One of the first temptations I experienced was being asked, “Hold my Popsicle – but don’t lick it!” Do you remember that situation? There it was: in your hands! It was probably dripping down over your fingers and you were struggling. You gave your solemn word you wouldn’t lick it. The excuses come pouring in: “It’s dripping!” “She won’t notice one little lick.” “She wouldn’t mind.” “She owes me.” And so you struggle. What are you going to do?
- You can do as you’re told and live with your frustration – the first of many.
- You might just go ahead and eat it anyway. After all, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
- You could refuse to hold the Popsicle, but that might cost you a friend.
- You can try to convince yourself that you don’t really like Popsicles.
It’s tough. Maybe there is another way to deal with temptations. First, we need to understand everyone is subject to temptations — everyone. We’re not all subject to the same temptations (Since I have a childhood fear of needles, I’ve never been tempted to shoot up drugs), but we are all subject to temptation. (It’s very personal.) Armed with that knowledge, like a good Boy Scout, we can be prepared. We can avoid those situations and people that tempt us, and we can prepare our responses in advance.
Second, Remember: “Nature abhors a vacuum.” If I told you not to think about deadly, black vipers sitting under your chair, you probably won’t be able to think about anything else until you look to make sure I’m joking. On the other hand, if I told you to think about the most delicious hot fudge sundae, complete with whipped cream and a bright red cherry, you probably wouldn’t be thinking about that black snake.
Jesus told a parable about an unclean spirit: “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45 English Standard Version)
If you want to escape temptation, you need to fill your mind and your life with good things.
Finally, when I was a little boy, my family lived on the edge of a soybean field in Kansas. My mom hated mice, but try as she might; there was no way to keep them out of the house. Of course my mom learned to swing a broom faster than any woman alive too! WACK: flat rat. Now imagine you are a tiny mouse nibbling on a crumb of bread in my mom’s kitchen one night. Suddenly you hear the door open behind you and the light falls across the floor. Your life is about to be measured in milliseconds! What can you do?
You might, John Wayne fashion, turn and face your nemesis. Shake your little defiant mouse fist and WACK: flat rat. A better choice is to run with all of your strength towards the safety of the mouse hole. After all, mice are incredibly fast. However, you hear mom’s footsteps following you. You might be tempted to divide your attention between the mouse hole and looking over your shoulder: mouse hole – mom, mouse hole – mom, mouse hole WACK: flat rat.
No, the only hope you have is to focus all of your attention on the mouse hole and run with all the strength God gave you towards safety. No looking back!
Paul told the Corinthians, “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 Corinthians 10:13 English Standard Version)