Have you ever been tempted? I know that is a silly question - we have all been tempted. I ask it because for many of us, temptation is such a way of life that we don't even notice it that much anymore. We are tempted to think lustful thoughts ("Not me" I can hear you say with indignation). I am not saying that you are tempted to go out and buy a Playboy or you are tempted to get on an Internet porn site and spend hours watching movies. But you are tempted when you are watching a TV show that shows you the intimate actions that only a married couple should do. You are tempted to not turn the channel, to not avert the eyes or to not shut the show off completely. Satan and your own sinful nature tempts you to go on and watch the scene, because really, what does it hurt?
You are tempted when you know nice piece of information and you want to share it with someone that really doesn't need to know that nice piece of information. Or you are tempted when you think that there is something going on and you want to get that information from the person you know is going to spread it around (you don't go to the pastor who can't share information or to the person it is about because he/she won't talk about it, so you go to the person whose lips are open and who talks to hear himself/herself talk and sound important). You are tempted when you are writing the check out to church and you cut back a few dollars from what you committed yourself to giving because it has "been a hard week." Or you are tempted when you feel tired and don't really want to get up on Sunday morning because it was a difficult week and you just need a few more minutes or another hour in bed.
Temptation comes at us at all times, from all directions. It comes when you least expect and when you are expecting it the most. It comes morning, noon and night. It comes from your spouse, your parents, your children and your friends. It comes when you are sitting alone in your house and when you are surrounded by your family. It comes when you are listening to a sermon at church or when you have bowed your head before you go to sleep. Temptation knows no limits.
So the real question is not, "Have you ever been tempted?" The question is: "What do you do when you are tempted?" How do you face the temptation? How do you react? How do you respond? Do you just give in without thinking (at times we all do that!)? Do you fight it by yourself? Do you ask for help? Do you go to the Lord in prayer and seek guidance? Or do you do all of these things?
At times I try to fight it alone. Those are often the times I fail the most. But I keep doing it and continue to get frustrated by it. Wrong thing to do. That is set up for failure.
What we really need to learn is who to face temptation - in the power of the Spirit. The preparation for the battle actually begins before the temptation comes. Read Ephesians 6: 10-18. There Paul tells us that in order to be prepared in this battle, we need to put on the full armor of God. Not our armor but His armor. Be in the Word. Be in prayer. Be in worship. Live in your Baptism and in the power of the Lord's Supper.
And then when temptation comes, we learn that we are to flee from that temptation. 2 Timothy 2:22, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (NIV) Flee from those situations and surround yourself with Godly people. Again we read, "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith..." (1 Timothy 6:11-12a NIV) Back to the battle motif. Fight the fight - with the armor of God. "Flee from sexual immorality." (1 Corinthians 6:18a NIV) Don't hang around that TV station that you know is going to show what you don't need to see.
Then pray. When tempted. Pray that the Spirit would guide you. Pray that He would lead you into righteousness. Pray that He will give you strength to face that temptation. Pray by yourself. Pray with others. Ask others to pray for you. Don't try to stand alone in the face of temptation. It would be like standing on the train tracks, facing an oncoming freight train and thinking you can stop it by holding out your hand and pressing against it (you aren't Superman!).
Temptation will come. Are you ready? If you aren't, why not? It is coming, knocking at your door. Even if you aren't ready, it is right there. Get ready - stand in the Lord. He will strengthen you.