Sermons

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First Sunday of Lent Cycle C (2)

 

Welcome on this Valentine’s Day. It is ironic that this is also the First Sunday in Lent. Lent is generally that season of the year when people have chosen a favorite treat or some vice to give up for these six weeks.

One man said his children traditionally gave up something like candy for Lent. Last year, however, he urged them to go beyond that to giving up some habit or sin that they knew was bad for them. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. His youngest son had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent.

When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dad–but boy, I can’t wait until Easter!” (1)

Any of you who have tried to give up anything you really enjoy for any period of time know what he was talking about. It’s a long time until Easter.

Now imagine you’ve decided to give up candy for Lent, and then your significant other decides to surprise you with a delicious looking box of rich chocolates for Valentine’s. Who wins out–God or your sweetie? Boy, talk about a dilemma. Or should I have said–which wins out, your will power or the power of temptation?

We all know what it is to be tempted, don’t we? It’s like something witty author John Ortberg wrote in his book, The Me I Want to Be. He wrote about a time when he and his wife went fly-fishing. This was their first time at this particular sport. Their guides told them that in order to “to catch a fish you have to think like a fish.” The guides said that, to a fish, life is about the maximum gratification of appetite at the minimum expenditure of energy. To a fish, life is “see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly.”

As Ortberg humorously puts it, “A rainbow trout never really reflects on where his life is headed. A girl carp rarely says to a boy carp, I don’t feel you’re as committed to our relationship as I am. I wonder, do you love me for me or just for my body? The fish are just a collection of appetites. A fish is a stomach, a mouth, and a pair of eyes.”

He says, “While we were on the water, I was struck by how dumb fish are.” [He imagined a fisherman saying to the fish], “Hey, swallow this. It’s not the real thing; it’s just a lure. You’ll think it will feed you, but it won’t. It’ll trap you. If you were to look closely, fish, you would see the hook. You’d know once you were hooked that it’s just a matter of time before the enemy reels you in.”  You’d think fish would wise up and notice the hook or see the line. You’d think fish would look around at all their fish friends who go for a lure and fly off into space and never return. But they don’t. It is ironic,” Ortberg continues, “We say fish swim together in a school, but they never learn. Aren’t you glad we’re smarter?” (2)

Well . . . I guess it depends how we deal with temptation whether we are smarter than a fish or not. It depends how often we see the lure without noticing the hook, just like fish. We could learn from our Master about temptation–for even he was tempted.

Our lesson from Luke’s Gospel tells the story. Interestingly enough, it occurs right after Jesus’ baptism. Sometimes it is when we feel closest to God that the tempter seems most determined to undermine us. 

It’s interesting. The story begins like this: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Notice that it doesn’t say he was led by the devil into the wilderness, but by the Spirit. Evidently, this was some kind of test.

Some have surmised that this was a test to prove that Christ was who he said he was–the sinless Lamb of God. The idea is that he was tested much in the same way car companies test their cars. When they crash those cars, they do not do so to prove that the car can indeed crash. Rather, the goal is to prove that, if the car does crash, it will do what the car company says it would (for example that the airbags will deploy upon impact, etc.) That is the purpose of a test.

The story is told about when the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed. An elaborate trestle was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test this important bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?”

          “No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.”

You may wonder why God would create a world where temptation is even possible. It may be that temptation is God’s quality control test for human beings. Bible scholar William Barclay once explained it this way: “What we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin. It is not meant to make us bad, it is meant to make us good. It is not meant to weaken us, it is meant to make us emerge stronger and finer and purer from the ordeal. Temptation is not the penalty of being a [human being], temptation is the glory of being [human]. It is the test which comes to a [person] whom God wishes to use . . .”

In other words, the temptations Jesus faced weren’t designed to see if Christ would sin, but to prove that he wouldn’t. In this test, the Holy Spirit may have been showing us that Jesus was both human and, at the same time, able to resist sin.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where for forty days,” writes Luke, “he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” The first temptation Jesus faced was to give in to his physical needs.

Now I don’t want you to get hung up on the fact that Jesus went forty days without eating. “How is that possible?” some of you will be asking. Remember, the phrase “forty days” is sometimes the Bible’s way of simply saying “a long time.” Jesus had not eaten for a long time. He was extremely hungry and in need of food. No wonder, then, that the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus had physical needs, just as we do, that needed to be met.

Jesus’ response to the devil was to quote Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live on bread alone.” In other words, he is saying there is something more important in life than our physical needs.

He is quoting from that passage in which Moses reminded the people of Israel that God led them in the wilderness for forty years, to humble and test them. One of those tests was the manna that God provided for them. Though God provided the manna to sustain them in the wilderness, it was still a test of faith.

Remember God told the Israelites to gather the manna daily. If they did not trust God and out of fear tried to gather enough manna for tomorrow as well for today, the manna turned into maggots. They had to believe that God’s promise was trustworthy. 

It’s the same test that we face from time to time. Life suddenly gets difficult. And we are faced with a dilemma: do we trust God to meet our needs or not? That will determine how we will live our lives. So the first temptation Christ faced was to give in to his physical needs. 

The second temptation that Luke records is the temptation to seek after personal power and glory. The devil takes Christ to a high place and shows him the kingdoms of the world. “I will give you all their authority and splendor,” the tempter says, “it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” In other words, you aren’t to worship Satan, but you are also not to worship your own selfish desires.

In his answer Jesus again makes reference to Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6, where Moses warned the people about their attitude when they get to the Promised Land and begin to prosper. The temptation would be for them to subdue the land and then to sit back with pride and to pat themselves on the back for all they had accomplished and forget God who had given them the land. “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you–a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant–then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (10-12).

“You shall worship God only and him only shall you serve” is the call for us to realize that God must take preeminence in our lives. We live in a land with so many conflicting gods, just as the Hebrews did. Ours are not gods of clay and stone. Our gods are gods of money and power, pride and position.

Keith Emerson, an Episcopal priest in Hudson, Ohio tells about a friend of his, a priest, who invested some money in the stock market. Every day thereafter this priest would pore over the financial pages seeking better investment possibilities. Mind you, he had never shown an interest in any of this until he made this investment.

He said that his friend eventually took this to an extreme. One day out of the blue, he wanted a group of his fellow priests to go with him to a Wendy’s restaurant for lunch. And when they got there, he encouraged them to order as much as they wanted, but then scolded them for being too generous with things like ketchup and napkins.

It wasn’t until a week later they discovered that this priest had purchased some stock in Wendy’s. This was his way of encouraging everyone he knew to go there to eat so that his investment could grow. (3) He became obsessed with his investments.

Any obsession that captures the lion’s share of our time and attention can become an idol. A hobby or a sport can become idolatrous if it causes us to have less time for God. Even our own family can become an idol if we continually rationalize missing worship in the name of “quality family time.” Let’s not kid ourselves, we live in a time of easy rationalizations when our devotion to God has become watered down to a mere nod in God’s direction. The drive for money and power, pride and position or a host of other minor idols may pull us away from God.

Satan’s first temptation was for Christ to turn stone into bread in order to feed his physical hunger. His second temptation was the very human hunger for power and splendor. Jesus only need bow down to Satan rather than to direct his worship exclusively to God.

Satan’s third temptation was for Jesus to take an easier way to accomplish his mission and thus avoid the cross.

Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Certainly this test would have been good for Jesus’ rJsumJ. If he threw himself from the pinnacle of the Temple and a host of angels caught him in mid-air, then everyone would know without question he truly was the Son of God. Satan even quotes Psalm 91:11-12 that prophesies that the messiah will be kept safe from harm. Satan, by the way, is a master at quoting scripture, almost as good at it as Jesus. At least, that’s my experience. Some of the most devilish people I know like to have a Bible in their hand, usually so they can throw it at people of whom they disapprove.

Jesus did not yield to the temptation to take the easy path. He knew his purpose; that he had come as the suffering servant (Philippians 2:7-8). To receive the acceptance of the people without going to the cross was to undermine the plan of his Father. That was exactly the situation Moses wrote of in Deuteronomy 6:16 which Jesus quotes in response to Satan. Jesus answers, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Moses referred to a time when people wondered if God was with them, just as sometimes we wonder if God is with us. If you do not believe God is with you, you will not stand up to life’s greatest challenges. 

Christ was not the first, nor the last, to be tempted to take a short cut, to take the easy way, the less demanding way to achieve their goals. We are all tempted to avoid the hard work of being the best we can be–the best of what God has called us to be.

“When the devil had finished all this tempting,” says St. Luke, “he left him until an opportune time.” That opportune time probably refers to the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ was facing the cross. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” . . . “And being in anguish,” Luke writes, “he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:42-44).

So this is where we begin our Lenten pilgrimage–with Christ being tempted, or tested, in the wilderness. Hebrews 2:18 explains why it was necessary for Christ to face this test: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

All of us are continually being tested. It might be a temptation as benign as Valentine chocolates or it may be as life shattering as a temptation to an illicit sexual relationship. It may be a temptation to slovenliness regarding our use of time, or the more devastating temptation to outright fraud in the marketplace. The message of Christ’s test in the wilderness is that temptation can be resisted. At times it must be resisted. How? By making our primary allegiance to God and serving Him alone. It can be resisted by refusing to take the easy way, but seeking to pursue the honorable way.

          Today is the beginning of a Lenten pilgrimage that we are calling Growing Stronger in the Season of Lent. Just as facing temptation was not intended to weaken us by giving in to temptation, but to make us stronger as we resist the tempter, so this season of the year can make us stronger in our faith. As we go through these six weeks we hope you will be praying that God will use these worship services by His grace to make us more into the Christ-like people He has called us to be. Unlike Christ, we will never in this world be without sin, but with his help we can resist temptations that are destructive to us and undermine our witness to the world. By his grace, we can grow stronger as we face the tests that come to us in our daily lives.

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  1. Contributed. Source unknown.
  2. Zondervan, p. 137.
  3. James Hewett,How to Live Confidently in a Hostile World(Wheaton, IL: Word Publishing, 1989), p. 177. Cited by Mark Friesen, http://klcchurch.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/It-Was-There-All-the-Time-Sermon-7.20.14.pdf.

 

First Sunday of Lent Cycle C (1)

Good morning, boys and girls. The Bible keeps telling us to call on Jesus and I wonder if you know why you should be calling him? Why do you call Jesus? (Let them answer.) I have a telephone with me. I know that we can’t phone Jesus, but I thought maybe we could find out why we are calling him by trying to call some other people. I want to call the doctor. Why do I call the doctor? (Let them answer.) That’s right, I call the doctor when I am sick. Let’s make another call. I want to call the plumber. Do you know why you call a plumber? (Let them answer.) That’s right, because you have a problem with your sink or the bathroom, or a faucet that leaks, or something like this. Why do you call a friend?  Now, let’s think about why we should call Jesus and what Jesus does that makes us want to call him. Can you think of any reason why we should call on Jesus? (Let them answer.) We should call on Jesus when we need help, when we are sick, and for a lot of the other reasons that you mentioned, but there is one big reason that is more important than any other, and I want to share it with you this morning.The most important reason that I know of for calling on Jesus is that the Bible says that Jesus will save you if you call on him. “Saving” means to make sure that you live again after you die. We are all going to die, every one of us, but if we believe in Jesus and call on him, he promises that we will live again with him and his Father in heaven forever. What do you think we call calling Jesus -Prayer.  If we pray then we will have a relationship with Jesus. We need a relationship with Jesus to get into heaven.

Paul Grobman in his book Vital Statistics tells about incident that occurred on January 21, 1996. This incident–which might be every child’s fantasy and every parent’s nightmare–involved two brothers, Antony and Jerome who live in Quebec, Canada. It seems that the two boys wandered off from their backyard and went to a nearby Toys R Us, the now defunct toy store chain. While amusing themselves in the gigantic toy store Antony and Jerome slipped into a playhouse where they promptly fell asleep. When they woke up, the lights were out, and the store was closed.

Well, if you were two young boys locked in a toy store, what would you do? While about 150 adults searched for them nearby, the boys were happily playing inside the store.  They were discovered by the store manager the following morning. 

Asked why the store alarm system didn’t go off and alert the searching adults they were in the store, a Toys R Us spokesman said: “They never tried to open the doors to leave.” A trail of toys and empty chip bags were proof of that. (1)

No wonder they didn’t try to leave. They were in paradise. Two youngsters alone in a toy store–what greater temptation could there be than that?

We all know what it is to be tempted, don’t we? Even Jesus was tempted.

The first temptation was for the Lord to use his powers to take care of himself: You are hungry. Command this stone to be turned into bread. This is the temptation we all have to use God’s gifts in a selfish manner.  We give in to this temptation when we put self-gratification before love.  Consider this from God’s perspective.  He has given us so much and merely asks us to use His gifts to draw closer to Him.  Instead, we often hoard His gifts for ourselves, without any 

consideration of the Divine Giver or His Presence in others.  We have all suffered from others who have given in to this temptation.  The worst hurt that any of us have received in our lives came from those who refused to return our love for them.  Some of the most horrible actions of our lives have been motivated by our own decisions to take care of number one, to make bread for ourselves instead of love for others.

 

            In the second temptation of the Lord, Jesus is brought to a mountain top and shown all the kingdoms of the world.  They would all be His if He worshiped the devil.  This is the Temptation of Power.  In the sad history of the world, those in power often use their authority to hurt others.  Sometimes they do this to protect themselves.  Sometimes they use their power simply because they can.  The world is full of bullies, and not just in the schools.   Many men use their power over women only because most men are physically stronger. So often we hear about a sports figure brutalizing his wife, fiancé or girlfriend.  Our society has an abuse crisis that is affecting a large portion of our women as well as our children.  How can this happen?  It happens because many people feel that might makes right, that the one who can hurt the other has a right to do so.  The temptation to use power over others is sick. The temptation to do everything we can to acquire power over others is sad. Those who make power the goal of their lives end up worshiping the devil.  

 

            We all have to look within ourselves.  All of us have a certain power over others, wives and husbands over each other, parents over children, siblings over their younger, weaker siblings, Teens and children over some of their classmates.  None of us have the right to use this power to hurt.  God gave us strength to pick others up, not to knock them down.  The way of the world is the way of might makes right.  Jesus showed a power greater than the power of the world. He showed us the Power of the Cross. He let himself be crucified to restore God’s love to the world.  We show our greatest power when we act out of love, even if we have been unjustly attacked.

 

            The final temptation of the devil was the one from the Parapet of the Temple.  This parapet was the extension of the roof of the Temple over its wall.  It must have been a scary place to stand, even if you are not afraid of heights.  The Lord may have had the feeling most of us have when we are at the observation window of a skyscraper, or the edge of a steep cliff. He might have been afraid that he might fall.  Scary.   On the parapet, the devil told Jesus to throw himself down and see if His Father will save Him.  The devil even quoted scripture saying that God would send His angels to save him.  The devil tempted the Lord to force His Father to go into action.  Doing this would show that he was more powerful than the Father. 

 

            None of us stand on parapets and tempt God to save us. Or do we?  We often are tempted that if we do something terrible and fall, God will save us. Well, He very well might catch us.  Or He might pick up our pieces after we are splattered on the ground.  For example, a person may be living a very sinful life when he or she receives a grace to turn from sin and turn to the Lord.  That is God catching us.  Or the person might be living a sinful life and then bottom out, having destroyed himself and all the others around him.  Many prisoners turn to the Lord with the faith that He will put them back together again. That is God picking up the pieces of the prisoner’s life.

 

This obviously frustrated the devil. Luke tells us, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Notice that Luke doesn’t say that the devil quit tempting Jesus. He says that the devil made a strategic retreat–to tempt him at a more opportune time–for example, in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was tempted to forsake his mission.

All of us know what it is to be tempted. Some of us probably know it better than others. Temptation is part and parcel of the human condition.

Somewhere I read about a young woman in Colorado a few years back who had herself sent to jail in order to avoid being tempted. Her situation was a little different than most, however. Her temptation was to get married. This young woman asked a juvenile judge to place her in jail in order to prevent her wedding from taking place–a wedding that was scheduled later in the month. She was only 17 at the time and was in love with an older man. She knew that it was not in her best interest to marry him, but she also knew she couldn’t resist him when she was in his presence. Jail seemed to be the only answer. We don’t know what happened to her after she was released from jail. We can only hope that she made a wise decision. We do know, though, what it is to be tempted. 

Jesus knew what it was to be tempted. Jesus also knew how to deal with temptation. Jesus was aware of the powerful connection between thought and deed. In that beautiful prayer that he taught his disciples to pray, which we call The Lord’s Prayer, we find the words, “lead us not into temptation . . .” (Matthew 6:13a). Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by that? Surely God would not lead us into temptation!

Here’s what I believe Jesus was saying. It is one thing to pray for forgiveness. It is quite another to be so earnest in our commitment to Christ that we pray passionately, “Please, Lord, keep me from even being tempted.”

That’s a hard prayer for some people to pray. Let’s face it. Some people really enjoy being tempted. Several years ago there was a popular country song by singer Lari White, the chorus of which went like this:

“Lead me not into temptation, I already know the road all too well;

Lead me not into temptation, I can find it all by myself.”

The woman in the song sings, “Lead me not into temptation,” but by the time you get to the end of the song it is clear that temptation is clearly what she is seeking.

Contrast that with the idea of being so earnest in our devotion to Christ that we pray passionately, “Please, Lord, keep me from even being tempted.”

In Matthew 6 we read those thought-provoking words from our Lord, “You have heard it was said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I believe that we miss the point if we try to make this into an example of unattainable perfectionism. Rather it is a recognition on Jesus’ part of a truth about human nature–the deed begins with the thought. 

A young married woman sits in her pastor’s office. She describes to him a marriage gone stale, a husband with misplaced priorities, a situation in which she has excessive time on her hands and a longing for romance in her heart. “Yesterday I had lunch with a fellow I almost married,” she confesses. “I hadn’t seen him in years. Did I do wrong?” Of course there is nothing wrong with a simple lunch with an old friend–or is there? Certainly there is danger. 

Someone once said that opportunity knocks only once but temptation bangs on your door for years. Jesus knew the power of temptation over the human soul. Listen as he instructs his disciples on the night that he is betrayed. Luke writes, “And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:39-40). Notice that linkage–prayer and temptation. 

What follows is a description of Jesus’ own battle with the tempter. It is here he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me . . .” (v. 42). The description of his struggle in Luke’s gospel indicates that this prayer was no mere formality. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (v. 44). He knew what it was to battle temptation. His humanity was engaged in a great contest with his divinely appointed task. 

It is interesting, though, when he returns to his disciples and finds them sleeping he wakes them and instructs them once more: “Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Once more he links prayer and temptation (v. 46).

We can learn from that linkage. The best way to deal with temptation is to nip it in the bud. Pray that we shall not even be tempted. 

Of course, to pray that we shall not be tempted is to imply that the fruit of temptation–that is, sin–is destructive to our lives.  

Sometimes we are like a train locomotive that decided it was tired of running back and forth on the same boring track. The unhappy train thought of the adventure and excitement it was missing because it had to run on tracks. So one day he decided to jump the tracks. The result was a horrible crash. 

My friends, terrible crashes do take place when people decide that they can ignore God’s laws. 

In 1973 Dr. Karl Menninger published his important work, Whatever Became of Sin? In it he expressed his concern about the way sin is being ignored in our society today–or even made to be respectable. To be sure, he was glad that some so-called sins were better understood and dealt with than in earlier times. On the other hand, he said, “There IS immorality: there IS unethical behavior: there is wrongdoing. And I hope to show,” he continued, “that there is usefulness in retaining the concept, and indeed the word, SIN.” (2)

That was nearly 50 years ago. I wonder what Dr. Menninger would say about today’s world? Let’s face it. There are practices that once were frowned upon that are now readily accepted even by most church people.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of the best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled, exposed the true nature of sin when he noted that “evil” is “live” spelled backward. What a revealing insight that can be if you are mindful of all the implications. Evil is anti-life. Sin is that which is destructive to healthy relationships, destructive to healthy bodies, destructive to healthy souls. It means death to everything that is good, wholesome, lasting. 

We snicker when the actress in the Broadway musical Oklahoma sings, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no . . .” We smirk with Mae West when she sighs seductively, “To err is human, but it feels divine.” However, in a day in which one out of two new marriages will end in divorce, when a record number of children will grow up in broken homes, when white collar crime is counted in the billions, when young lives are being drained and often destroyed by drugs and alcohol, when untold millions live in emptiness and despair, guilt and brokenness, it is time we deal with the power of the tempter in our lives. For you see, most of us can handle the big crises in life. It is the little foxes that eat the vines, as Solomon noted thousands of years ago (Song of Solomon 2:15).

There was once an Englishman who startled the world by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Amazingly he escaped serious harm. However, he did suffer a serious injury several years later. He slipped on a banana peel. No damage from going over Niagara Falls, but a serious injury from a simple banana peel. That is the way the tempter works. It is the little things that so often trip us up. And left to our own resources, the tempter does have the power to destroy us. 

However, we are not left to our own resources. There is One whose power is greater than that of the tempter. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” says I John 4:4. And that, of course, is true. 

In Greek mythology there are many stories about the island where the sirens lived. The sirens were beautiful but dangerous creatures that lured the sailors with their beautiful voices to their doom. When ships sailed close to their island, the sirens sang so beautifully that the enchanted sailors would steer their ships upon the rocks to their destruction. The sirens then would collect their spoils from the wreckage.

However, one day a ship came past on which the sailors did not heed the song of the sirens and sailed on in safety. The reason the sailors were not interested was that Orpheus, the god of music, was on board and he sang a sweeter song than any known to the sirens. 

That is an imperfect analogy of what happens when we entrust our lives to Christ. The best antidote for temptation is to be so filled with his song–his salvation–his service–that there is no room for temptation. However, that does not relieve us of the burden of praying daily for his divine care. 

We have the notion that we are going to suddenly arrive at a spiritual plane where we are delivered from the wiles of the tempter. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am reminded of that place in Exodus where God says to the Israelites concerning their enemies in the Promised Land, “I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (Ex. 23:29-30). 

That is the way God generally works in life–little by little. But He does work. Our prayers are answered. And if our prayers be for God to deliver us from temptation, then we shall prevail. Romans 10:13 tells us, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

It may not be according to our time table or it may not be handled exactly according to the desires of our hearts, but God is faithful in answering our prayers. 

St. Augustine, before he became a saint, had a real problem with temptation. But he had a mother named Monica who prayed for him daily.

On one occasion Monica prayed that God would block a trip her son planned to make to Italy. Monica was a devout Christian, and it broke her heart to see her son wasting his life in undesirable indulgences. She knew that there were many temptations in Italy for a young man. But while she was praying, Augustine sailed for Italy.

However, here is the ironic thing. It was in Italy that God worked a great miracle in Augustine’s life. He fell under the influence of a mighty preacher named Ambrose and became a Christian–in the very place that his mother was praying he would not go. 

We have to be careful in giving God his orders for the day. There is that temptation to assume that we know more than God knows–that we care more than God cares–that we can see the future better than God can see the future. He does know, He does care, He does see, and He does answer prayer–though His answer may come in a form that we do not recognize at first. 

Temptation is very real in our lives–as it was real in the life of Jesus. We need to heed Christ’s teachings. Thoughts are connected to deeds. It is in our best interest, and in the interest of those we love, to pray that we shall not even be tempted. We need to recognize the destructiveness of sin in our lives and confront our susceptibility. Finally, we need to learn to rely on God, whose power is greater than the power of the tempter and can give us victory over every evil. ———————————————–

  1. Montreal Gazette, 1/23/96. Cited by Paul Grobman in Vital Statistics: An Amazing Compendium of Factoids, Minutiae, and Random Bits of Wisdom (New York: Penguin Group, 2005), p. 265.  
  2. Published by Hawthorn Books, Inc.