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Thursday, January 26, 2017

But I want that cookie!

Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward. (1 Corinthians 10:13 VOICE)
Anyone who has ever "dieted" will be sure to tell you there comes a point when you are face-to-face with something that is tempting you to indulge, and in that moment, you face the toughest decision to either listen to the tempting thought or walk away from it. If that temptation was for a rich, warm cookie right from the oven, to walk away from it doesn't stop the lingering smell of those freshly baked cookies, does it? The temptation remains - you are just a little further from it than you were before. You could leave the area a little further, but the temptation is still there in the form of a thought or memory. What you did was move away from "immediate danger", but you didn't actually replace the craving. You just took the craving right along with you to another location! We often think this is the way we can deal with sin's temptation in our lives - just walk away, get a different perspective by being in a different location than the temptation. It rarely works, though. Why? We have just changed our location - nothing replaces the temptation.
I have had to learn the enjoyment of the sweetness of fruit instead of the cookie; the crunch of the apple instead of the chips; or the "snack fix" of air-popped popcorn instead of theater-butter style loaded with all that fat and sodium. The temptation has less "pull" for me because I have learned to substitute (replace) the thing that tempted me in the first place. There isn't room for the thought to tug at my senses any longer because I am actively replacing it with something else. Sometimes we need to do more than remove ourselves from the temptation - we might just need to replace it with something God desires for our lives more than whatever that is that is tempting us!
In looking at our passage, we discover a couple of things we should consider:
- There is no "new tactic" the enemy can use to get at us. It is just a "rework" of some other tactic he used some other time or in some other circumstance. He doesn't have limitless tactics - they are all pretty much the same. He works to distract - but that has many angles. He works to dissuade - but you can only persuade someone through so many arguments. He works to discourage - but he doesn't count on God's graces rebuilding us with encouragement beyond the immediate circumstances. He works to create distrust - but he forgets how much God's love anchors us deeply in that which is infinitely trustworthy. He works to defeat and deflate - but he doesn't count on God's goodness and peace to fill us anew each time we turn to him.
- There is a way of escape. Not once does scripture tell us we can get too far down the road of temptation to not be able to take the turn-off of escape. The way is there - we just don't always make the turn! This is where we need to learn the action of replacing that which is tempting us with something else God designs as a "suitable replacement" for whatever the temptation is. For example, if the temptation is to become angry over the actions of our children when they won't listen to us, we might need to have some "tactics" to counter the anger. We might begin to recognize the anger emerges more when we are under pressure to meet a certain deadline like leaving the house by a certain time each morning. To counter the temptation to fly into a rage at the slowness of the kids and their seeming lack of concern with the condition of the kitchen counter after their breakfast, we might plan to arise 20 minutes earlier each school day. We counter the temptation with a measurable action to replace the moment when anger would normally emerge. To further build in a way of escaping the moment of anger's trigger, we might agree there is no TV to distract us in the morning, setting a timer to keep us all on task, and making some of breakfast before bedtime so it takes less prep time in the morning. With each temptation there can be a practical "replacement" action - we might just have to think it through a little.
- Lastly, temptation isn't going to kill us - it is going to make us stronger. We actually learn the "art" of making right choices because we are presented with both a "not so good one" and a "little better one" and a "best one". The "little better one" may be the interim step, but it is a step in the right direction! What doesn't kills us makes us stronger - ever heard that one? At one point, we might need a rope to pull us out of the pit of temptation, while at another we need a ladder. Today's tactic (way of escape) will not always be tomorrow's, but there is something quite similar in each way - it is always upward! Just sayin!