“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14)
My son Robby preached a great sermon recently. One of the things he shared was that Jesus never got a release from temptation because he never gave in to it. Jesus had to continue on with temptation nagging at Him. The example Robby used was about cookies. He said, if you are craving cookies and are tempted to eat them, you keep thinking about them. After you give in and eat them you stop thinking about them. Your craving is gone because you gave in to temptation.
This point got me thinking about my view and attitudes about temptation. Somehow I got the idea that the closer you get to God and the more you live like Jesus, the less temptation bothers you. Now I am thinking that temptation may bother us more as we become like Jesus. To be like Jesus means we have to bear up under the temptation. As we resist, the desire and craving initially gets stronger and plays with our minds more.
There is nothing that I could find in the Bible that said that temptation, craving and desire would go away if we resist. What I did find was that the Apostle Paul often spoke of striving and persevering to reach the goal. He talks about discipline and determination. He doesn’t talk about an easy stroll through life but a battle that must be fought, a race that must be won. In fact, we may not get release but we still must choose to serve God. “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This is taking up our cross daily, resisting the things that tempt us and obeying God.
Unfortunately, we don’t always choose to live this way. One of the reasons is that sin does give that temporary release. It does feel good in the moment. We often justify our sin because of this “good feeling”. We fail to look long term at the consequences. Sin is never the best choice, even if it feels good at the time.
Paul understood this. That is why he talks about loss, a giving up of one thing for something better. The something better is eternal and valuable. What we give up is garbage. What we gain is a relationship with God! We get to know Him and relate to Him by understanding His emotions, thoughts, righteousness, and eternity.
We do have to share in His sufferings. That means that we resist temptation even when it nags at us. That means that we choose righteousness even in the face of adversity. In this way we participate with Jesus in the life He lived and continues to live through us. We participate with Him because He first came and lived life like us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus knows what it takes to resist sin. He knows how difficult it can be. He knows that the cravings and naggings persist, but He also knows the reward of resisting. It is the abundant life and brings with it eternal reward.
Dear Lord, without you persevering through temptation and resisting the cravings of the flesh, I would not have eternal life. You do understand what it means to be tempted and you know that with your power I can stand firm for you. Lord, help me to do that. Let me continue to stand firm even when I experience difficult emotions. Opposing sin and resisting temptation are often mentally and emotionally exhausting. Let me trust in You and not my feelings. By faith I trust that your righteousness will be made manifest in me. I ask for strength to press on and strain for the prize. I love you Jesus for resisting temptation and becoming my perfect and whole sacrificial Lamb. To you be all glory and praise.