LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION…by Felix Abrahams Obi
November 22, 2007
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”
In the New Testament, we read an account of Jesus Christ and the temptations that came his way in the wilderness after fasting for 40days. It was the unpopular ‘dry fast’ that many a contemporary Christians is not used to, let alone practice. In their early encounters with Jesus, his disciples seemingly observed something unique about him: i.e. his prayer life! They figured that prayer was one variable that set Jesus’ life apart and that it must have been the little secret that made his life thick, and responsible for the tremendous results that accompanied his ministry. In his classic prayer tutorial popularly called ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, Jesus shared a template for prayer that has endured for ages.
My contextual interest in this prayer model is this part; “Lead us not into Temptation…” Though I have prayed this prayer and desired not to be led into temptations, why then do I face temptations? I am tempted to now begin to pray ‘lead us into and not away from temptations’because I also remember Jesus promising trials and tribulations to anyone who desires to follow him. He promised those who will suffer persecution and peril for his sake that they will be called ‘Blessed’. I wonder why Jesus asked told them to ask God not to lead them into temptation. Did he not promise in his revelation to John the Apostle that only those that overcome would be duly rewarded and honoured by the host of heaven? Or was he just merely speaking about something entirely different from what we’ve perceived as his true statement?
It does appear that God permits ambiguities and promote a palpable conflict with reality by allowing seemingly paradoxical situations or scriptural verses to co-exist as authentic part of the ‘canon of scriptures’. If Jesus urged us to pray against our being led into temptations, why then does God allow temptations to buffet us? And why would Apostle James who was one of the first to pray “lead us not into temptation’ become a proponent of the ‘lead us into temptation gospel’.
He even promised with certainty that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. ( James 1:12)
From this tutorial given by James, we are made to know that God does not tempt anyone .Moreover, a creature of God has taken that position as “the Tempter” first and foremost. James looks at us eyeball-to-eyeball to tell us how our unrestrained lustful desires orchestrate a cataclysm of events that lead us to live a sinful life with the attendant consequences to the spirit, soul, and body. So if temptations are inherently laden with evil consequences, how come James went on to extol and promote the merits of temptations…or better still lets call them trials and tribulations!
Let us at this point take a short trip to the world of immunology even though am not an expert in this area. It is a fact known and acknowledged medical science that exposure to disease-causing germs and organisms provide some degree of protection against some diseases. For instance, inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa live in a malaria-endemic zone. They are mercilessly beaten by mosquitoes all year round and some come down with malaria now and then while many luckily scale through unscathed by the noxious bites. But once same individual relocates to temperate zones like Europe where mosquitoes can’t ordinarily thrive, they lose the benefits of immunity which the mosquito bites had hitherto offered them in the past. And many years after when they visit native Africa from Diaspora, they become susceptible to malaria upon minimal exposure to mosquito bites save they take adequate prophylactic/preventive measures.
Most vaccines are produced using the particular bacteria or virus that causes the disease that is being targeted for elimination or cure. For instance, Nigeria is the only country in Africa that has a large residue of wild polio virus which causes paralysis among children especially in the Northern states. One of the potent vaccines used for immunizing children against polio is called ‘live attenuated vaccine’ in which the virus is weakened or attenuated and then introduced into the body as vaccine thus helping the immune system to generate antibodies that can fight polio virus itself. The antigen-antibody reactions between the virus and the human body thus lead to the generation of immunity against the virus. Without bugging you with so much of immunology and stuff, we can by extension begin to see temptations from such a perspective that we ‘welcome’ then rather than loathe or abhor them completely. This is no doctrine or body of Christian belief to hold unto, but am only wondering if we really should whimper and falter always before temptations because we’ve always prayed, ‘Lord, lead us not into temptations’.
Many Christians are overwhelmed by that world called ‘reality’. Miracles and breakthroughs come and lift them beyond their wildest dreams, yet they seem not to be immune from temptations. They wish the Christian life could be as fun and spicy cold to the palate as a vanilla ice cream on a hot afternoon. As I look back over my life and walk with God and my relationship with him over the past decade and half, I now recognize that temptations came to serve a purpose. They basically were unleashed to test and confirm my allegiance and commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ in my life. They came to test my resolve to stick to the path of truth and righteousness. They came to challenge and ascertain if my profession and confession would match my lifestyle and values. Now I know why God didn’t intervene in rescuing Job from the hailstones of disease and deprivation and abandonment that he experienced. All that the Tempter and Accuser wanted was for Job to curse God for once. Hey! Now this is scary and I wonder if I would have scaled through despite my living in this dispensation of grace!
Some have said the proof of love and interest in a person or thing is in the pursuit of that thing or person.
That is true in some sense, but for love to be proven as unfeigned and true, it has to be tested. And the test will include a competing allegiance from a veritable competition or opponent to one’s beloved. A husband’s love and allegiance is tested and proven when he goes on a business trip for weeks, yet not be swooned and captivated by the beautiful stewards and matrons that attend to him while away from his beloved wife. While he is away, his true nature is unleashed and the true test comes his wife is not there to serve as a check to his legitimate desires and passions as a man.
Temptations reveal who we truly are as we get stripped to the bare of our hearts with no figs to cover our nakedness. Temptations help us know what stuff we are made of and I must say from personal experience that I have been awed by what I saw in me when temptations of sorts showed up. It is only a chameleon-like Christian that would deny the reality which ostriches are known for. David possibly didn’t know he would ever commit adultery until a Beersheba crossed his path.Achan didn’t know he would pilfer with ‘contraband items’ until he came face to face with the loot of war. Peter swore he never would deny Jesus until he faced the crowd and lied against his best friend,Jesus Christ. The upright Christian politician and former president of Zambia , Frederick Chiluba didn’t know he’d be corrupt like his predecessors until he faced the temptation of being in control of his countries resources. The Intercessors for Africa who conducted deliverance and cleansing of the State House in Lusaka ( which Kenneth Kaunda had infested with idols ) before Chiluba moved in, are still in shock over the depth of corruption that he was enmeshed in. The Nigerian Christian guy or lady from a sheltered home and in a conservative campus Christian fellowship where brothers don’t hug or shake sisters for fear of falling into fornication can only test his resolve after campus, when he begins to enjoy the freedom at NYSC camps. For many, the NYSC camp is an abattoir where many Christians shipwreck their faith, and where many married women throw away their rings just to have fun while it lasts. So temptations are good after all…!!!
But after temptations reveal who we truly are, what are we expected to do then? Do we look back in despair at our weaknesses and throw in the towel? After all, the Bible says that if we falter and whimper when we face adversities, then we really have no strength in us. Do we then throw our hands in surrender to temptations because we are weak? For sure many Christians are weak and temptations have a swell time with them…punching and pummeling them to surrender at each exposure. But the interesting thing is that the best place to begin is that place of weakness that temptations reveal in and for us. Though we feel shameful about our weaknesses, but that’s the starting point of the much-needed dependence on God. If we’re to ever be strong at all times, then we’ll have no need for God whereas absolute dependence on him is the greatest good that he has offered us.
Paul caught this revelation and it made him boast about his weaknesses when others exulted in their comparative areas of strength. Paul was greatly anointed and filled with power of the Spirit, yet he gloated in his weaknesses. Have you wondered why? And if anyone is desirous of growing in his knowledge and walk with God, then he/she needs to keep coming from the vantage position of weakness. So rather than I get so worked up for falling and faltering when temptations come, I‘d accept my position of weakness. For I can’t conquer in my own strength and I can only negotiate and commute my weakness for strength when I reckon with and accept my place of weakness. That is why Paul could say with utmost humility and certainty:
“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10).
In being weak though, we are expected to fight not with our own strength for by strength shall no man prevail! We are to fight temptations and conquer them not by our power or might but by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. We are to give no room to the tempter whose desire is to keep us perpetually defeated and discomfited. Each time he stuns us with temptations and stuff, he gloats and clinks glasses with his wards and servants. But God is looking for those that will stun him each time he pulls his stunts called temptations. These are the men that generations have been waiting for. These are men who would keep pressing for the mark and wont give up even they fell to temptations because they have recognized their weakness, and have learnt to trust in God’s strength to say with resolve like Jesus did when he said “My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak”. On acknowledging his weakness at the point of severe temptations, God’s strength was released to him and he was able to go throw the way of the Cross.
So child of God, keep your head high in spite of your weaknesses. But strive to exchange your weakness with God’s strength for you are still more than a conqueror. I would leave you with these parting words from Paul:
“For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you”.( 2 Cor. 13:4)
The author, Felix Obi is a physiotherapist and moderator of Cry of Adam Network.He works and lives in Abuja Nigeria and can be reached via email:firstname.lastname@example.org