It was a beautiful, sunny morning in June, just the perfect morning for me to enjoy my first walk of the season with my dog, Salida. As we passed by the farmhouse on the corner, it didn’t take me long to remember the vicious, barking dog that lived there, forever chained to his doghouse. This particular animal had been responsible for a 500$ vet bill with our previous dog, and we had learned the hard way to keep our pets away from this threat to their good health!
Salida seemed to see the dangerous menace a bit differently than I did, however. In fact, it was like she was iron filings and the chained beast was a strong magnet! The dog was obviously a very big temptation for Salida, and the only thing that was keeping her from giving in to this “temptation” was the fact that I was holding onto her with all of my strength!
My dog didn’t relax until we were a good fifty feet beyond this farm. But then, interestingly, she seemed to completely forget those few moments of intense temptation. I was even able to let her off of the leash so that she could romp through the fields.
This may have been the first walk of this season, but Salida and I often take walks Saturday mornings, and I knew that this wasn’t the first time she had been tempted to run over and see this “barking menace”. The fact is, every time she passes this particular farmhouse, the story is always the same: Salida undergoes an instant transformation! And as a result, I am developing biceps. In fact, with all the training I’ve received, I feel like I could take on an entire pack of wild dogs!
As I was thinking about all of this, I suddenly realized how petty our temptations must look to the inhabitants of heaven. I could almost hear their voices: “He is attracted to that???? He is willing to forfeit eternity for that???” Then I could hear their shouts of warning: “Don’t do it! It will transform your life to one of addiction and depression! It’s not worth loosing your soul over!”
If we could only perceive their voices more clearly, we might be more successful at resisting temptation. In fact, the writer of Hebrews talks about this: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, LET US THROW OFF EVERYTHING THAT HINDERS and the SIN that SO EASILY ENTANGLES, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb 12:1 NIV)
Yet despite the warnings, we are always tempted to fall into the same vicious snares. It’s as if the temptation itself causes us to lose all reason. But this is no different from Bible times. The apostle James writes about this in his epistle: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NIV)
Temptation is Satan’s method of rendering us completely ineffective, of addicting us to him: “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him.” (Judg 16:5 NIV)
The best way to deal with temptation is to flee it as fast as we can. Joseph knew this to be true. The day he was lured by his master’s wife, that’s what he did! “One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” (Gen 39:11-12 NIV)
If we try to confront temptation in order to show it who is the master, we will never win. In fact, we will only be left depressed and subdued. But if we let God be the One in control, then we are sure to be victorious. He is the only One who can successfully fill our void and render us victorious over the vices of our lives!
And isn’t it amazing how quickly temptations are forgotten when we don’t give in to them?
Remember: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13 NIV) Our only way out of any deadly habit of giving into temptation is to give up trying to get the upper hand and let God work in your lives! God knows exactly what we are going through, friends, and because of this, He can help us: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV); “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. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16 NIV)
Would you like to meet my neighbourhood’s renowned vicious dog? Maybe if we were to perceive temptations the same way, they wouldn’t be temptations any longer!
P. S. May I encourage those who have dogs to not keep them tied up like the one in this story. We have discovered that this dog is not really vicious, he is just neglected. My wife has twice found him wandering the roads, dragging his 20 foot heavy chain. She tells me he is really quite friendly, even starved for affection. Most human beings would turn vicious, too, in circumstances similar to the one this dog must endure!
P. S. S. Remember: Temptation is not a sin. Giving into it is the sin!
(To access the entire “Filling the Void” devotional series, please click here.)