Do you identify with Oscar Wilde’s observation from Lady Windermere’s Fan.
Temptation assaults so many different areas of our life, from seemingly harmless indulgences like food and shopping to the more illicit temptations like pornography and sexual intimacy outside the bonds of marriage. We rationalize our weaknesses with excuses.
“I can’t help myself.”
“Just this once won’t hurt.
“I simply can’t resist.”
Or as Flip Wilson’s character, Geraldine, insisted, “The devil made me do it.”
Temptation can make us feel helpless. Powerless. Weak. Faced with consistent failure to resist, we often give up the fight, thinking we simply don’t have the self-control necessary to avoid yielding to the temptations that pester us.
Interestingly, the NIV Bible often uses the term self-control in place of the NASB’s “sober in spirit.” Self-control implies a mastery of one’s passions and desires. But a sober spirit comes from a Greek term that means “calm, dispassionate, objective so as to think clearly.” (Blueletterbible.com) That’s much different than my weak-knees, sweaty palms response to temptation.
1 Peter 1:3 says “prepare your minds for action, be sober in spirit…” The Greek term for prepare is to “gird.” It refers to the custom of gathering up and fastening long garments out of the way so they don’t interfere with physical activity. Our minds need to be girded for action—mentally prepared, anticipating temptation. Like an athlete preparing for an important competition, we need to get our minds in the game. Plan a strategy to meet and beat temptation so we’re not surprised by it.
Then, when temptation does sneak up on us, we can remain sober in spirit—calm, dispassionate, able to think clearly. The image that comes to mind is of Indiana Jones in the first Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. Threatened by a hefty opponent who wields a whip the way a seasoned cowboy handles a lariat, Indiana Jones remains sober in spirit—calm, dispassionate, objective. He rolls his eyes, utters his disdain, and shoots the opponent dead.
Wouldn’t you love to attack temptation that way?
Next time: Fighting Temptation.