How to Resist Temptation and Grow Stronger
5 Practices for Overcoming Temptation
By Mary Fairchild
The temptation to sin is something all of us face as Christians, no matter how long we've been following Christ. But there are practical things we can do to grow stronger and smarter in our struggle against sin. Overcoming temptation can be accomplished by sticking to five biblical practices.
Recognize Your Tendency to Sin
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward overcoming temptation is to recognize the human tendency to be seduced by our own fleshly cravings.
The temptation to sin is a given, so don't be surprised by it. Expect to be tempted daily, and be prepared for it. The apostle Peter reminds us to stay on the lookout:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)
Flee From Temptation
The New Living Translation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 is easy to understand and apply:
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
When you come face to face with temptation, look for the way out—the way of escape—that God has promised. Then skedaddle. Flee. Run as fast as you can.
Resist Temptation With the Word of Truth
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4–5, NIV)
Jesus overcame the devil's temptations in the wilderness with the Word of God. If it worked for him, it will work for us. And because Jesus was fully human, he is able to identify with our struggles and give us the exact help we need for overcoming temptation.
While it can be helpful to read God's Word when you're being tempted, sometimes that's not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Bible daily so that eventually you have so much of it on the inside, you are ready whenever temptation strikes.
If you are reading the Bible regularly, you will have the full counsel of God at your disposal. You will start to have the mind of Christ. When temptation comes knocking on your door, all you'll have to do is draw your weapon, aim, and fire.
Refocus Your Mind and Heart With Praise
How often have you been tempted to sin when your whole heart was fully concentrated on worshiping the Lord? I'm guessing your answer is never.
Praising God takes our focus off of self and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, he will inhabit your praises. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation.
Psalm 147 might be a good place to start:
Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! (Psalm 147:1, NIV)
Repent Quickly When You Fail
In several places, the Bible tells us the best way to resist and overcome temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Even still, we fall from time to time. When we fail to flee temptation, eventually we will give in and fall.
Having a more realistic view—knowing that at times you will fail—should help you to repent quickly when you do. Failing is not the end of the world, but it is dangerous to persist in your sin.
Going back to the book of James, verse 1:15 explains that sin "when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." Continuing or persisting in sin leads to spiritual death, and often even physical death. That is why it's best to repent quickly when you know you've fallen into sin.