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The Power to Overcome

When we yield to temptation, it is not because God has failed to give us the power to overcome it. Rather, it is because we have failed to make use of that power.
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. [1 Co 10:13].

My ten-year-old daughter, Emily, has been going through a back-talking stage which usually results in an earlier bedtime, cookie deprivations, or time spent in a timeout chair facing a corner of the room. Each time she finishes her sentence in timeout, she always says the same thing. "I asked Jesus to help me to keep my mouth shut so that I would not talk back, but He didn’t do it." In the court of justice which Emily has set up in her own mind, Christ should be the One sitting in timeout and going without cookies, not her, for He had failed her in her moment of need. In her mind, He reneged on His promise to help her to overcome the temptation to sin. Since she fell, it was Jesus’ fault, not hers. She trusted and believed, but He failed to deliver.

Unfortunately, Emily isn’t alone in her misunderstanding of temptation, sin, and the power which Christ has given us to overcome these things. If we fall, it is because we have failed to make use of Christ’s power within us to overcome that temptation, not because Christ failed to give us His power.

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church, he teaches that all temptations which we face in this life are those that are common to man. Sometimes we like to believe that we are facing something in our daily lives that no human being has ever experienced, and since it has never been experienced, we cannot be expected to overcome it. It’s just too much. Even in my own life there have been times when I have accused God of putting more on me than I could possibly bear. This, however, goes completely against what God teaches us through His Word.

Because we are fallen beings, we are subject to weakness. Because of that weakness, when temptation comes our way, we often give in to it and fail. This is the natural state in which man is born. Apart from the Spirit of God, man is powerless to overcome the temptation to sin.

But when we come to Christ, and He causes His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we now have the power within us to say "No" to sin and "Yes" to God. With every temptation that comes our way, God has given us two promises. First, He will never allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. Second, when temptation does come our way, He will provide a way of escape so that we can not only endure it, but overcome it. That ‘way of escape’ is the power of Christ within us to walk away from that temptation and not give in to it. If we do give in to it, it is because we failed to put His power to use, not because He failed to give it.

My daughter Emily (like many of us) simply expected Jesus to wave His magic wand over her so that she wouldn’t be tempted to talk back in the first place. In her mind, if she truly possessed the power of Christ to overcome temptation and sin, she would not have experienced temptation at all. Since she did experience temptation, Christ obviously failed to give her what she needed to overcome, so she fell.

Having the power of Christ within us does not mean that we will never experience temptation. It simply means that when we find ourselves battling temptation, Christ has given us His power to overcome so that we don’t have to give in to it. It is up to us to tap into that power and use it. Jesus isn’t going to use it for us.

Many people believe that temptation is a sin, but this simply is not so. The Lord Himself was tempted during his lifetime on earth, and yet, was without sin. Temptation becomes a sin when we choose to yield to it.

What is it that causes us to fail so many times when it comes to temptation? Is it not because in order to overcome that temptation, one must be willing to completely die? Our flesh is hostile to God. It wants what it wants and hates to be restrained. There is a constant struggle between the Spirit of God Who now lives within us and the demands of our own sinful nature. If we want to live lives that are controlled by the Holy Spirit, and not our sinful flesh, this means that the flesh must ‘die.’ It must be nailed to a cross. Crosses hurt. Since we don’t want to face the agony of crucifixion, it’s much easier to simply yield to the temptation and fail God than it is to die to it in order to overcome it. We do not yield to temptation because Christ has failed to empower us to walk away from it. We yield because in order to use that power, we must die.

If the power of God now lives within us, does this mean that it is possible for us to never sin against Him again? Is it possible for us to live lives of sinless perfection if we are willing to use Christ’s power each and every single time we experience temptation? I think not. The problem isn’t that Christ hasn’t provided us with that power. The problem lies in our fallen nature, our weakness, which often prevents us from making use of that power. In his first letter to the Church, John taught as follows: "My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the expiation for our sins." [1 Jn 2:1-2]. The early church leaders recognized that because we are human, we will still fail God, even with His power living within us. Therefore, provision has been made for us to experience His forgiveness again and again whenever needed.

If we want to be overcomers in this life, then we must become people of prayer. Without daily prayer, we can forget victory. It’s not going to happen. When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He warned His disciples as follows: "Watch and pray that you may not enter temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." [Mt 26:41].

Our spirit is always ready to live God’s way, but our flesh, which is sinful and hostile to God, always stands in the spirit’s way. Time spent with God in prayer strengthens us spiritually. When we are strengthened spiritually, it is much easier to walk away from temptation than when we have not spent time in prayer. Prayer empowers us. This is why Jesus spent so much time in prayer during His earthly ministry. He set an example for us and showed us that if we want to overcome the world as He did, then we must become men and women of prayer.

If you are struggling with certain temptations in your life, go to your Heavenly Father in prayer and talk to Him about them. Get ‘real’ with God in prayer. Don’t try to hide behind flowery prayers and petitions. Talk to Him about what you are facing, and don’t be afraid to spare the details. He sees them anyway.

Although I do not believe it is possible for us to live lives of sinless perfection, I believe that many of us are failing to walk in greater victory because we are neglecting to make use of the power which Christ has given us to overcome.

While defeat is inevitable, because we are human and subject to weakness, those defeats do not have to be as numerous as they are. Daily prayer can transform many of those defeats into victories.

So many of God’s children fail to experience the beauty and comfort of release in prayer because when they do come before God to pray, they hide behind form prayers instead of truly speaking to Him from their heart. You will never know what genuine intimacy between you and your Lord is until you have learned how to speak to Him from your heart in prayer. You will never know His tenderness until you have poured your heart out to Him in prayer. Most of all, you will never know what it means to be ‘close’ to Him until you have cultivated the habit of pouring out your heart to Him in prayer morning and night. When we walk closely with God, we are less apt to choose paths which displease Him. Satan knows this, which is why he works feverishly night and day in order to distract God’s children and keep them out of prayer.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord has compassion on us. He knows that our frame is nothing but dust. Apart from Him, we have no strength, no victory, and no ability to choose what is pleasing in His sight. We are utterly dependent upon Him, not only to save us, but to keep us. When we neglect prayer in our daily lives, it is because we have forgotten our utter helplessness to live a holy life apart from Him, as well as the exceeding power of our own sinful nature within us. That sinful nature is always ready and willing to rear its ugly head. It can only be contained by the Spirit of God within us. If we want our lives to be governed by the Spirit, and not by our sinful nature, then we must be willing to spend time with God in prayer so that the Spirit will be nurtured, and not our flesh.

It is this power of the Spirit which is God’s provision and way of escape for us when facing temptation, not a magic wand in the hand of Christ. If we yield to temptation, it is because we have failed to make use of that power,...

...not because God has failed to give it.

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Post a Comment
Published by: mel
Date: 2011-01-29 02:40:20
This is a wonderful article and has been of tremendous help. I pray that God blesses you for this. Mel

Published by: Nikka
Date: 2010-11-18 09:01:10
I think that is the meaning of carrying our own cross in our daily life.

Published by: Rosemary Anamanya
Date: 2010-09-23 04:48:15
Tks I am overjoy with this acticle how to overcome tempention. which I have learn from it. Pls Kindly equip with more.

Published by: Rosemary Anamanya
Date: 2010-09-13 10:11:08
Tks for wonderful writeup. You have made my day great with these wonderful article. pls continue to email with useful article. tks rosemary

Published by: Alfredo Meyer
Date: 2010-09-10 23:54:45
I have seen in my life to pray give me to power to win in my fight vs sin.

Published by: Rosalia
Date: 2010-09-08 16:53:33
Lorraine, so happy to see you are back!

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