

Forest serves as the preacher for the Orange Street church of Christ in Auburndale, FL. He is a graduate of the Florida School of Preaching (2016), Freed-Hardeman University (B.S., Biblical Studies), and Liberty University (M.A., Christian Apologetics).

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