11 Biblical ways to overcome temptations
1. Remove the triggers (Watch the gates of your life)
To flee means to run away from a place or situation of danger. It also means to run away from (someone or something).
Therefore, when you see a situation that threatens your spiritual life, a danger that is represented by someone or something, and that danger can overpower you into sinning against God, you should run away.
Sometimes the test of spirituality is not in staying and fighting the danger, but it is in fleeing and leaving the danger to preserve your relationship with God. You are not spiritually strong because you just fought, your strength is measured in winning the battle over sin. Fleeing does not mean that you are a coward, it shows that you are wise. So, do not think that you must stay close to the source of your temptation to fight it.
While counselling his spiritual son, Timothy, Apostle Paul gave an important word of advice to him in 2 Timothy 2:22 (AMP) “Run away from youthful lusts—pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those [believers] who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
The first thing is that you must run away because youthful lust will chase after you. You do not need to invite them, they will come on their own.
The second thing to note is that there is space in your life where either righteousness, faith, peace, love, and purity should fill, or youthful lusts will come in. So, you must earnestly follow the former to keep away from the latter.
As you flee from youthful lusts, you pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. So, there is running away and there is a pursuit. May I add that when you are consistently pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace, and purity of heart, you will always be farther from lust. Because the lusts do not stop chasing, you must not stop running towards the fruits of the Spirit. When you stop following righteousness and the others, the lust will catch up with you.
Finally, some lusts are better not to know at all than to know them. It is easier to flee from what you have not experienced than what you have experienced — examples: drugs, sex, smoking, alcoholism, gaming, phone/social media addiction. (Smartphone users touch, tap, or swipe their devices an average of 2,617 times a day, according to research by an American company (Dscout in 2016). For the heaviest users—the top 10%—average interactions doubled to 5,427 touches a day.
In 1 Cor. 6:18, the Bible says “Run away from sexual immorality [in any form, whether thought or behaviour, whether visual or written]. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the one who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.” Example: Joseph fled and left his clothes. He understood that this was not a matter of prayers and quoting of scriptures.
1 Thess. 5:22 tells us to withdraw and keep away from every appearance of evil. You need to flee every appearance of evil because persistence can be stronger than resistance (Luke 18:1-8).
You need to also bear in mind that your environment could be more powerful than your will. You must withdraw from certain friends because you tend to conform to your friends and the things you hear, see, feel, smell and taste (Proverbs 22:24-25). Evil communication corrupts good manners. (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
Others will influence you and the habits of an ungodly culture will influence you. If you contrast Numbers 24:1-9 with 25:1-9, you will observe that Balaam could not curse Israel as long as they dwelt in their tents and had no iniquity or perverseness in them (Numbers 23:21). But the moment Israel mixed up with the prostitutes of Baal, Balaam did not need to curse them because God’s anger was kindled against Israel that he slew 24, 000 people with a plague. Falling to temptation breaks your protective guard and spiritual death results.
3. Be careful with idleness
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. 2 Samuel 11:1-5. 1 Tim. 5:11-. Spiritual and physical laziness has been known to be a catalyst towards falling into diverse temptations. This is because when one spends time doing nothing, he is more prone to entertain thoughts and engage in habits that do not make for godliness. “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop” people say, but some minds are so idle that they have spoiled the devil’s workshop. When unemployed or poorly paid, there could be the temptation to steal, cheat, engage in fraudulent activities or participate in unhealthy ungodly practices.
However, such thoughts do not wait for when one is engaged in prolonged periods of idleness, they can come when one is not actively involved in what he should be involved in at that time.
An example is King David. It was a season when kings went to war because of the favourable weather conditions. A king like David should be at the forefront of leading the charge to conquer the enemy territory. Instead of doing this, David sent his troops and stayed at home, maybe to enjoy his family. While the troops fought, David was in Jerusalem, in a place where he should not be, doing what he should not do. It was on one of the evenings when David stood up from his bed and went to his rooftop to feast his eyes that he was tempted by the beauty of Bathsheba who was bathing in her house. A man who was not careful took the wife of his general, killed the general and married her, thus causing problems in his house and kingdom.
So, you may not be a lazy person, but even when you are not actively engaged in something useful, keep watch over your heart because Satan strikes at those moments.
Having outlined the first three points that majorly involve you doing something ‘physical’, let us look at other points. The points below go under what I would summarise as resisting the chief agent of temptations, the devil.
James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
This passage of the scriptures counsels us to resist, withstand, stand against, and oppose the devil. But he that must resist the devil and be successful at doing the same must first be submitted to God because the resistance you want to put can only be successful with God’s help and grace. To be a successful overcomer, one must have God by his side leading the charge, and not be arrogant, thinking himself to have arrived (James 4:6-8).
For our fight against temptation is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12. So, the whole armour of God needs to be won and deployed.
4. Eating the Word of God (the Bible)
The Word of God is one of the most powerful instruments (if not the most powerful) given to man to overcome temptations as it serves both for defence and attack. You can defend yourself from any demonic onslaught, whether seen or unseen, and you can attack the tempter with the Word.
In the temptation that took place in the wilderness, we saw that the principal instrument Jesus employed in overcoming the Tempter was the Word of God. By this, Jesus shows us an example of what believers should always do when the devil comes knocking on our doors. “It is written” is infinitely more powerful than any experience or explanation you want to share with the devil. The devil has been here for thousands of years, so he has acquired so much experience on how to engage humans. Our only defence is the eternal Word that created Satan. He cannot stand that.
So, in Matthew 4:4, after Satan came to tempt Jesus with what he thought Jesus needed most at that time, which was food, Jesus rebuked him with Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
When the use of Christ’s most important need as a human did not yield fruits, Satan employed another strategy that he knows people who fast often desire – the power to do extraordinary things and act in extraordinary ways. This time, he also wanted to see if Christ had pride in him, because what would make someone who had just ended a 40-day fast jump off a cliff just to prove a point to Satan if not pride? Satan misquoted Psalm 91:11-12 to force Jesus to do his bidding. That was a misrepresentation of what God said in those verses of the Scriptures.
And yet again, Jesus defeated him with the Word of God affirming that it will amount to tempting God if he heed the devil’s instruction. So, Satan can misquote the Bible in an attempt to bully us to yield to temptation, but when we know the scriptures, we can counter him repeatedly with the Word of God. His words are counterfeits, misquotes and falsehoods, but we know and have the TRUTH.
The devil not wanting to give up came yet again the third time with the glory of the kingdoms of the world. Satan wanted the Son Of God to worship him. And again, Jesus did not use his earthly experience but employed the instrumentality of the Word of God. Jesus said, “… it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” And with this, the devil left him. Had Adam and Eve continued to repeat the instruction of God to the serpent, the devil would have left them after a while. The Word of GOD is our game-changer in overcoming the wiles of the devil.
I also want you to always remember that the signals of temptation come through the impulses that hit the flesh (our five sense organs) and mind. The flesh is known to antagonise the Spirit because while the Spirit is tuned to God, the flesh is exposed to the stimuli of the world. It therefore follows that anything that feeds the Spirit starves the flesh and vice versa. The Word of God is one of the known foods of the Spirit; it feeds your spirit man. Also, Eph. 6:17 tells us that it is the Sword of the Spirit, implying that when you study the Bible, you are arming your Spirit man to fight against the devil, including his temptations. So, if you want to overcome the temptations of the flesh, you must daily feed your spirit with the Word of God.
Furthermore, there is a widespread ignorance of what is written in the Word of God, as many do not either read or believe what is written therein. So, finding someone who reads, understands, and applies the Bible is already a massive defeat to Satan’s aim of covering the world in the darkness of godlessness.
Finally, the Word of God is the principal instrument in overcoming temptations. And I mean both the spoken word and the word in your heart. As we have seen, the spoken word of God defeats the devil, but also the word in your heart because certain temptations are projectiles shot into your mind that require you to cull the word of God in your heart to silence those thoughts. In Psalm 119:11, we see the Psalmist giving us an antidote to sinning against God, and in extension to yielding to temptations. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
So, you must constantly feed yourself with the Word, so you can use the same when temptations come (Psalm 37:31).
5. Praying always
Another crucial tool to overcome temptations is prayer. There are many functions of prayers in the life of a believer, and one of them is to keep you from falling when the tempter comes knocking. Apostle tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing” because our adversary like a roaring lion is ceaselessly going around seeking whom to devour.
Jesus told us something important in Matthew 26:41. He said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
From the foregoing scripture, we see that watching and praying helps us not to fall when temptations come. This also means that failing to pray or prayerlessness is a sure way to yield to temptations. It must be noted that the strength to overcome the wiles of the devil does not come from you. That same scripture tells us that the flesh is weak even in the face of the willingness of the spirit. It is a fight between these two entities, and whoever wins decides whether you will fall or not. So, to remain spiritually unwilling (weak) is tantamount to waving a white flag to Satan.
As we said in the previous point, it is the flesh (body) that gets involved in temptation. So, the things that please the flesh are the things that lure us into temptations – what pleasures the skin, looks beautiful to the eyes, tastes appetising to the tongue, smells right to the nose, and sounds good to the ears.
Fervent, ceaseless, righteous prayers strengthen your Spirit man and mortify the desires of the flesh (Colossians 3:5). And spiritual strength is often a result of answered prayers (Psalms 138:3. 1 Corinthians 9:27).
So, resist the devil in prayers as Peter told us (1 Peter 5:8-9). And always remember that prayer renews the mind (Romans 12:2) and grants you the grace to overcome temptations.
A prayerless Christian is a sinning Christian.
6. Engaging in regular Fasting
The feelings and desires of the flesh can be further mortified through fasting. This is one of the ways to overcome temptations. As James 1:14 puts it, “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.” One of the things that happens during fasting is that your desires are brought under the rulership of God and His Christ. The effect of such submission is that impure, unholy, unrighteous, and sinful desires are purged out of your heart (Colossians 3:5).
Even good desires are better regulated and guided when we fast. So, one thing you will observe about fasting is that the feelings and desires of the flesh further take a lower seat during and after the fasting exercise. You are less inclined to fulfil the lusts of the flesh when you truly engage in a spiritual fast.
Furthermore, when you fast, you strengthen your spirit. A person who fasts and prays communicates with God. So, his spirit man is fed. You draw strength as you surrender wholeheartedly to God in the place of spiritual godly fast.
Another thing that fasting does to you, with respect to temptation, is this: it humbles you to the point where you realise your need for God. The flesh grows as you feed it, but it weakens when you starve it of food and other pleasures. So, in fasting you discover the impotence of the flesh and the might of God. You appreciate your infirmities as a man and the strength resident in anyone who trusts in God. This helps you to be assured that you can overcome whatever temptation Satan throws at you.
Please note: Fasting will not stop temptations from coming to you, as we see that JESUS was tempted after fasting for 40 days and nights (Matthew 4:2). What godly fasting however does is that your fleshly appetites are mortified, you do not derive joy in engaging in immoral, sensual, and unholy practices as you are more desirous of the things that please God and less of the things that please the flesh. Sin becomes even more dirty and righteousness more appealing. Also, you are more spiritually alert to whatever arrows the devil might hurl your way. You can sense them and respond appropriately to stand because you are attentive to the spirit’s promptings.
7. The help of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues
One of the best ways to overcome temptations is constant fellowship with the Holy Ghost. One thing that intrigues me is seeing in Matthew 4 that it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. While the temptation of Jesus was done to show that he is human and give us an example, from that experience we can also learn the importance of having the Holy Spirit constantly with you before, during and after temptations.
Firstly, the Holy Spirit helps our infirmities as seen in Romans 8:26. As humans, we have physical, mental, and moral weaknesses. So, our dependence on the Holy Spirit is non-negotiable if we don’t want to fall. If you depend on yourself you will always fall, but when you depend on the Holy Spirit, He keeps you. So, to succeed in living sinlessly in this world, you must have the Holy Spirit. To overcome temptations, you must draw strength from Him.
The Bible says that there is a spirit in man and the inspiration of God gives that spirit of man understanding (Job 32:8). In the same vein, the Spirit of God strengthens, energises, quickens (gives life to) your inner man. In fact, Ephesians 3:16 says that God will strengthen our inner man with might by His Spirit.
Furthermore, in Romans 8:13, we see that the Holy Spirit also helps us to mortify the deeds of the flesh. This means that actively, constantly, and continually living according to the Spirit’s direction would certainly lead to the putting to death of the flesh.
Also, praying in tongues displaces the unholy thoughts that come to your mind. As earlier stated, the mind is the battleground of our lives. Certain temptations do not come through the five sense organs but are spiritual projectiles hurled directly into our minds and trigger our flesh to desire them. Such thoughts can fly in as we do things that are unrelated to lustful desires or could even come through dreams – we wake up and see that there is a burning desire to engage in an unholy act. Such temptations require that we fight and win in our minds. So, if you endeavour to constantly resist impure thoughts through praying in the spirit, you will always be a conqueror.
Additionally, when a thought flashes through your mind and you quickly begin praying in tongues, you switch your mind away from evil to God. So, practice activating your spirit man through tongues, and you will not entertain unholy thoughts. The Bible in Gal. 5:16, counsels us to always walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
8. Accountability partner
In a world of secrecy, pretence and despair, the scriptures once again give us a valuable tool in thwarting the plans of Satan to floor us and keep us on the floor. This tool is that of a community or trusted persons if you prefer. Jesus employed this tool when he chose the twelve apostles. Besides Judas Iscariot, we do not read of any major scandals that took place in the lives of the other apostles even when Jesus had left. They were all accountable to Jesus and each other.
Sins breathes, breeds, and thrives in secrecy. Everyone experiences temptations, but many people who fall and remain down are usually those who pretend not to experience temptations because they do not want to be seen as not measuring up. They present a public image of themselves that does not align with their private struggles. The truth is that when you own up to your internal struggles you discover that you are not alone, including the Pastor that ministers to you on Sundays goes through similar things. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that no temptation you have experienced in the past, experiencing today or will ever experience in the future is uncommon to humankind. Whatever you are going through, someone has gone through – exact or similar. So, why pretend and die on the inside when you have access to people who can help you?
Furthermore, James 5:16 tells us this, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” For our context, this verse of the scriptures tells us to have someone or some people with whom we can confide our innermost struggles. These could be elderly or mature Christians, not necessarily because of age, but people of experience, wisdom and understanding. They are not judgmental in their minds, flippant with their tongues nor gossip with their lips, but rather understanding, prayerful and righteous before God.
With accountability partners, you receive the help you need because, inasmuch as we all experience temptations, some people have overcome what you are struggling with. Therefore, they can through experience and the scriptures show you the way to escape. They also pray with and for you.
Another angle to this is that these partners keep you accountable for your words and actions. Because you desire to improve, you don’t want to keep confessing falling to the same temptations always. So, you see yourself overcoming more until you have gained control over that struggle.
These accountability partners could be one’s companions, godly parents, friends, Pastors, or elders in the Church. They must be people you respect and value their words, or else their corrections may not mean much to you.
Also, be transparent about all your dealings, especially when you are married. It helps to build trust and avoid getting into unholy conversations that can wreck your home.
Whenever I think of accountability partners, a minister that comes to my mind is Billy Graham. Billy Graham and friends at the formative stage of their ministerial outreach decided to stipulate what is now known as the Modesto Manifesto. This manifesto became a sort of code by which they conducted themselves. And oh, how this helped them to win multitudes to Christ while remaining unblameable. The manifesto is as follows:
i. To never exaggerate attendance figures at their meetings. Guard against lying and deceit.
ii. To take only a fixed salary from their organization. Guard against financial thievery.
iii. To never be alone with a woman other than their wife. Guard against sexual sin
iv. To never criticise fellow members of the clergy. Guard against pride.
“Whoever thou art then that after thy baptism sufferest grievous trials, be not troubled thereat; for this thou receivedst arms, to fight, not to sit idle.
God does not hold all trials from us;
first, that we may feel that we are become stronger;
secondly, that we may not be puffed up by the greatness of the gifts we have received;
thirdly, that the Devil may have experience that we have entirely renounced him;
fourthly, that by it we may be made stronger;
fifthly, that we may receive a sign of the treasure entrusted to us; for the Devil would not come upon us to tempt us, did he not see us advanced to greater honours.” –John Chrysostom
9. Fear of and love for God
Another tip that helps a believer in times of temptation is the fear of God. The fear of God is reverential submission to God. It is not just respecting Him as God, but completely submitting to Him in everything. So, a person who fears God would endeavour to do things and only things that please God. Jesus showed us an example in Luke 22:42 when he said, “… nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”
Fear of God that God also entails fear for the discipline that committing sin attracts from the righteous God. In Proverbs 16:16, we learn that by the fear of God, one departs from evil. Also, in Proverbs 8:13, we see that “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” So, a person who fears God will run away when the temptations to sin against God come knocking.
When Joseph was tempted to commit fornication with Potiphar’s wife, he overcame it because he had the fear of God, thus recognising sin as odious and attracting discipline from God (Genesis 39:9). The same can be said of Job whose fear of God made him eschew evil (Job 1:1)
Also, the love for God makes you place God above everything else including your fleshly satisfaction. When your fleshly pleasures are considered of less importance to the pleasure of God, it becomes easier to overcome temptations to sin.
The Rechabites reverenced their late father so much that a Prophet as highly placed as Jeremiah could not make them go contrary to the instruction of their late father (Jeremiah 35:1-11). The reverential fear of God will keep you from sinning.
Another instrument that God has given to us to scale through temptations is knowledge. Satan preys on your ignorance. But knowledge helps you to overcome.
Let me say this: you are not only tempted by your sinful lustful desires. You will be tempted even by your legitimate godly desires. Satan tries to insinuate himself between your legitimate desire to be used by God to expand His kingdom, minister through songs, lead his sheep, have resources to help the needy, get into political offices to help shape the society etc. and God.
Satan’s goal is to derail you, so that while achieving that legitimate desires get polluted. He offers you what you want at the expense of your soul. He gives you shortcuts to great heights at the price of worshipping him. So, Satan could influence even your legitimate ambitions before, during or after you have accomplished the same.
For instance, 1 Tim. 6:9-10 tells us that riches will attract temptation, snares, and other foolish and hurtful lusts. So, when you know that your desires for money, fame, popularity, glamour, and fashion are potential sources of temptation, armed with such knowledge, you guard against your fall. This prepares you that when Satan comes, you rebuke him. It also helps you to focus on building character while you are chasing that all-important goal.
So, a person who wants money begins to build humility, selflessness, gratitude, and wholesome consecration to God to counter pride, selfishness, covetousness, and immoral living that come as a result of riches.
Just like your desire for fame should make you begin to build accountability partners, humility, contentment, teamwork, and solid intimacy with God to counter sycophancy, pride, avarice, competition, and outright godlessness.
The same thing applies to your desire for success in ministry. It should make you build patience, a solid prayer and word life, accountability partners, submission to a higher authority, and humility because haste, busyness with administrative/spiritual work, sexual immorality, stubbornness, mammon, and pride would come knocking as you grow.
What you want determines what you should build. Basically, you are gearing up for tomorrow’s temptations because these are patterns that always repeat themselves.
To be forewarned by the scriptures is to be forearmed by God.
11. Assurance that God is with you
God does not leave us alone outside for the lions and other predators to devour us. Remember that Jesus is the good Shepherd, so he cannot leave his sheep to be killed by the bear.
1 Cor. 10:13 has this to say, “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.”
To further buttress this point, we see something so reassuring in Hebrews 2:18. It says, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”
That is, because Jesus when he was on earth partook in temptations, he perfectly understands how we feel being constantly bombarded by Satan with several alluring sights. Not only does He understand our predicament, but he also succours us when we are tempted. This is so comforting to know that we are not alone when Satan comes to exploit our weakness. We are not alone whether in secret or in the open. We are not alone whether the temptation is outside or inside. We are not alone whether the pressure to sin is much or less. In all situations and at all times, Jesus is with us.
In fact, in Hebrews 4:13-16, another expression of Christ’s deep closeness to us is revealed. That passage of the scriptures says,
Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 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. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Beloved, God is with us before, during and after the temptation. Jesus had suffered being tempted, so he understands what it means to be tempted. He supplies grace, strength, and a way of escape. Always remember this.
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