What You Need to Know About Temptation and How to Resist It

Ever felt like you face the same temptation day after day? The one temptation that always seems to resurface?

It can be frustrating, yes. But be encouraged—being tempted doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong! And even if you give in to temptation, you are never too imperfect to come before God.

He actually wants us to approach Him in our time of need and to lean on Him when we are in a tempting situation.

And He will never forsake you because you are struggling with temptation. In fact, His Word is full of wisdom that can help you overcome temptation with His help.

Keep on reading to learn:

Let’s jump right into how the Bible defines temptation.

What is temptation?

A woman who is depressed because she is stuck in a dark and tempting situation

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

According to the book of James in the Bible, temptation is when an individual is “drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14, NKJV).

In other words, temptation is anything leading us towards desires that, if followed, would distance us from God. The choice to follow these desires is called sin.

But temptation and sin are not the same thing. While temptation can lead us into sin, being tempted is not a sin. James continues by describing to us the end result of temptation that is followed:

“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15, NKJV).

The Bible defines sin as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4, NKJV)—transgressing God’s law of love. It is the natural consequence of choosing to obey temptation instead of living in accordance with God’s law of love.

(If you want to know more about how the Bible defines sin, read our page “What Is Sin?”)

However, a person can face temptation without giving in to those desires and, therefore, without sinning.

Here are some examples:

  • Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, but he fled from her (Genesis 39).
  • Jesus Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, but He used the Word of God to defeat Satan’s advances (Luke 4). More on this story later!
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tempted to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue and worship him, but they remained faithful to God (Daniel 3).
  • Job was tempted by his friends and family to lose faith and deny God. But through his suffering, he still clung to God (Job 2:9–11).

These individuals faced temptations of all kinds, yet because they remained faithful to God, they found a way of escape from their cravings and temptations.

On the other hand, there are plenty of examples in the Bible where people were tempted, listened to the temptation, and sinned as a result.

Here are a few:

  • Adam and Eve were tempted to distrust God and did so. Our sinful world is the result (Genesis 3). 
  • Peter was tempted to deny Jesus and did so three times (John 13).
  • David was tempted to use his kingly power to take advantage of Bathsheba. It resulted in a chain of lies and ultimately led him to murder Bathsheba’s husband (2 Samuel 11).
  • Judas was tempted to betray Jesus and hand him over to the Pharisees (Luke 22). 
  • Moses was tempted to ignore God’s instructions and follow his own way. As a result, he could not enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20).

But in most of these examples, we find people who believed in God and desired to keep His commandments. David repented of his sins, Peter helped spread the gospel after Jesus’ death, and Moses led the children of Israel and directly communicated with God.

All this to say that being tempted doesn’t make us “bad”—it makes us human.

While giving into temptation is a sin, making a mistake or occasionally lacking self-control doesn’t constitute bad character. And it certainly doesn’t mean that God will not meet you where you are.

The apostle Paul reminds us how compassionate and gracious God is. He understands our struggles and wants us to lean on Him no matter what:

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16, NKJV).

Still, the question remains:

Why does someone who lives a Christian life face temptations? Shouldn’t we be completely free from temptation if we’ve given our lives to God?

The short answer is no. Even Jesus was tempted, and He was completely sinless and committed to His Father.

And while Jesus bestows His righteousness on us when we choose Him and promises that we can be made free from sin (Romans 6:18), that doesn’t mean we will be free from temptation.

Why?

Keep reading.

Why are we tempted?

Put simply, we face temptations in this life because we live in a sinful world.

And behind the scenes, Satan—not God (James 1:13)— tempts us to deny God and choose our desires instead.

While we can’t see this conflict, it is very real. The Bible tells us that “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV).

The world is full of things that the devil tempts us with, and a lot of the time, he tempts us by subtly twisting gifts God has given us, including but not limited to money, food, sex and sexuality, material things, and power. In this way, the devil both tempts us and deceives us.

At the core of all his temptations is the abuse of God’s greatest gift to us: freedom of choice.

Free will, which is foundational to God’s love for us, is also a big reason why we struggle with temptation in the first place.

It makes sense. After all, if we weren’t free to choose, we couldn’t be tempted in the first place.

And if we had no choice but to obey God—in other words, if God forced His love on us—then it wouldn’t really be a relationship formed on love. Instead, it would be a relationship born out of fear.

That’s not what God wants!

He gives us freedom of choice so that we can choose to enter into a loving relationship with Him. That also means that we can make choices that don’t contribute to a loving relationship with Him.

Ultimately, these selfish choices lead to pain and suffering.

But there is hope!

God’s Word gives us insight on how to resist temptation and make choices that glorify God and bring us true joy.

Let’s explore some of those insights now.

How do we resist temptation?

One of the best methods of resisting temptation is to follow the example of Jesus. We’ve already discovered that Jesus sympathizes with our temptations and suffers alongside us. And He’s also shown us a way to resist temptation.

Let’s set the stage:

Jesus goes to the wilderness and fasts for 40 days. At the end of His fast, the devil approaches Him and puts Him through a series of temptations, which we will detail soon.

Jesus’ experience in the wilderness gives us four important principles to withstand temptation:

We’ll look at each of these.

Submit to God

The first temptation that Jesus faces is one that targets His physical needs. His response teaches us to submit to God and trust Him to provide.

The scene goes like this:

“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’” (Matthew 4:3–4, NKJV).

Satan knew that Jesus would be famished, and he knew that Jesus could turn the stones into bread. Yet, Jesus counters Satan by saying that it is not bread that sustains Him.

Rather, God sustains Him.

Jesus commits His life and all His physical needs to God. He depends on Him, and when the tempter comes, He remains unshaken.

You can do the same when faced with temptation. If you encounter a situation that challenges you, no matter what it is, you can pray a prayer of submission to God.

Something simple like, “Jesus, I submit my whole life to You. I pray for Your sustaining power. Amen.”

The act of prayer not only takes the power from our hands and puts it in God’s hands but also helps us to stop and think. With a prayer of submission to God, we can keep from making rash decisions that might harm us.

Remember your identity

During the first and second temptations, Satan questions Jesus’ identity. He says, “If you are the Son of God” and then completes the temptation.

But Jesus remained unshaken. He knew His identity as the Son of God.

In fact, in the chapter of Matthew before the temptation, when Jesus is being baptized, He hears His Father say to Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV).

As the Son of God, Jesus was not to worship the devil or obey his commands. He served God and God alone.

The same can be said for when we face temptation. When we remember our identity as children of God, we recognize that the only being worthy of our worship is God, not ourselves or our temptations.

But perhaps even more importantly: when we remember that we are children of God, we can also know with 100% certainty that we are deeply loved by God. Even if we do give in to temptation, we can reclaim our identity as children of God and start over again.

Don’t reason with the devil

During His temptations, Jesus doesn’t try to reason with the devil. There is no conversation or back and forth.

Rather, Jesus simply negates the temptation and moves on. He doesn’t allow the devil to take up any more space. He shuts him down.

And at the end of the three temptations, Jesus exclaims, “Away with you, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10, NKJV).

We can use the same method when we are faced with temptation. When the devil tries to tempt us, we can say a prayer for Jesus to send the devil away from us. The Bible tells us that when we humble ourselves before God, He will help us resist the devil, and the devil will “flee from [us]” (James 4:7, NKJV).

We can also refuse to give the temptation any room in our minds.

This method is called “changing the channel” in John Mark Comer’s book Live No Lies. When a deceptive thought comes into your mind, a simple way to combat it is to “change the channel” to truth rather than allowing yourself to be deceived into temptation:

“Every time an identified lie comes into my conscious awareness, I don’t fight it head on; I just change the channel.”1

In other words, rather than trying to reason with the temptation or fight it, shift your focus.

You can change the channel to anything truthful or lovely (Philippians 4:8), but a great channel to change to is Scripture. That leads us to the last method that Jesus used to resist the devil…

Turn to Scripture for wisdom

All throughout Jesus’ temptation in the desert, He responds to the devil with Scripture. He leans solely on the Word of God.

When Satan tempts Jesus to:

1. Turn stones into bread
2. Throw Himself off a cliff so angels will rescue Him
3. Bow down and worship the devil

Jesus responds with Scripture:

1. “Man shall not live by bread alone” (from Deuteronomy 8:3).
2. “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (from Deuteronomy 6:16).
3. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (from Deuteronomy 10:20).

Jesus had verses in His scriptural arsenal, and He used them when He was faced with temptation.

Likewise, when we are faced with temptation, we can turn to God’s promises for support. The Psalmist said that he had hidden the Word of God in his heart so he wouldn’t sin against God (Psalm 119:11). The same can be true for us.

It’s especially helpful if you commit Bible verses to memory. That way, when faced with temptation, you can immediately “change the channel” of your mind to those verses.

If you want some ideas for Bible verses to claim when faced with temptations, check out the list below!

What Bible promises can we claim to overcome temptation?

The following verses are excellent places to turn to when trying to resist temptation.

Check them out and maybe memorize a few of your favorites!

  • Put on the full armor of God with Ephesians 6:10-17.
  • You won’t be tempted beyond what you can bear. 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • God gives you the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16-17; 22-25
  • When you submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from you. James 4:7
  • You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength! Philippians 4:13
  • God will continue and complete His good work in you. Philippians 1:6
  • Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:9–13
  • Jesus can empathize with your suffering. Hebrews 4:15
  • Though we have trouble, Jesus has overcome the world. John 16:33

Jesus will not leave you in your time of need

If you’re in a place of discouragement, feeling like your temptations are challenging and overpowering, never lose sight of God’s endless love, mercy, and grace!

No matter what temptations you face—or even what temptations you give in to—Jesus is there with open arms to restore you and make you whole again.

You can always approach Jesus. He wants you with Him more than anything.

And the amazing thing about coming closer to Jesus? The better you get to know Him, the more temptation loses its power.

Do you want to learn more about how to build that kind of relationship with Him? Read all about it at the button below.

  1. Comer, John Mark. Live No Lies (WaterBrook, 2021), p. 89. []

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