What tempts you? What grabs your attention? What type of things are hard to pull away from or push out of your mind? Although I ate dry dog food with the family dog as a young child, cat treats don't tempt me now. ;-) I don't want to make light of struggling with temptation or lust, but what is seductive for us may not be so for another.
Whatever temptations we do have are indicators of the deeper issue of lust—unsatisfiable desire.
Temptation is common to all
Talking with a fellow pastor, I shared that gambling was never a temptation for me. I struggled with other things but not that. He told me gambling was an issue with him, more than other things.
One person's temptation may be met with indifference by another.
Temptation is common to us all, even if it's in a different form. We aren't alone in this struggle, nor are our issues unique. Here is what the apostle Paul reminds us—
The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it. (1 Cor 10:13 NCV)
Temptation is not lust
Let's be clear—temptation is not lust. Temptation is not sin, but it can be a gateway to lust.
God doesn't tempt us (James 1:12-15). Now, the devil may tempt us, but we are still responsible for how we respond. We can't just blame the devil or lust itself. As I said last week, lust resides and rises up from within us.
So, how can we break the power of lust in our life? What's the key to be free of it?
It's not the exertion of our will power. Again, in Paul's words—
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Rom 7:15, 18, 19 NIV)
The key is opposite to what we might think, and opposite of what we too often may do with temptation and lust.
The key is surrender.
Not surrender to temptation and lust, that would be sin—missing the mark, which is sin in its most basic sense. So, it's not giving into temptation and the lure of lust.
The key to breaking the power of lust is to surrender our will to God.
Jesus is our prime example
When Jesus battled in prayer in the garden at Gethsemane, asking His closest followers to pray with Him, He battled with surrendering His will (Matt 26:36-46).
Think it was not a struggle for Jesus? Luke's gospel tells us He was in such agony His sweat became drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Jesus understands humanity's struggle with self-will from a human perspective. God identified with us in-person.
And He endured these things for a purpose. The book of Hebrews reveals that Jesus is able to relate to our struggle with temptation and lust because of what He endured (Hebrews 2:18).
Too simple or too hard?
Does the idea of surrendering your will to God sound too easy? It's not, but it is the key to be free of the power of lust.
The surrender of our self-will can be a challenge. Think of how difficult it can be to admit you are wrong, even when it's obvious. Or how about being open and honest with others about your struggles and shortcomings? We all have them, but we tend to hide such things from others.
Like most things, it's best to start off simple and little by little. Our mistake is expecting an all-or-nothing option. We want to just take care of things once and for all.
Jesus destroyed the power of sin—including lust— once and for all (Heb 10:10, 14) so we could be free, but we must battle the struggle against it until we are present with Jesus. Yet, it is a battle assisted by God's Spirit, not waged by our own strength of will (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 NCV).
The path of surrender
The surrender of our will is a lifelong process. It's the path we walk following Jesus.
We are all called to walk this path (Matt 16:24), but it is tailored for each one of us. Because each of us is an individual, and we have our own free will. We are created in God's image.
But how? How do we walk this path?
There are no short cuts, nor "ten easy steps" that I can give you. But I can recommend a book that has helped me for a few decades, The Calvary Road, by Roy Hession. It is simple and short, but it can be a challenging read.
This book isn't hard to understand, but it challenges a person at their core—their self-will.
Here's a simple step of action—
Make a choice to surrender your will to God at least once a day this week.
Keep it simple, don't go for a home-run. Take simple, short steps as you learn to surrender your will to God in all things.