Tag Archives: Doug Batchelor

Compromise Conformity and Courage

5 Dec
By Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact
Because of its unusual growth habits, the tropical Banyan tree is known as a “strangler fig.” These large trees usually start life when their seed is deposited by a bird high in the foliage of another tree. The Banyan’s roots descend over the trunk of the host tree seeking out the soil below. Once they have rooted themselves, the roots of the strangler fig rapidly thicken and lengthen. Where the fig roots cross each other they fuse, thus creating a lattice around the host tree’s trunk. Gradually they starve the host tree and prevent it from growing by robbing all its light, water, and nutrients. Eventually the Banyan tree chokes the host until it dies and rots away, leaving the strangler fig standing in its place.
In a similar manner, as the seeds of creeping compromise are tolerated in God’s remnant church, spiritual life and fruit are being sapped away.
Taking a Stand
The ancient Greek storyteller Aesop provided a colorful fable explaining how bats came to live in the dark. There was a war between the beasts of the field and the birds, and when the birds were winning the war, the bat would fly around and say, “I’m a bird. Look at me fly! I’m a bird.” But later, the beasts began to win, so the bat dropped to the ground and said, “I’m a beast. See me crawl! I’m a beast.” Pretty soon, both the birds and the beasts got disgusted with the bat trying to play both sides of the war. Together they banished his kind to live in caves and only come out in the dark. In wanting to make everybody happy, he ultimately made nobody happy.
Everyone, like this bat, yearns to be accepted. But for the dedicated Christian, it is impossible to have both the acceptance of the world and the approval of our heavenly Father. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13). And James put it this way: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Thus according to God’s Word, it is impossible for a Christian to enjoy the acceptance of the world and all its sinful pleasures while simultaneously enjoying the peace and assurance that come from a saving relationship with Jesus. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
But the sad truth is that millions of professing Christians around the world are searching for a way to strike a comfortable compromise between their convictions and the wicked world in which we live. I feel passionate about this issue because I also struggle with the insidious yet gradual influence of compromise and conformity in my own walk with the Lord. We are under relentless pressure to conform to the world. The devil is always offering to negotiate our values and principles. He rarely uses an all-out frontal assault, but rather by virtue of internal erosion where, little by little, we are pressured to compromise our beliefs in small increments.
Compromising with the devil is deadly to the spirit and always fails in bringing any lasting satisfaction. Our Lord clearly told us we cannot play the middle. “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). And as the Chinese say, “You cannot cross the river with your feet in different boats.” In reality, it is impossible to truly compromise with the devil, because any attempt to compromise with Satan will ultimately become total capitulation. Only by constant dependence on God and personal vigilance can we hack off the tentacles of this monster.
Good and Bad Compromise
Now compromise is not a dirty word. Many times it is a wonderful principle that helps provide and maintain peace and unity within relationships. Compromise in a marriage encourages domestic tranquility. On frigid days in the winter, I like setting the thermostat to 75 degrees, but my wife Karen prefers a more economical 68 degrees. So we compromise at 72 degrees and get along well. This kind of compromise on “nonessential” issues shows a meek and humble spirit.
But when Christians begin to compromise elements of truth, sacrificing biblical moral principles, for the sake of achieving peace, it can be eternally fatal. In the words of Martin Luther; “Peace if possible, truth at all cost.”
Satan’s primary goal for believers is to, little by little, buff down your resolve, getting you to concede an inch here and an inch there, until before you realize what has happened, your convictions have been displaced by his ethics and the proverbial frog has been boiled.
Even in a short book like this, it is tempting to launch a moral Blitzkrieg targeting multiple areas where the church is compromising. I could parade a list of Christian standards that have been sacrificed on the altar of compromise to gain acceptance with the world. I could write about the dangerous inroads of worldly music and “contemporary” worship styles, unchecked materialism and the subsequent debt, the Babylonian diet and health practices, absurd and suggestive dress and adornment, and the blizzard of popular entertainment that is spiritually numbing the minds of professed believers. I could even take on the most dangerous of all conformity: the watered-down, generic theology in which believers are never called to deny self and take up their crosses. Each one of these compromises have neutralized peace in the hearts of believers, diluted the potency of the gospel, and strangled church growth.
Alas, the limited space will not permit me to unpack each of these issues in detail. So instead I will direct your attention to the broader principles that lead to compromise and conformity and how we can resist the temptation to fall in line with the devil.
One Size Fits All
I recently bought a baseball cap at an airport convenience store. It’s not the cheapest place to do your shopping, but I forgot to pack mine. (A baseball cap is a necessity for my bald head on airplanes!) All the baseball caps hanging on the rack said, “one size fits all.” I was doubtful this generic sizing system would accommodate my large noggin. But to my astonishment, it fit! It was designed to conform to anybody’s head.
I have discovered that most Christians want a theology that will comfortably accommodate the sins in their life. But a fallen man’s sinful life is not a one-size-fits-all relationship with God. Is God to conform His will to suit our desires, or is the gospel supposed to transform our lives to fit God’s will? Paul gives us the answer; “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1, 2). We should not be conformed but transformed.
Don’t Compromise With Sin
The story of Joseph provides an inspiring example of how we can successfully avoid compromising our convictions. While the Egyptian captain Potiphar was away on business, his two-timing wife attempted to seduce Joseph, his most trusted servant. Joseph was probably tempted to consider the benefits of that forbidden relationship—perhaps he could have earned higher wages with less work and enjoyed more prestige in his household with a manipulating lover on his side. In the least, it seems he would have avoided jail time for spurning her advances.
Thus it must have been a powerful temptation for a single, healthy young man to compromise his principles for power and pleasure. Yet even with all the whisperings of the devil, Joseph knew it was wrong and refused to even consider the evil deed.
“So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her (Genesis 39:10 NKJV). If you didn’t notice, not only did Joseph refuse to commit adultery, he also stayed away from the temptation.
When a jet aircraft starts its engines at the gate, the ground crew knows to stay far away from the intake of that powerful turbine. A few curious but careless workers lingering near the maw of one of these large engines have been literally vacuumed off the asphalt and vaporized. It is also true that if you compromise near forbidden boundaries, the deadly vortex of sin will suck you in like a category five tornado.
When you are being tempted by someone or something to compromise your convictions, steer as far away as you can from the edge of the evil. Don’t let sin work on you, whittling down your resolve. Eve wandered too close to the forbidden tree and then waited to hear Satan’s rationalizations. As soon as she saw that tree and heard the serpent question God’s truth, she should have run for cover. The Word of God commands us to flee from temptation (1 Timothy 6:11).
Just a Little
It’s not very popular today to speak out against sin, especially those that have been generally accepted by the church. Those who do speak out can count on being called uncompromising and legalistic. I know, because it has happened to me many times. As just a small example, I once attended a Christian wedding reception where someone poured champagne in the glass at my seat even though I didn’t ask for it. A little surprised, I politely protested, saying, “No thank you. I don’t drink.”
The host assured me, “This champagne is only eight-percent alcohol. It won’t get you drunk.”
“But I don’t drink any alcohol,” I affirmed. Obviously annoyed, the host answered, “We’re just celebrating a wedding tradition. Don’t you want to offer your best wishes and toast the bride and groom?” He even suggested that I put the glass to my lips and pretend to drink. It was as if the devil himself was saying, “After all, everyone else is doing it.”
“Don’t you care about them?” “Just do it this once.” “Don’t be a fanatic.” These familiar rationalizations often precede a compromise. But we have to say no. “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). Wanting to avoid even the appearance of evil, I refused to even hold a glass of alcohol in my hand (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Another familiar mantra of those who endorse worldly compromise is “balance.” I can’t count how many times I have been approached and told I need “more balance.” But when it is carefully evaluated, their definition of balance is usually to conform our Christian standards to worldly values. It sounds something like this: “It’s okay to take the family to the football game on Sabbath once in a while. You need to have balance.” In other words, they are recommending that we balance our holiness with a little sin. It appears that to them, being Christ-like is being out of balance.
Compassionate Compromise?
Another popular rationalization used for compromising Christian standards is ostensibly to make Christianity more attractive to the world. This was the approach taken by some church leaders in the days of Constantine.
The Roman and Greek pagans loved their idols. The second commandment regarding idolatry was a real stumbling block that prevented countless pagans from easily embracing Christianity. The thought of defacing or destroying their precious idols represented a tremendous struggle for these devout but superstitious pagans.
So in the interest of evangelism, some church leaders suggested, “Why not allow them to rename their idols after Christian heroes and saints? Then after they come into the church, we will gradually educate them to abandon their idols.” But you know the rest of the story—instead of the church converting the pagans, the pagans converted the church. It is how things like this typically work. Whenever the church attempts to compromise a Christian standard under the pretense of making conversion less traumatic, the world converts the church by making sin much more palatable.
Compromise or Combat
In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews began to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. In Ezra 4, the Bible records, “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple … they said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him.” But the Jews knew these neighboring nations commingled the worship of the true God with Assyrian pagan gods.
How did Israel respond? They “said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord.” They made the right choice, refusing to let an unconverted pagan influence to define in any way how they built the Lord’s holy temple. But then catch this: “Then the people of the land,” that is those who just offered to help, “troubled them in building.” Suddenly, their peace-offering neighbors showed their true colors and became their harassing enemies.
Don’t miss this important reality. If you stand up for what’s right and do not get involved in apostate alliances, you’ll be persecuted for it. First the devil’s approach will be, “Let’s just work together. Let’s all love each other. Compromise a little on your convictions; we’ll compromise a little on ours, and then we’ll be united. After all, unity is so important!” If you don’t fall for that trap and take a stand for truth, they will become your worst enemy, which really tells you where their hearts were in the first place.
This is a vitally important lesson as we head into the last days, because eventually all the world’s religions will make concessions to form a united religious front that will ultimately promote the worship of the beast power. If we are developing a pattern now of sacrificing our convictions for the illusion of peace, we are paving the way in preparation to worship the beast. “Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death” (Prophets and Kings, p. 188).
A Fear of Offending
Have you ever heard about the pastor who did not want to offend his wealthy congregation? He said, “Dear brethren, unless you consider repenting, in a measure, and be a bit converted, as it were, you will possibly, I regret to say, be damned to some extent.”
In reality a great percentage of compromise and conformity worms its way into our lives and the church because nobody wants to offend anybody. We are trained from our earliest years to be polite and considerate—to comply with people’s requests and not do anything that might upset somebody. But Jesus taught that it is not possible to preach the gospel without causing some offense (Galatians 5:11).
Suppose you should develop a small spot of malignant skin cancer, but the dermatologist, not wanting to upset you, told you it was poison ivy. Would he or she be your friend? By its very nature, the convicting essence of the gospel turns a blazing light on our hearts to peel back our layers of hypocrisy and expose our selfish motives and impure thoughts.
John Wesley was apparently riding along a road one day when it dawned on him that in the past three days, he had not suffered the slightest persecution. Not a single brick, egg, or verbal insult had been thrown at him for three entire days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned and am backslidden?”
Slipping from his horse, Wesley went down on his knees and began pleading with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault he committed. At that exact moment, a rough fellow on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the unconventional pastor. “I’ll fix that preacher,” he said, picking up a brick and tossing it over the hedge. Although the brick missed its mark and fell harmlessly beside Wesley, the thrilled preacher leapt to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, all is well. I still have His presence.”
The apostles were all slain or imprisoned for their faith because their message offended somebody. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). I believe one reason we do not see more severe persecution of Christians in North America today is because we have compromised so much with the world that the offense of the gospel has been greatly diluted.
A Straight Path
Cache River is among the most serpentine streams in the world. It is useless for navigation because it winds 180 miles while only covering a distance of 35 miles, basically wasting 140 miles in bends and turns. The reason a river becomes crooked is because it follows the path of least resistance, the same reason that Christians become crooked. But the path of the Christian should be more like a tight rope than a meandering trail.
Moses told the children of Israel just before his death, “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:32, 33).
Luke 4 records the devil’s chilling attempt to get Christ to compromise. “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. … All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them. … If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (vs. 5–7). The devil wanted to make a deal. He wanted Christ to consider the option, to negotiate a treaty to end the great controversy between good and evil. Satan implied Jesus could avoid the cross and rule the world if He would only give Satan worship. Everybody could live happily ever after.
But what did Jesus say? “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (vs. 8). Jesus would not even consider it. This was the same answer Christ gave Peter when the disciple suggested Jesus shouldn’t go to the cross. Sometimes the devil even works through those closest to us, but when we’re tempted to compromise Christian principles and convictions, we need to learn how to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan. I am not going to do it.”
Compromise Killed Christ
In the events surrounding the trial of Christ, we can see that compromise ultimately crucified the Lord. In John 18, while being interviewed by Pontius Pilate, Jesus says, “I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (vs. 37). Pilate’s response, “What is truth?”, is a telling indicator of the vacillating ruler’s cynical attitude about absolute truth.
In the Roman Empire, everybody debated everything. (It’s not much different in America today, is it?) One philosopher in Rome encouraged every person to debate both sides of every issue, hoping to broaden the minds of the citizenry. But Augustus eventually evicted the man because the people ended up thinking of truth as something fluid and relative—nobody would stand up for any clear definite truth. No one would take a stand, because every position had some rationalizing argument against it.
In this case, the truth was very clear and Pilate openly admitted that Jesus was innocent. “He went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all” (vs. 38). Yet instead of taking a stand for truth and releasing Jesus as innocent, Pilate sought to compromise his conviction of truth to win approval, a behavior that frequently plagues politicians.
Wanting to appease the majority, Pilate explains that he will have Christ beaten and then released. Yet if Jesus is innocent, why have Him beaten? The answer is once you begin to walk down the road of compromise, no matter where you stop, the devil will pick you up and complete the walk for you. You have already signaled your weakness to him by displaying a willingness to negotiate with wrong if the price is right. From then on it is like trying to climb a flagpole made of ice. Once you begin sacrificing your convictions, it is very easy to slide down into ruin.
Sensing Pilate’s weakness, Satan used the crowd to press the vacillating ruler all the way for crucifixion. Pilate started down the road of negotiating with evil, and that’s where the devil wanted him. That’s why when Pilate attempted to outsmart the devil, it backfired. He offered them Barabbas as a compromise instead of Jesus. Pilate paraded the cold-blooded killer in front of the throngs as an example of real evil to contrast with the example of a sinless Christ. He must have thought to himself, “They just want to see a crucifixion so I’ll offer them a compromise, and they’ll obviously pick Jesus.” He never dreamed they would ask him to release Barabbas, but that’s exactly what they did.
Finally, Pilate’s little concession of compromise got to the place where it was completely out of his hands. In vain, “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it” (Matthew 27:24). But was he really clean? He had declared the Savior just but conformed his sentence to the pressure of the crowd.
Likewise, when we begin to compromise with truth, and our actions finally get out of hand and the consequences come full and hard, we won’t be able to claim innocence either. So once you start thinking of going down the road of compromise, remember Pilate. Remember that Jesus died because someone thought they could compromise truth.
Be Courageous!
When I attended a New York military academy, the students would recite the Cadet’s Prayer in chapel: “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.” That kind of noble resolve is something you scarcely hear about anymore. It’s believed by many to be virtuous to compromise truth in the name of unity, but not according to the Bible.
Refusing to buckle to the pressure of compromise requires divine courage. The Lord told Joshua, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:7).
We don’t need to worry that God won’t forgive us if we sincerely repent of our compromise and turn the other way. But when we sin, when we stumble into error, we train ourselves to go down that road again. God can give you a new heart, but don’t think you can continue to compromise and not reap the consequences. Continued compromise can numb your conscience, until it is the fruit of conformity with the world.
Close Your Mind to Conformity
When it comes to compromising the Word of God, don’t have an open mind. You’re going to be called a conservative extremist for not accepting the standards of world. But don’t be intimidated when you are accused of being “close-minded.” It is good to be closed minded regarding the commandments of God. I have a wife with whom I have covenanted—I am not open-minded about anything else that would destroy that promise.
The devil is setting up the church in the last days by preaching a message of unity through compromise. Little by little, he’s softening up our resolve, encouraging us to make little concessions and compromises so that when that big test comes, he has us where he wants us.
Read Daniel 3 and bear with my loose paraphrase. Nebuchadnezzar said to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “So you didn’t bow down? I’ll tell you what: I don’t want to lose you; you’re good workers. I’ll give you another chance and have the band play the music one more time. Perhaps you just want a little different song? But when you hear the sound, you need to bow down.”
But the three young Hebrews resolutely told the king he need not waste his time on them. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16–19). They didn’t negotiate, even when the devil tried to engage them.  The devil would rather have you die after you’ve disobeyed than die a martyr and be a victorious example. But if you die in this world upholding the Word, you will live in the next. So today we need to be faithful in that which is least. We may not think the little tests we face now are a matter of life and death, but if we can’t learn arithmetic with pennies, we will never understand it with dollars. If we compromise and conform now in the little things with no death threat hanging over our heads, what are we likely to do when we are threatened with imprisonment or death?
When the children of Israel reached the borders of the Red Sea and their Egyptian masters were riding hard on their heels to capture and re-enslave them, the situation looked bleak. But Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today” (Exodus 14:13).
Once we know that something is right according to God’s Word, our responsibility is to take our stand. God will do great things for those who stand up for Him. He is looking for representatives who will trust Him. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
When you stand firm for truth, your life will be a saving witness to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and even the heavenly agencies. God will look down from heaven and say, “Have you considered My servant, that there is none like that on the earth, one who fears me and shuns evil?” (See Job 1:8.)
But Christ has not left us to do this alone. He has provided His own armor to protect us. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. … Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:11, 13). Just remember that the correct posture for those wearing the armor of God is to stand!
William Jennings Bryan said, “Never be afraid to stand with a minority that is right, for the minority which is right will someday be the majority. Always be afraid to stand with the majority that is wrong, for the majority that is wrong will someday be the minority.” Ellen White, one of my favorite Christian authors, said it like this: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall” (Education, p. 57).
With God all things are possible, including living a life without worldly conformity and compromise. Resolve now by His grace to stand on the Rock and resist the waves of compromise that are sweeping God’s children from the shores of salvation. And always remember that when you take your stand, you do not stand alone. Jesus stands with you.

Determining the Will of God

17 Nov

By Doug Batchelor

Determining the Will of God
“I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” —John 6:38-40
In 1692, the city of Port Royal, Jamaica, literally slid into the sea when it was struck by a massive earthquake. Many had predicted that this corrupt city of pirates and cutthroats would one day suffer God’s judgment. Therefore, the disaster surprised no one, least of all the handful of religious men who were swept to their doom along with the wicked. One such man was Lewis Galdy, who was born in France but left for the New World in search of religious freedom. When the first violent shock came, Galdy was buried deep beneath the earth. Amazingly, he remained conscious and understood what had happened. He resigned himself to the will of God. But much like Jonah in the belly of the sea monster, a few moments later, the ground shook a second time and exploded, throwing Galdy flying high through the air and out over the churning sea. He landed unhurt in the water and swam until a boat picked him up. Galdy lived for 47 years after his miraculous escape. He died in 1739 and today his tombstone still tells the story of his amazing experience.
The safest place in the world to be is in the middle of God’s will.  It doesn’t matter if you are surrounded by war, typhoons, tornadoes, volcanoes, or earthquakes; if you’re in the middle of God’s will, you have nothing to worry about. The Bible says, “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17 NKJV). If you are following God’s will, you have eternal life.
David Livingstone said, “I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of His will.” If being in the will of God means that you’re working in some lonely, distant, mosquito-infested mission field, you are still in the best place you could possibly be.
As a pastor, I often hear the questions: “How do I know that I’m doing what God wants me to do? How do I determine the will of God for my life?” These are very good questions. In fact, they’re the most important questions you can ask as a Christian. Why? Because Jesus taught us to say “Thy will be done.”
Of course, we all must abide by the general principles regarding the will of God, which are universal. It is God’s will for everyone to be holy, loving, and true. But at the same time, the Lord has individual plans for each person that are as varied and unique as snowflakes.
This short book is going to focus on the biblical principles that will help you find God’s will for your life. Not a Chance?  Before getting into a list of ways we can apply biblical principles to determine the will of God, let’s first address some of the dubious methods people often use.
To start with, Christians should avoid resorting to methods that amount to flipping a coin. I’m not saying God cannot speak through a coin, but coin tossing is something they do in football games. It might work for the NFL, but if I’m making a life decision, I want more direction than heads or tails.
Of course, in the Bible, some issues were decided by casting lots. Normally, a group would take a clay jar with a narrow opening and put in a number of stones of one color and one odd stone of a different color. The stone mouth was just big enough to shake out one stone at a time. The jar would go around from person to person, each shaking the vessel and dropping out a stone. If the off-color lot fell on you, it meant that you were chosen as a leader. (They also cast lots for Jesus’ clothing and on Jonah’s “fishing” trip.)
You might flip a coin when the family is trying to decide whether to eat Mexican or Chinese for dinner. However, casting lots when making big decisions for your life is not advisable. God wants you to use your brain. He even says, “Come now, let us reason together.” You should never say, “Whom shall I marry? Well, I’ll cast lots.” That system won’t impress your potential in-laws. Rather, you want to be using a number of biblical criteria, which we’ll discuss a little later.)
When the priests picked the two goats on the Day of Atonement, they selected two perfect specimens. One would be chosen as the Lord’s goat, and one would be the scapegoat. They cast lots to determine the scapegoat. The point is that they were choosing between two goats that were identical in nature. (It could be that God did not wish for humans to be proud they decided the final outcome.) In that sense, casting lots is okay. But when making big decisions, be thoughtful and don’t leave it to chance.
And sometimes when flipping a coin, a person doesn’t get the side they want, so they say, “Let’s do two out of three.” They just keep on flipping the coin until they get the result they want. I also know someone who was praying about a big decision, and he wasn’t sure whether or not he was to flip a coin to choose between the available options. He flipped the coin, and the coin rolled over against the wall and stood up on its end! It’s like God was saying, “Don’t do that! You’re giving me just two options. I might have a thousand options you know nothing about.” Don’t corner the Lord by using this kind of method. You’re trying to limit how God is going to answer you. So use your brain and pray for divine wisdom instead.
Getting Fleeced
When Gideon was trying to get reassurance that he was supposed to go into battle against the Amalekites and the Midianites, he put out a fleece—a sheepskin for a kind of sleeping bag—in the field. He said, “If I wake up in the morning and there’s dew on the fleece but not on the ground, that will be a sign.” Well, that happened. Then he thought, “Well, maybe that’s a natural occurrence. Lord, let’s try this one more time. Tomorrow let the fleece be dry and the dew on the ground.” That’s how it happened, and finally Gideon felt reassured. Some people have all kinds of different fleeces that they put out for the Lord, and sometimes it’s not bad to say, “All right, Lord. I’m going to look for providential evidence.” But we can get into a pattern of throwing out fleeces to test God’s will, never willing to go with the answer from the fleece the night before. Nothing will give you assurance in God’s will like the list below. There might be a time for it, but avoid getting yourself into the habit of throwing out fleeces.
Bible Roulette
The daughter of a famous evangelist once told me the story of when her mother was praying about whether or not to marry a young, handsome evangelist. She said, “Lord, I have to know this is your will.” She prayed and agonized, needing reassurance that this was the right man. So she took her Bible and flipped it open. She was praying with her eyes closed by her bed, and she put her finger down on a verse—when she opened her eyes, it was on Genesis 24:58, which says, “They called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.” When you pray about whom to marry and you flip the Bible open and this is the place where your finger lands—that’s a pretty strong indicator.  You’ve probably met someone who makes decisions by quickly flipping through the Bible and, wherever their finger lands, he says, “That must be God’s message to me.” Once again, be very careful about using your Bible like an Ouija board. I’m not saying that God is incapable of leading in this way; sometimes the Lord winks at our ignorance (Acts 17:30). But I don’t think it’s advisable if you lack a strong relationship with God. You might flip your Bible open and plop your finger down where it says Isaiah walked naked and barefoot three years (Isaiah 20:3). That’s obviously not His will for your life, so be careful.
Dreams, Visions, or Hallucinations?
Can God guide us through a dream? He can, but the majority of your dreams are just gibberish that comes when your brain is defragmenting the things you’ve experienced through the day, kicking all sorts of bizarre things through your mind (Ecclesiastes 5:3). Some people have weird dreams, so they visit a psychoanalyst who helps them try to understand if there is any hidden meaning in them. But sometimes it’s just too much pizza before bedtime. Don’t put a lot of emphasis on making a life decision based on your wacky dreams.
And finally, regarding visions, you’ve might have heard about the farmer who was hoeing in the field on an extremely hot day. He was a young farmer, and he wondered if he was supposed to spend his life doing this work. As he was pondering, he looked up in the sky and saw that the wind was moving the clouds around. All of a sudden, he distinctly saw the letters “P” and “C” in the sky. He thought it was a message from God to “Preach Christ,” so he threw down his farm equipment, cleaned up, got his Sunday suit on, and started going around the community preaching. Stunned, people asked, “Zeb, what’s going on?” He said, “God showed me in a vision I’m supposed to be a preacher.” So he spent several months preaching, but experienced dismal results. His family was getting hungry, so about eight months later, Zeb is back out in the field hoeing corn. Someone asked, “Zeb, what’s up? I thought God gave you a vision that you’re to preach Christ.” He answered, “Well, I’ve concluded ‘PC’ really meant Plant Corn.”
Be careful about allowing dreams and visions to be primary criteria. If you’re going to base decisions on dreams and visions, make sure there is reinforcing evidence. A lot of these extraordinary methods that people use to determine God’s will are reserved for when He speaks to chosen prophets. If that’s not you just yet, take a moment now to discover some biblical and common-sense ways to discern the will of our Creator.
Okay … Now Where Do We Begin?
We face a lot of big decisions in our lifetimes. When young people get out of high school, they need to ask: “What college will I attend? What will I study? Will I even go?” Then they must decide about a job and a spouse. “What job should I pursue? Who am I going to marry? Do I say yes to the first person who asks? Should I marry at all?”
Before we get into determining what God would have you do in any given circumstance, let’s deal with some basics. First and foremost, it is God’s will for you to be saved. The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). What you are doing in life as a vocation should take a back seat if you don’t yet have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Second, when some natural disaster strikes and destroys houses, we often hear insurance companies refer to it as “an act of God.” That’s not always true. Not everything that happens is the will of God. As we read, God is not willing that any should perish, but some are going to perish. Obviously, you and I have also done some things in our lives that were out of God’s will.
So we can’t always say it’s “an act of God” when a typhoon strikes and thousands die. Remember, it was the devil who brought trouble in the story of Job. I think we’ll be surprised when we get to heaven and God pulls back the veil; we’ll be a witness to the cosmic battle between good and evil and see that God didn’t always get what He wanted.
Besides, why would He tell us to pray that His will be done if it is always done anyway? That’s why we should be pursuing the will of God in our lives. If God’s will always happens, we wouldn’t have to do anything to figure it out. But it doesn’t always happen, so we have to do our best to search out—and be in—God’s will for the sake of His kingdom.
So I’m going to give you a brief list that will help you determine God’s will in your life. This list comes from those whom I respect the most: the Holy Spirit speaking through the Bible, great Bible scholars and commentators, and friends and fellow pastors. I believe this list is both grounded in the Word of God and everyday common sense.
Be Willing and Surrendered
Someone once determined that in the United States, a person has more than 23,000 ways to make a living. The odds are not in your favor to simply guess about what you’re supposed to do as a career. Instead, you want divine leading in your life. You want God to give you wisdom on how to discern His plan for you.
The first step is also the most important and often the most difficult: Be fully surrendered and willing. John 7:17 says, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (NKJV). God will let you know His will—if you are truly willing to do it once you understand what it is.
Ask God to give you a submissive and willing heart when trying to discern His will. Plus, surrender yourself to Jesus before expecting Him to lead you some place to work on His behalf. If your heart is in a state of rebellion and you’re not surrendered, why would God show you His will? All He would do is add to your compounded guilt.
“The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way” (Psalm 25:9 NKJV). I once heard about a simple man in the Congo who prayed, “Lord, you be the needle, I’ll be the thread. You go first, and I’ll follow wherever you lead.” That’s the kind of humble attitude we need to discern God’s will. You might not like what He’s about to show you, but make up your mind that by His grace you will do it before you even know what it is.
Be Guided by His Word
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). When you are searching for God’s will, you need to open the Bible even more than you normally would. Ask God to help you find specific guidance for your life in His Word.
Sometimes, it’s even possible to find out what the Bible says on the exact options you’re considering. Indeed, the Word has a lot of practical things to say about God’s will. For starters, the law of God can help you discern whether He wants you to do one thing or another. That can mean an emphatic yes or no found right in the commandments.
As a pastor, I’m still a bit surprised that a lot of married Christians wonder, “Should I leave my spouse and go off with another person?” They might even say, “It just feels so right. We can see God’s blessing. We’ve got so much peace. We see this as God’s will for us.” But this isn’t something you need to pray about. The answer is right there in the Ten Commandments. God has clearly stated His people are never to do this kind of thing.
Okay, you want something more challenging? What if someone says, “In order to get an incredible career opportunity, I just need to work during two Sabbaths for one month until I get tenure”? Well, you don’t really need to pray about that either. If God says to do no common work during the Sabbath, you already have His clearly stated will for your life concerning that job. It’s a slam-dunk. “I delight to do thy will: … thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Consider Christian Counsel
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14). When searching for God’s will, find others who have good judgment and will be honest with you.
What kind of counsellors? “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV). In other words, don’t get counsel from people whose lives are a disaster; they’re probably not in the best position to give you advice. The local tavern is also not the best place to get counsel on God’s will either.
Instead, find people who are doing God’s will themselves. Do they have a consistent spiritual witness? If they’re blessed like Joseph in Egypt and you can see the hand of God is over them, they’re probably good picks for counselors. Plus, be sure to get a few different opinions—the verse says “counsellors.” If a doctor says you have a life-threatening disease and you feel fine, you might consider a second opinion. Maybe you can even find a third opinion if this is something really important.
Godly friends can help you take honest inventory of yourself and discover your gifts and talents. They might point you in a direction you weren’t even considering. Growing up, no one thought I was going to be a pastor. It didn’t even occur to me when I became a believer. But when I started giving Bible studies to friends, more and more people I respected said, “Doug, have you considered the ministry?” They said, “You need to pray about it. We think you have gifts in those areas.” So through collective counsel of godly people, I moved in this direction. God will do the same for you through good counsel, if you ask Him.
Observe Providence
“I came … to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 2:12). God will often show you what He wants you to do through providential events that happen around you. So when seeking His will, keep your eyes open.
As in the case of the Apostle Paul above, look for doors that open and close. God often guides us in His will by closing doors to some opportunities and opening doors to others.
If God closes a door, don’t try to kick it down just because it’s what you really wanted. Some of us don’t want to admit that doors can be closed. Like Balaam, we’re beating our donkey to go somewhere, and we don’t know that an angel in standing in our way. You might even miss the wide-open door full of blessings that’s just around the corner. You won’t see it because of your stubborn tunnel vision.
In fact, God will often permit you to do something that is not His will because you’re pushing for it. It’s like an overweight man at the office who says, “I’m going on a diet; I’m giving up donuts!” But the next day, he shows up with a big box of them. His co-workers ask, “Wait! We thought you swore off donuts!” He replies, “Well, it was God’s will that I get these donuts. You see, before I left for work, I drove by the donut shop. That place is always packed, and it’s hard to find a parking place. So I said, ‘Lord, if there is a parking place right in front of the door, then I’ll know it’s your will for me to get some donuts.’ And you know, I only had to drive around the block 10 times for a parking space to open up. I knew it was God’s will!”
Be careful. Everything can go wrong when we’re kicking against God’s will to do our own. Remember, Balaam lost his life for this tragic mistake. Make sure you’re following God’s will by only going through the open doors in harmony with His Word. And He will open doors—for ministry, for opportunity, for careers, for relationships—you just need to ask.
Pray (and Fast)
“This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14, 15). When you want to know God’s will, you need to pray He will guide you. But you also need to harmonize your requests with His will.
In John 15:15, Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (NKJV).
If you want to know the will of God, be a friend of God. How do you become His friend? You talk to Him—all the time. When the angels were on their way to destroy Sodom, they stopped by to visit Abraham. God asks, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” (Genesis 18:17). Friends talk about their plans together, so spend time praying and talking to the Lord. God reveals His will to His friends and servants.
In addition to prayer, your discernment of God’s will might include fasting, which is a deeper level of seeking clarity regarding God’s will. In 2 Chronicles 20, when Israel was surrounded by her enemies, Jehoshaphat commanded the people to fast and pray. In response to their obedience, God gave the nation guidance and deliverance.
And in Acts 13, when the disciples were wondering what their next missionary endeavor was to be, the Bible says, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” I’m sure they applied other criteria, but notice that they knew the direction God wanted them to go as they fasted and listened.
Fasting often clears the mind and helps us separate the carnal desires from spiritual priorities. Put more simply, the radio reception improves. Have Faith, But Don’t Be Foolhardy.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). In determining the will of God, you need faith. If you’re going to pray and fast to know His will, then believe that He’ll show you His will. The Bible says the just shall live by faith, so trust that God has a plan for you and that He’s going to show it to you in His time.
One Bible scholar wrote, “When you’ve sought to know His will, your part in the operation with God is to believe that you will be led and guided and blessed in the doing of His will.” Think about that for a moment. If you’re willing to do His will, then God is responsible to reveal His will to you. But you must believe.
Yet while having faith is crucial, we shouldn’t be foolhardy. Sometimes the road we need to take is the safe one. When you’re pondering all the options in your life, if one of them is risky when it comes to living the Christian life, don’t tempt the devil to see how close to the edge of sin you can get. That’s the last move you want to make. Get as far away from that edge as you can get.  Sometimes when I’m preparing an illustration for a sermon, I think, “Boy, this illustration is a little on the edge, Lord. Should I share it?” A little voice says, “Doug, do the safe thing—don’t share it. I will give you something else to make this point clear.”
Be faithful and cautious when seeking His will. Don’t take unnecessary risks with your soul.
Glorify God and Don’t Be Selfish
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). When you are seek-ing after God’s will, make sure that the option you choose will glorify Him.
If one of your options is going to harm His kingdom, then it is the wrong option. Never forget to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
In every decision, ask yourself, “Lord, is this going to reach more people for you? What will make the biggest impact for your kingdom? How will I be the best advertising for your glory?” This is a vital factor in your decision process. It is part of loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
And much like trying to consider God’s glory in our decisions, we need to remember the effect it will have on our neighbors—whether that’s our spouse, parents, children, or whoever. “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” (Romans 14:7).
I’m always saddened when I’m helping people trying to make a decision about their life, and all they’re thinking about is, “What is this going to mean for me? How much will I get paid? Will I like the climate?” Instead, they need to be thinking of their families and how their decision is going to affect those around them.
Galatians 5:14 says, “All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Christians should be governed by love—not just for God, but for others too. Sometimes I’m amazed by the simple faith of those I work with in ministry. They get job offers with better pay and hours, but they realize that where they are touches so many people’s lives. They realize that God’s will for them is to stay in His service where they already are.  The mature Christian doesn’t need to know what’s in it for himself. It’s a sign of true conversion when someone isn’t always saying, “What’s in it for me?”
Be Guided by the Holy Spirit
“Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21). In searching for God’s will, you need to listen for that still, small voice.
Of course, that’s sometimes a very hard thing to hear. But it’s a very important one to search out. How else did Abraham know when he was supposed to take his son to the altar? God will speak to you, and He will send His Holy Spirit to guide you. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling led by God’s Spirit?”
Years ago, Arabs often found themselves crossing vast deserts. Frequently, someone in the caravan would have a dove. If a sandstorm came through and the caravan lost its bearings, the person would release the dove after the storm. Because of the dove’s homing instincts, it would begin to fly straight home and the caravan would follow.  The Holy Spirit is sometimes compared to a dove in the Bible. Many times, the Apostle Paul says, “The Spirit said” go here; other times it said, “Don’t go” (Acts 16:7). He was really in touch with the Spirit of God. And you can actually test whether it’s the Spirit of God, because the Holy Spirit will never lead you contrary to the Word of God.
You want to have the tug of the Holy Spirit guiding you. The Bible says the Holy Spirit will show us the way we should go. Mature Christians will have a certain peace when God’s Spirit is telling them what to do.
Be Patient and Be Faithful to Where You Are
“We count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). In deciding the will of God, you must determine to be patient.
Sometimes we become restless and want to do just about anything but keep guessing at what we should do. We want to act sooner than later, but sometimes God wants you to wait.
You say, “But I’ve already been waiting so long!” Be glad. You’re better off waiting for God’s will having the right job, the right spouse, or the right school than rushing ahead of the Lord and having the wrong job, the wrong spouse, or the wrong school. You’re going to be miserable if you aren’t patient. “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19).
Moses wanted to deliver the Israelites doing it his way and in his time. It backfired in murder, and he waited 40 years before he got another opportunity. He learned his lesson. In Exodus 14:13, he says, “Fear ye not, stand still.” Often God’s people didn’t know what to do or where to go, but God said for them to just stand still. “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you” (2 Chronicles 20:17).
Sometimes, God’s will for you is simply to be patient. (See Psalm 90:4.) Apparent delays could mean that rather than you pick-ing an option, God’s will is coming to you special delivery. You just need to stay where you are and watch what happens. God could be saying, “Stay right there. I’m going to change everything without you doing anything.”  “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). But while you’re waiting patiently for new directions, continue to do the work at hand with all your heart. Many fail to fulfill the present will of God for their lives because they are longing for something different.
I heard that one time, the king of Bavaria got tired of all of his responsibility in the monarchy and began to long for the life of a monk. He went to a monastery and told the head monk, “I’ve decided to join the monastery.” The monk replied, “Are you sure?” The king said, “I am.” The monk asked, “Are you willing to submit to the discipline of the monastic life? It is very vigorous.” The king answered, “I am. I’m longing for that peace.” The monk warned, “You must obey absolutely.” The king agreed. The monk then said, “Your first order is to go back to the palace and be king.” From that point, the king knew it was his calling to be a king.
Determine Your Heart’s Desire
“May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose” (Psalm 20:4 NKJV). When exploring God’s will for your life, don’t forget to consider what you want. Don’t be ashamed of including this in your list of criteria.
Sometimes God will place things on your heart because He wants you to do that thing—and because it is in your heart, you want to do it too.
Most everyone assumes that they need to follow a traditional route in life—get married and get a job. They are so certain it’s the right thing to do that they’ll marry someone they don’t like and become a dentist even though teeth give them the willies. But it’s a myth to believe that God’s will automatically means doing something we don’t really want to do. If you’re truly converted, He can and will often implant within your heart a burning desire to do the very thing He wants you to do. By your converted nature, your desires will begin to align with the Lord’s.
Many times, you’ll pray about something that you want, and God’s answer will be, “You know I love you. I want to give you what you want.” But the key to this is found in Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” If your delight is God and His will, you’ll be finding out He’s giving you the desires of your heart. That’s exciting when you think about it. He’ll surprise you!
Tally the Evidence
“In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). Have you ever used a GPS device in your car? When you first turn one on, it can’t tell you immediately your location or which way you need to go. You need to wait a moment as the device begins to acquire satellites. But you’ll notice that it will often say “awaiting more satellites” or “awaiting better accuracy” even though it has already given you a direction to go. As it picks up another satellite, it will give you more accurate directions because of its ability to triangulate your position.
It should work that way when you are trying to discover God’s will. We’ve looked at a number of criteria from the Bible and common sense of how you can determine the will of God in any aspect of your life. Sometimes you are going to need a number of these criteria to overlap, to “triangulate,” before you can truly see where God is pointing you. You need to do a little math—add things up—and make your decision.
Make a list. Ask yourself, “What does God’s Word say.” If the answer isn’t as obvious as you think you need, ask, “What do my counselors say?” and “Which one of my choices truly glorifies God?” Keep tallying the results until you have a decision you can stand on firmly.
When I was courting my wife, we each made a list of the pros and cons about marrying. (I hope she still remembers all the pros.) We were able to ask all these same questions, and we each ultimately made a decision based on the preponderance of evidence. Perhaps you think making a list isn’t very romantic when choosing a spouse? Think it tosses out passion? Prayerfully evaluating compatibility does so much to ensure many years of blissful romance.
Are You Already There?
You might be wondering, “This is all great advice. But I’m supposed to be where I am. I believe I am in the middle of God’s will right now.” That is indeed a wonderful place to be, but chances are that at some point in your life, you will need a course adjustment.  Oceanic oil drilling used to consist only of platforms that would be anchored deep into the seafloor. Drilling from these floating barges didn’t work efficiently because drill lines and pipes would crack under the constant motion and undulation of the ocean currents. But now they can drill from sophisticated ships that make constant corrections for the motion. They have computer-controlled propellers all the way around them and they are no longer anchored in one place. The ships can actually modify their position constantly through microsecond adjustments from the computer, so they can keep drilling on the exact center.
That’s how it should be with a Christian. We need to be consistently measuring that we’re in the middle of God’s will based on the criteria listed in this book. Once you stop calibrating, it’s very easy for us to begin drifting. (Of course, you always want to be tethered to Jesus Christ, but you always need to be sure that you are!) You might be in the right vicinity of God’s will, but you still might not be in the middle of God’s will. Keep reviewing the list until you find exactly where God can use you most effectively. Conclusion
Romans 12:2 says, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”—why?—“that ye may prove [test] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Many otherwise faithful Christians are finding themselves doing the imperfect will of God. They are restless and unhappy. Sometimes that means they aren’t being the consistent witness God knows they could be.
Each one of us needs to strive for that good and acceptable, perfect will of God. Even though man is separated from God because of sin, He has given us a way to discover His will—and He has given us the power to do it. Be pliable clay in the Potter’s hands and keep calibrating. Not only will you have joy in heaven; you’ll have it right here on earth.
Is your life off track? Are you struggling to make the right decision? Are you afraid of where God might lead you—out of your comfort zone and into a strange land? Remember always that God doesn’t want what’s worst for you; He wants what’s best for you. You’ve got to trust Him that in the end, you’ll always be happier being in the middle of His will.
“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Eventually, everyone in heaven will be doing the perfect will of God. If we want to be there, we must start practicing right now!

Tips For Resisting Temptation

3 Nov
By Doug Batchelor—-
An Amazing Fact
A teenager in Virginia was shocked to find a two-headed turtle behind her home. She caught the poor creature and watched as the two freakish heads did a tug-of-war over a piece of food she gave them—or it! According to scientists, two-headedness can occur in all animals, but the lifespan is typically short. The reason is that each head tends to work independently of the other, controlling its own side of the body, and therefore creating disunity, confusion, and frustration. Unless one head takes primary control, the creature will soon die from starvation and indecision.
Introduction – Fundamental Truths
     Since the entrance of sin into the world, a war has been raging in every human heart between the spirit and the flesh. Every person desiring to serve God feels the battle between these two opposing masters. And Satan is always exploiting our physical and emotional desires to sever our relationship with the Lord. “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2 NKJV). The Bible begins with the serpent tempting Adam and Eve and follows with the world’s deterioration. The New Testament begins with Satan tempting Jesus and follows with the world’s salvation. When humanity fell after that first subtle temptation in the garden, it lost the pure loving motives with which it had been originally created. Selfishness took its place, and the result has been devastating: death, disease, war, crime, pain-the list goes on.
God has called us to holiness. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16). But without supernatural aid, men and women are powerless to resist the evil desires and motives of the carnal heart.
Yet God will never ask us to do anything that we are incapable of doing without His help. He has not abandoned His rebellious creation, and He made complete and final provision for its restoration. The purpose of His plan of salvation is to restore within you and me the image of Christ, so that we might be called the sons of God. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3, 4).
Many believe it is a sin to be tempted. This is not true. The Bible declares, “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesuswas tempted in the wilderness, so it can’t possibly be a sin to be tempted. Rather, it is a sin to give into temptation. Shakespeare wrote, “Tis one thing to be tempted, Another thing to fall.” Christians must not allow the carnal nature to dictate what they do; they must allow the Spirit to direct their path and not the flesh.
If we truly want to follow Jesus, we can choose to resist those actions and thoughts that we know are contrary to His will. Thankfully, through Jesus, God has provided everything we need to successfully resist evil and be overcomers. So we might naturally ask ourselves, “Since I am a follower of Christ, what did Jesus do to resist temptation?” For one thing, He quoted the Bible. Knowledge of His Word makes for the first and best defense against temptation. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Second, we need to pray! Even Jesus turned to prayer to resist temptation. “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). I could easily expound on just these two basic points, prayer and the Word, to develop an entire book about fighting temptation. But instead, I want to use these fundamental truths as a foundation to highlight 12 practical keys to resist and overcome temptation. I also want to give you some Bible passages that you might recite, as Jesus did, when you are tempted. I believe this basic biblical ammunition, along with regular and sincere devotions, will mark your path with more consistent victory.
Remember the Reward
     “It’s easier to endure the darkness when you believe in the approaching day.”
I am certain that one reason people are so easily overcome by temptation is that they lose sight of their eternal perspective. If an angel appeared to you right now in all his brilliant glory and said, “Repent! Jesus is coming soon,” would it be easier for you to resist temptation—at least for the rest of the day? Sure, because your faith would be strengthened that your reward was real and near.
Hebrews 11:24-26 says, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Moses was in line to rule Egypt during the zenith of its power and wealth. That position of influence would be a terrible temptation for anyone. But Moses looked to God’s eternal reward and was able to resist the devil’s temporary earthly treasure.
Don’t forget the glory God has in store for you. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). It is so much easier to resist temptation if you believe you are really saved. If you mistakenly think you can work your way into being saved, you will actually erode your ability to resist. But when you believe you are saved, it’s a lot easier to behave like a son of God.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). It’s easy to resist a jellybean when you know you are on your way to a feast!
Believe in the Badness of Sin
     You also must remember how bad sin is—with or without a reward. Paul says “That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:13). You need to truly know that sin is very ghastly, and if you need a reminder, go back about 2,000 years ago to Calvary and see what sin did to Jesus. As Christians, we can’t embrace sin because it is filthy, ugly, and deadly. Sin caused the death of our beloved Jesus.
The Bible says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1 NKJV). We need go beyond the basic emotion of loving God. Like Job, a part of loving God is hating evil. God wants us to hate sin because He hates it. “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).
Don’t be deceived when the devil tries to portray sin as something desirable and attractive. He’s a genius at making something filthy and crooked look clean and harmless. But don’t be mislead, because that pretty picture will end up killing you. You need to come to the place where you love God so much that you would rather die than deliberately sin and grieve Him.
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”
Don’t Love Money
     I could write out a long list of individual temptations, but I’ve chosen to include money specifically because next to pride, it’s the big one. But the money I’m writing about isn’t so much about dollar bills as it is about the trap of materialism and power. I believe Christians should work hard, earning and saving and giving as much as they can. Yet there is a constant danger that money could become our god.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9 NKJV). I’ve seen people make such foolish choices, like gambling away their savings, because they want to get rich quick. They keep yanking the slot-machine lever because the devil tells them that maybe if they drop in just one more quarter, they’ll hit it big. Not to mention that they’re throwing money away when it could be used for saving souls.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Serving God and your desire for money is impossible. Money is a power, and not all power is bad. Money can be a power to do good or evil—a double-edge sword. We pray in our churchesthat the Lord will bless our needs financially, but we don’t want to become slaves to loving money. If your heart is with your money, it can’t be with God. God has asked us to be prepared to leave our full nets, tax booth, and houses filled with possessions without looking back. “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
Get Ready to Flee
     Few speed records are broken when people run from temptation. Generally, they crawl away from temptation hoping it catches up with them. Sometimes temptation comes through a door we deliberately leave open. Suppose that you accidentally spilled kerosene all over your clothes and somebody nearby lit a match. Where would you go? As far away as you could and as fast as possible! That should be the attitude of a Christian toward temptation. Paul said, “Flee fornication” and “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14). So flee from sin, and don’t leave a forwarding address.
Don’t miss this: When you run from temptation, you head toward God. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:7). When you know something is sinful, don’t engage or banter with the devil, because he is the master of rationalization—that’s how Eve fell!
It breaks my heart when Christians try to justify their sins. There is no limit to the arguments with which the devil can supply you. As soon as you know something is wrong, flee! The bravest man runs from temptation; the fool flirts with it.
You also don’t want to wait until you get so old that all those desires of youth fade away and you deceive yourself into thinking you have gained the victory. “And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home” (Ecclesiastes 12:5 NKJV). Your heart may still be corrupt. Flee now, actively. You must commit yourself to God while you can still experience His renovating grace in your life. Jesus’ power is sufficient even for our hot-blooded youth. Remember when Joseph was tempted, he fled from Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12).
John Dryden said, “Better to shun the bait than struggle in the snare.”
Don’t Follow the Crowd
      A common reason Christians easily fall into temptation is the reasoning, “Everybody’s doing it, so it must be okay.” That’s the devil’s favorite “lemming logic.” It’s also why Peter denied Jesus. Just a few hours before betraying Jesus, Peter vowed, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35 NKJV). And when Peter made that statement surrounded by his friends, he was very sincere. But when Jesus was taken into the judgment hall, it was no longer popular to be with Christ. Peter gathered with Christ’s mockers around a campfire, and the longer he stayed, the easier it was to act and talk like Christ’s enemies.
By letting the crowd measure our values, we become like the crowd. And the Bible says the crowd is usually wrong. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13). Christians have to think for themselves. They must resist peer pressure—they have to be different. If a billion people believe a lie, it’s still a lie.
In the end-times, there’s going to be two very religious groups—one with the mark of the beast, the other with the seal of God. The former group will be the larger. Just because a large group of people is being religious, it does not mean it’s God’s group. Generally, the Bibleís great men and women are the ones standing for right when everyone else is bowing down.
Also keep in mind another reason to not follow the crowd is because the crowd is watching. While you don’t want to follow the crowd, you should live a life the crowd can look at. People are more impressed, and many have been converted, when they have seen Christians maintain their faith under pressure. One weak compromising act might spoil an entire lifetime of witness.
Plan to Stay Busy
     Hanging behind the check-out register in a Cincinnati candle shop is a large sign that reads: “There is a very good reason for this sign being here and you standing in front of it reading it. It is here to keep you busy. We realize how annoying it can be just standing around doing nothing, trying to find someone to help you. So, we have this sign here for you to read, and hope that by the time you finish reading it one of our salespeople will have found you.”      A little later it adds, “P.S. If not, please read this sign again.”
Most people hate to be idle because God created us for activity. You’ve heard the expression, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” That’s not a direct Bible quote, but Ezekiel 16:49, 50 comes close. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters … therefore I took them away as I saw good.”
The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t simply perversion and sexual immorality. The valley of Sodom was lush with vegetation and abundant with food. Life was easy for her inhabitants. Lot moved there because it offered him a life of leisure. But when a person doesn’t have anything to do, chances are the devil will help the carnal heart to concoct something evil. “Idleness is the parent of all vice.”
Sin begins in the human mind, which is designed to concentrate mainly on one thing at a time. If we stay busy, especially focused on doing something good like witnessing or helping the poor, we don’t have time to think about evil. E. G. White said, “Strength to resist evil is best gained through aggressive service.” One of the ways to stay out of trouble is to be aggressively involved in serving Jesus. After the fall, when God told Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” it was intended to be a blessing for man to stay busy and out of trouble (Genesis 3:19). But an idle person tempts the devil to tempt him.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16 NKJV). An Italian Proverb adds, “He that labors is tempted by one devil; he that is idle, by a thousand.”
Have a Plan!
     We often stumble into sin because when we see temptation coming, we just wait like a deer caught in the headlights to see what might happen when it arrives. But it’s better to be prepared in advance. Proverbs 22:3 advises, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (NKJV). A wise man surveys the road for potential trouble. If he spots a band of robbers, he thinks, “I’d better hide or change routes because I don’t want to be robbed!” But the fool says, “Wow. I think there are bandits down the road. I wonder what’s going to happen when they get here.”
Christians will often do that with temptation. We say, “I wonder if I’ll be tempted if I watch this program, read this magazine, or drink this stuff.” I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And Jesus said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29). If you have an area of temptation you know will drag you down, take whatever advance measures of prevention you can, no matter how desperate, to keep from being overcome.
If you are trying to quit smoking, then avoid friends who smoke or places where you are more prone to be tempted. In the very least, plot a way of escape. If your temptation is overeating, make an advance decision to place an appropriate amount of food on your plate and plan to stop when it’s gone. Millions nibble their way into sin because they don’t think ahead. This leads me to the next point very well.
Know Thyself
     Alex was trying to save all the pennies he could to buy a new baseball bat, but he had a real struggle. One night as he said his prayers, he fervently requested, “O Lord, please help me save my money for a baseball bat. And, God, don’t let the ice cream man come down this street!”
A Spanish proverb instructs, “Be not a baker if your head be of butter.”
When someone joins Alcoholics Anonymous, he or she is first supposed to admit to being an alcoholic. This admission can represent a tremendous breakthrough, because the person recognizes their weakness. Likewise, it’s one of the first steps in becoming a Christian, to admit that we are a “sin-a-holic.”
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The Bible says that we must not trust in our own strength. We must be very cautious when we begin to think we have a handle on a certain temptation and say, “It won’t bother me anymore. I’m strong enough. I’ve got the victory!” Thatís when we are especially in a position to fall. Some Christians are even proud of the areas they have overcome, but they’re only setting themselves up for the devil to knock them down. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus warned Peter: “This night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:30). But Peter boasted, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Mark 14:31). Jesus was warning Peter that he didn’t really know how weak he really was.
Even when you’re helping somebody else overcome weakness, you need to pray with him or her, but also recognize that you’re in danger of making the same mistake. When a rescuer is pulling a person from rushing water, they have to be careful that they don’t get pulled in too. So we must always be vigilant to recognize our weakness. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Watch out for temptation—the more you see of it the better it looks!
Overcome Evil with Good
     We sometimes leave ourselves wide open to compromise when we fail to fill the vacuum left by forsaken bad habits. I have known people to gain victory over one addiction only to replace it with another because they did not find a positive substitute to fill the vacancy.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or food addiction, you can’t simply give up eating. The secret is to learn to “eat what is good” (Isaiah 55:2 NKJV). “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If you have a problem nibbling chocolate through the day, buy some grapes or almonds. Have you even thrown away those cigarettes? Get a box of toothpicks or some sunflower seeds (but not chocolates).
If someone has insulted or cruelly used you, do not retaliate with evil but kindness. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink” (Romans 12:20 NKJV). Overcome evil with good. When a hawk is attacked by kingbirds, it does not make a counterattack, but soars higher and higher in ever widening circles until the tormentors leave it alone.
Care for Your Health
     Temptation often comes not at our strongest moments, but during our weakest. When we are at the limits of our strength, patience, love, and health, we are tempted to be un-Christian. Beware; Jesus’ temptation began after 40 days of fasting. He was tired and hungry. When Peter denied Jesus, he was also very tired.
Our ability to resist basic temptations might be greatly influenced by everything from regular exercise, or lack of, to body hormones. Often when we are sick or when our reserves are drained, we react in negative ways. Most marital arguments occur at the end of the day when one or both spouses are tired and hungry. Get enough sleep and eat good food at regular times. One of my favorite authors also advises, “By the indulgence of perverted appetite, man loses his power to resist temptation.” Excessive sweets can give you a temporary rush only to be followed by feelings of depression and irritability.
You may not always be able to avoid fatigue or hunger, but if a soldier is passing through a minefield, he is much more careful where he steps. Avoid sensitive discussions or demanding tasks during these volatile times. Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). But that does not mean we should not try to do everything in our power to improve our health and as a result improve our moral resolve. A good night’s rest, a little exercise, and nutritious breakfast can make you feel like you’re ready to take on Goliath.
Recognize Your Escape
     When boarding a plane, I make a mental note of emergency exit locations. I’m not paranoid, just prudent. For me, the very best means for overcoming temptation is recognizing that God has provided a way of escape for every one of us. Remember this passage: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Now that’s some very good news. We don’t have to rely on our shaky faith; we can rely on God because He is faithful!
Now when you are tempted, you can say, “God is measuring what He allows the devil to bring against me, and I’m able to handle it with His grace.” You never have to say, “I can’t bear to resist the devil any longer.” By saying that, you’d be calling God a liar!
The Egyptians pursued the children of Israel from behind, and as they fled they also found that mountains were on both sides and river lay in front of them. It seemed like a very hopeless situation. But God had promised that He would be faithful, and He provided a way of escape. The Bible is full of stories like these that seemed hopeless, but God was faithful. And He’ll use even dramatic rescue attempts to help you. When it looked like there was no food to feed the crowd following Jesus, God was faithful to bring food even out of heaven for the followers.
So every time you think, “I don’t see any way out,” remember these stories and make up your mind to trust God and watch for His way of escape. Even with the most devilish temptation at your doorstep, say, “I’m going to trust God. I’m going to do the right thing.” God will make an escape for you.
Surviving a Fall
     In 1944 over Germany, Flight Sergeant Alkemade jumped from his blazing bomber and fell headlong 18,000 feet. He survived without a scratch because his fall was broken by snow covered fir trees on a slope.
I’ve saved for last what I believe to be the most important key to overcoming temptation. You already know that Jesus is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24). But if you do fall, don’t stay down.
If you are in Christ, you have the greatest power to resist wrong. To abide in Him is to abide in His Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Noah, Enoch, and Abraham walked with God. And you can do the same today by getting on your knees and petition for strength. God will send every angel in heaven to save you from sin, rather than let a trusting child fall when pleading for His help. But we must choose to follow Jesus, rather than the lies of the devil. God has made us free moral agents, and the devil cannot make us sin.
By God’s grace, you and I can resist every temptation through His Spirit. But remember that if you do fall, don’t give up. Many people who fall down, stay down. They say, “Oh well. I’m lost now; I may as well surrender to every other temptation.” God can help you recover lost territory, and He will save you from future temptations. You might need to spend three days sorrowing and searching just like Joseph and Mary when they lost Jesus, but He will be waiting for you in His Father’s house.
The devil may dishearten you with his wicked whisperings saying, “I know you! I tempted you, and you did it! You’re no good. You call yourself a Christian, but you’re just a hypocrite. In fact, you aren’t even saved!” But I believe the Christian life is progressive. The Bible promises, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). If you sin, and we all do, don’t give up. If the devil tricks you, and you fall down, don’t stay down. Don’t let your past failures be an excuse for future compromise. God can help you overcome everything. You just take it one day and one step at a time.
Steps in One
     Summarizing all these steps is actually very easy. The most precious way to overcome any temptation has to be because you love God. You know that sin hurts God, and when tempted you need to say out loud, “I can’t do that because I love God.”
Erwin W. Lutzer said, “Our response to temptation is an accurate barometer of our love for God.” The more you love Jesus, the less the attractions of the devil will hold sway over you. Remember how much Jesus loves you by remembering the cross when you are tempted, and then return that love by resisting the evil before you.
We’re all tempted, but the Lord has promised that we can be overcomers through the “exceeding great and precious promises” found in the Scriptures. Jesus will teach us how to overcome. The devil could not make Jesus sin, nor can he make us. Give great thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Ask Him for overcoming power, and joyfully dive into the pages of His Word.
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