The Never-Ending (and Often Losing) Battle
One of the things that I find most frustrating is the inability to make progress. That REALLY gets on my nerves. So you can imagine how exasperated I became as a young mother when I was trying to become more “patient, loving, kind, gentle, self-controlled….” and yet I was continually failing at it. One temptation after another seemed to get the better of me. My children were worth a mom who exemplified the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 NIV but it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I woefully fell short of this goal.
I felt like I was not only cheating my children out of a better mom but also dishonoring the Lord. Didn’t He deserve a better witness?!
The battle against temptation happens at any age and in every stage of life. The devil is going to make sure of that. We learn from Scripture that it behooves us to be aware of our enemy and his schemes against us.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9
Therefore, if we know that temptation will be the norm this side of heaven, how can we be most effective in this battle?
What Scripture Says
Reading James 4:7-9 has brought these earlier frustrations back to my mind because it was key for me to learn how to “resist the devil”. This had to happen if I was ever going to become more effective at fighting against temptation.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
I eventually did learn how to become a better mom but it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. Mistakenly, I had assumed it would be by sheer will power that temptation could be overcome. As a perfectionist at the time, I could muster up determination easily enough but I soon realized even my effort wasn’t enough.
I was at a complete loss, so weary of losing the battle against my lack of self-control, becoming impatient with 3 children under 4 years of age, not being gentle enough, etc. It was at this point that the Lord taught me I was fighting the wrong battle.
Instead of fighting AGAINST something, I needed to fight FOR someone.
My pastor has said that you cannot remove an idol but you can replace it. That explains the change in strategy that finally worked.You cannot remove an idol but you can replace it. Pastor Joby Martin of The Church of Eleven22 #weare22 #churchofeleven22 Click To Tweet
Rather than fighting against sinful behaviors, I began to fight for my relationship with Christ. This was a game changer for me that brought about the results I was needing. What I learned was that striving to be holy was less effective than seeking God intimately. By growing in my relationship with Him, He naturally began to change me from the inside out.
The “fruit of the Spirit” was never meant to become an idol in a perfectionist’s life but rather a by-product of a disciple’s life. This truth made ALL the difference!
The “fruit of the Spirit” was never meant to become an idol in a perfectionist’s life but a by-product of a disciple’s life.
Strategies for Resisting the Devil
This passage in James readily details how we can resist the devil as we pursue a growing relationship with the Lord. Here are 10 strategies that work!
- Agree with God. If we are to submit ourselves to God as commanded in verse 7, then agreeing with Him about what He calls sin is key. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or whether we like it. What He says goes!
- Determine to follow His plan. Just as Jesus did in the garden (Luke 22:42), even if we do not agree with God’s will, follow it anyway. An example is that we do not decide whether we are going to church when we get up each Sunday. The decision has already been made and settled once and for all. Unless we are sick, of course, we are going. Additionally, we do not decide to forgive others based upon our inclinations. God commanded us to forgive, as we have been forgiven by Him, so we do it regardless of our feelings.
- Have consistent time with God. Do whatever it takes to prioritize devotional time with Him. If we will not leave our homes without brushing our teeth and washing our face, then surely we can prioritize our faith above our vanity. Overcoming temptation will not happen otherwise. We may be presentable to the world but we will remain a hot mess on the inside until this becomes routine.
- Use Scripture cards. In my fiercest battles, I have found pertinent Bible verses to write on index cards. I use these to pray each morning and place around my home or in my car to remind me of them throughout the day. These are extremely effective for bringing about what you desire like loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, overcoming fear or learning to love His Word.
- Repent early and often. God does not expect us to fix ourselves but to come to Him in confession and repentance. He is the only One who can conquer our sinful habits. The devil hates it when our knee-jerk reaction to our sin is to run to Jesus confessing our wrong and our desire to turn from it. No matter if it is 100 times a day, when we become aware of our sin, we need to repent asap. Psalm 51 is a great example of how to confess/repent.
- Self-examine regularly. Don’t just mindlessly go about your day but pay attention to what is going through your mind or what you are feeling in your heart. Do not tolerate ugly thoughts/feelings. Pounce on them like a mongoose on a snake. Be vicious against anything that is contrary to God’s example for us through Jesus Christ. What we tolerate in our inner life could one day bring about our ruin.
- Ask God to search you and see to the offensive way in you (Psalm 139:23-24). Only God can proficiently deal with our sin/temptations but it helps tremendously if we want Him to do that. Our asking Him to root out what dishonors Him/harms us enables that to happen all the more through our willingness and cooperation.
- Refuse to be double-minded. The devil wants us to live with one foot in the world and one foot in our faith. When we are double-minded, seeking to remain only half-hearted in our commitment to God and what He desires for us, then we will be tossed to and fro by our temptations. It will take whole-hearted commitment to God and His ways for our ability to resist the devil and fight against temptation.
- Understand the value of conviction and the powerful tool of praise and worship. The devil does not want us seeing the value of conviction by God nor praising God for what He offers us when we come to Him with our conviction. Learning how to worship more throughout our day helps us grow in our strength in the Lord.
- Trust God to be helping at all times. We are reminded in verse 6 that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. When we are pursuing Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, God is going to be doing a mighty work in us continually. We can be assured that Christ is busy on our behalf whether we are aware of it or not. He is fighting for us every step of the way.
These strategies are vital for a growing, healthy relationship with the Lord. As we seek to live by these strategies, God is going to be changing us from the inside out, making us stronger against temptation. We will be able to resist the devil more effectively even as we enjoy sweet intimacy with our Savior.#10 Strategies for Resisting the Devil and Fighting Against Temptation Click To Tweet