When I think about difficulties in life, I often think of the struggles I face from external factors. A few come to mind right away: financial issues, work problems, family drama, and health concerns. While it is true that we face external difficulties, one thing I have found in my own life is that the most difficult battle I face is the one within, the battle to do what’s right in my own heart. I know right from wrong and I know what the Word of God says about sin and its consequences, but I still find myself stuck in an internal conflict, more often than I’d like to admit. It is one thing to know what’s right but it’s a different thing to do what is right. We all have areas of weakness in our lives, areas where we need to rely on God’s grace and strength above our own. I have come to realize that I need to rely on God’s grace and strength in every area of my life, not just the so-called weak areas.
James 1:13-14 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (ESV).” James, the Apostle, is talking about the war within. He provides us a little insight about the battles we face. First, he tells us that God is not the source of our temptation. Second, he tells us that we are the source of our own temptation. It is my own sin nature battling within me that causes the conflict. Third, he tells us that, in many cases, we can’t blame the devil. Now, he doesn’t directly say that, but he does say it by omission. It would have been fairly easy for James to point the finger at Satan if Satan was the primary source of our problem. The sad truth is that most of us do Satan’s work for him.
The good news is that Jesus gives us the answer to why we battle within and how to win the battle. In Matthew 26:41, Jesus says, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (NKJV).” We have this eternal battle because our spirit has been made alive by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and our new, made-alive spirit is at war with our old sin nature (often referred to as “the flesh” in Scripture). So, that is the “why” behind the battle…now, let’s talk about how we can win these battles. I am going to give you 8 points that have helped me win the war within and I believe they will help you as well.
- Know your weakness. Understand the areas that you are most often tempted in and use God’s word to learn how to respond to them. Find Scriptures that strengthen you and use the Word as your weapon. (Hebrews 4:12)
- Make informed decision. An informed decision is one that not only looks at now but also looks at tomorrow. It is one that includes the consequences and not just the impulse of the moment. (Romans 6:23)
- Don’t allow your temptation to fester. When something tempts us, it is rare that the temptation starts at the exact moment we complete the act. It usually starts in our heart and mind long before we actually do it. As soon as the thoughts start to emerge, start speaking the Word. Allowing the thoughts to remain is what usually leads to sin. (Matthew 26:41)
- Call for help. Don’t be afraid to tell God that you are struggling and need His help. The truth of the matter is that He knows you are struggling, so he will not be shocked by what’s going on in your heart, but He will also not force Himself on you. You have to invite Him in to your situation. Never let the devil convince you that your situation is too “dirty” for God to get involved. Never let shame keep you from salvation. (Philippians 4:6)
- Use temptation as a training opportunity and a chance to put the devil in his place. When you initially feel tempted, resisting it shows God, and you, how much you have grown, and it shows the devil that he no longer has that stronghold in your life… but understand that this is only accomplished by submitting to God (giving the situation to Him) and using the Word of God as your weapon to defeat temptation. (James 4:7)
- Don’t make it easy. Don’t paint a bulls-eye on your chest. If you struggle with alcohol, don’t go to the bar. If you struggle with sex related things, don’t watch things or go to places that will fill your head with those thoughts. You don’t have to “face your fear or temptation” to prove something to God. Some temptations are unavoidable, but we need to make sure we control the ones we can control. (Matthew 26:41)
- Be Accountable. Even Jesus was tempted (yet without sin), so understand that it happens to everyone. As believers, it is important that we hold ourselves, and one another, accountable. If you see your brother or sister caught up in sin, hold them accountable and pray that they do the same for you. (Romans 14:1-15)
- Think on these things. (Philippians 4:8-9) – Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I’ve given you 8 points to help you win the war within. I know the list is not all encompassing, but it is a good place to start. I pray that God will use this blog to help you the way he has used it to help me. I will admit, I still get tempted and I still give in sometimes, but I understand God’s plan and purpose enough to know that He still loves me, forgives me, and wants to fulfill His purpose in my life. Never allow guilt and shame to keep you from God’s best. We all make mistakes. Romans 3:23 says that we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but the good news is that we serve a redeeming God. God wants to fight the war within with you; you don’t have to fight it alone. All you have to do is invite Him in. God loves you and He wants you to have a life full of righteousness, peace, and joy. He sent His Son to die for you and for me so we can have life in Him and have victory in the battles. Live victoriously in Jesus!
J. Nathaniel Blizzard