After I posted my 6 part series on Temptation, I listened to a talk given by my favorite Pastor, Jeremy McClung of Muskoka Community Church. This material was inspired by his talk.
When we invite God into our lives, he starts to work on us. We become His Divine Restoration project, as He helps us to start resisting sins, especially those we fall into again and again (perhaps anger, lust, materialism, pride, low self esteem, anxiety, worry, doubt). We can build on this relationship with Him by asking Him over and over again to release us from these things, andit takes mental discipline to resist temptation.
There are several steps we can take to resist temptation:
1. Admit we can’t resist it but God can. We need to admit our powerlessness over temptation, so He can provide an escape route. Each morning, we can look at the day ahead of us, anticipating the potential temptations that could befall us, and ask God to protect us from both the ones we can foresee and the ones that might blindside us.
2. Include God in the moment of temptation. We often forget to ask God for help in the moment or worse, we avoid God because we know we’re going to do something wrong. By avoiding Him, we cut off our escape route, and even worse, our shame and guilt separates us from God.
3. Resist your lower nature. Life often conspires against you to lead you off the path. When we begin to align with the will of God, He’ll send tests to strengthen us. We often focus our anger at the wrong person. For example in marriage we often think the other partner is the enemy, but when we stop blaming each other and recognize that our lower natures may be battling with each other, it’s easier to find your way back to unity. God’s given us a free will, and allows us to make choices.
4. Identify the lie: Our lower nature lies to us, often in a very convincing way, so the key to battling temptation is to identify the lie. We’re not in a battle between good and evil but between truth and a lie. The lie is when we think there are no consequences for going against the things God wants us to do. Perhaps you’ll recognize some of these:
- More is better!
- You can pay it off at the end of the month
- You can start your diet tomorrow.
- Next time I’ll do that service project.
- If nobody sees it’s OK.
- Everybody else is doing it so it must be OK.
- I just need to vent.
- I need this (addiction to TV, alcohol, busywork, shopping)
5. Understand the lie: Our lower nature attacks us at our most vulnerable points, often quoting the Writings at us, so it’s important to have many quotes memorized so we can know which one applies to us. For example, one year I was really sick during the fast, but fasted anyway. I could recite this quote to prove that I was doing a noble thing and that it was right to be fasting:
In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God.
My lower nature prevented me from seeing the rest of the very same quote, and I was forever grateful to the loving soul who brought it to my attention:
It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. All praise be unto God, He who hath sent down the verses and is the Revealer of undoubted proofs! (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 134)
6. Battle with the lie: We can convince ourselves of the truth as much as we want in our minds, but when we’re in the middle of temptation, everything is out of whack and we no longer think correctly. It’s easy to change our minds, especially if other people are telling us it’s OK. Their values aren’t often right! We need to know a truth we can count on, and that comes from the Writings. Imagine how different things would be if in the moment of temptation, we had something we could cling to as the one last solid thread; something we know is true. God gave us His Writings so we’d have the tools we need, but we need to memorize them so we can call on them when we need them the most.
From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 200)
We should memorize the Hidden Words, follow the exhortations of the Incomparable Lord, and conduct ourselves in a manner which befitteth our servitude at the threshold of the one true God. (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 196)
The next time you fall into temptation, don’t come at it with willpower and resolve, but recognize the lie, come at it with truth and with the quotes you’ve memorized.