How can we be ready for the lure of temptation?

“Congratulations!” said the voice on the phone. “You’ve won $400,000 and a new BMW. Have you ever won anything before? What are you thinking and feeling right now?”

“I have won a few little things through the years,” I said, “but, who is this and how am I supposed to have won these things?”

“You won this through your phone contract or through your grocery shopping. You do shop at ‘X’ stores, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said hesitantly,” I shop there but I still don’t understand.”

“Your dreams are coming true today,” said the voice. “Why are you so hesitant?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m skeptical because I expect that sooner or later you’ll ask me for a credit card, bank number or cash.”

“No, I don’t need personal information,” continued the voice. “I tell you, I’m honest and I’m excited for you. As a matter of fact, the truck with your car and cash just left Stanley and is headed for Minot. You only need to go to ‘X’ store and pick up the voucher to receive the car and money.”

“Stanley?” I continued hesitantly.

“I promise you that this is the best day of your life,” he said. “Can you go to the store now? How long would it take you to get there? I’ll stay on the line with you and help you with the whole procedure. Have you dreamed of starting your own business? Just think of how exciting that would be!”

“Actually my husband and I are missionaries so we probably won’t start a business,” I said.

“Isn’t that amazing,” he continued. “I’m a pastor myself! Just think of all the ways this money can help you.”

Next the voice told me that I needed to process 199 to receive the voucher. He never used the word “dollars” and refused to call the “process” a transfer of money. Then he said that I needed to find Western Union. I asked why I needed Western Union if there was to be no fund transfer. He insisted that the transfer was not for the car but for the voucher to get the car. I then hung up on him.

The above real story is an example of temptation’s lure. There are promises of great happiness and dreams fulfilled. Everyone is tempted at one time or another. Jesus himself was not exempt. He was tempted to turn stone to bread when he had not eaten for 40 days. He was tempted to jump off a high cliff to prove that the angels would protect him. He was tempted to bow to Satan and then Satan would give him the whole world to rule. Jesus responded with Scripture such as: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Matthew 4:10

We are warned that temptation will be lurking everywhere. “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7b

Jesus named the source of temptation. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Yet, each temptation we face is not unique nor does being tempted leave us helpless. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Just as Jesus used the words of the Bible to conquer his temptations, we must know the Bible well enough so that it can be an effective tool in the face of temptation. Just as we exercise our bodies and minds to improve our health we need to exercise our spiritual knowledge through Bible study so that we can use the Bible’s tools. Then when temptation comes, we are armed and ready for the attack.

Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators.