My parents and others were always transparent with me that Christians will never be free of temptation until we reach heaven. But beyond that, I assumed that temptation would somehow “cool” after youth. After all, I’d heard from my Biology teacher that a man reaches his hormonal peak at age 17, so I took that to imply that the burning temptations of teen years would decline. To a degree that’s true; but lust of the flesh is only one category of temptation. We also battle with the lust of the eyes (possessions or material covetousness) and the pride of life (desire for prestige, recognition, commendation).
What we must remember is that Satan, the arch enemy of our God and of our souls, is not limited to using certain types of temptation only during certain seasons of life. In fact, it serves his purposes well when he can blind-side us with temptations we thought we had overcome (or outlived). Scripture drives that lesson home when it tells the one who thinks he stands to take all the more heed, lest he fall (I Cor. 10:12)
Getting hit anew by temptations we thought we were overcoming can be a terribly discouraging and defeating experience–one that can even make us wonder about our salvation. But I want to encourage younger believers to expect that kind of temptation…and expect those temptations to get WORSE the greater your level of responsibility and the more people depending upon your leadership in life.
For example, the first year I served as President of Bob Jones University was honestly one of the hardest years of spiritual warfare in my life. I’ve told my wife and a number of young friends that my areas of heaviest personal temptation intensified about 400% throughout that year, leaving me confused, discouraged, doubting, and wanting out. God got me through that year and ministered to my heart the following summer, but I was nearly overwhelmed by the fierceness of the battle.
Looking back, I realize that I shouldn’t have been a bit surprised. In his ultimately doomed warfare against God, the devil tries to trip us up and defeat God’s purposes in our lives. Ultimately Jesus WILL complete the work He has begun in us and will present us perfectly righteous before the Father. But until then, we have a supernatural adversary trying to defeat us. And the more responsibility the Lord gives us in life–a spouse, a family, positions of ministry or business influence–the more destructive Satan’s attacks have the potential to be. Because if Satan can cause parents or pastors or successful Christian businesspeople to fall, there’s increased potential that our failures will also spell spiritual defeat for the individuals depending on us . . . or that he can bring scandal to the Name of Jesus through some public failure.
So please just store this tidbit away for the days when you inherit more responsibility, prominence, and influence. When that advancement comes, EXPECT the spiritual battle to intensify and don’t be discouraged or surprised when the storms of temptation hit with new force. In fact, get ready for it: Make no provision for your lustful flesh, commit God’s Word to memory in areas of your greatest struggles, be assured that “Greater is He who is in you, than he that is in the world” (I Jn. 4:4), lean on the Holy Spirit’s strength, and rejoice in God’s promise that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).
Make use of God’s provisions for the battle. Don’t let Satan bring you down just as God is lifting you to new heights of influence and effectiveness for Him.
January 4, 2014