Three Resources for Resisting Temptation
Trials have a way of intensifying temptations. A financial trial, for example, could amplify the temptation to not give to the Lord. Relational trials could tempt us to hold grudges. Health-related trials could tempt us with the thought that God is uncaring. Even the smallest of trials—like a child not wanting to eat their vegetables—could tempt us to respond in unloving ways.
Naturally, temptations are a part of everyday life, but they seem to hit us harder when we walk through trials. Peter understood this well, so he made sure to address this in his letter to first-century Christians who were suffering trials of various kinds (1 Peter 1:6). With his final thoughts, as he brought his letter to a close, he encouraged our early brothers and sisters-in-Christ to live alertly and to resist the enemy, firm-footed in the faith.
Here is what he wrote:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… (1 Peter 5:7-8)
With these words, he reminds all Christians—even us today—that Satan is like a murderous lion who seeks to swallow God’s image-bearers whole. Of course, he’s not as powerful as our Redeemer, the true Lion of Judah. Even when presented as a lion, Satan is a weak counterfeit in comparison to the Lord, who has power and dominion over all creation (1 Peter 5:11). Nonetheless, Satan is still the ruler of this evil world (Ephesians 2:1-2; 1 John 5:19), and that means he has very real power in a world that is filled with very real spiritual danger, usually presented to us in the form of temptation, especially in our trials. So, Peter calls us to be alert to Satan’s murderous schemes, which Paul refers to as fiery “arrows” (Ephesians 6:16). With alert minds, therefore, we are called to resist the devil (cf. Ephesians 6:11; James 4:7) and to say “No” to his temptations (Titus 2:12).
A natural question arises: how can we resist him? How can we stand firm against his tactics? For the answer to this all-important question, we must turn to God, who graciously gives us everything we need to resist our enemy.
The Spirit of God
First, God graciously gives us his own Spirit. This is something he promised long ago (Ezekiel 36:26-27)—a promise he has fulfilled for us in Christ (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit, who now lives within Christians (1 Corinthians 3:16), graciously guides us and empowers us for Christlike, holy living (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:22). When Peter calls us to resist Satan and to resist temptation, therefore, he doesn’t call us to do it in our own strength, but rather in the strength provided by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:7).
Certainly, we can exercise our own self-control against temptation (even non-believers can resist temptation at times), but our own self-control can only take us so far, and that’s because our own flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). What we need is Spirit-enabled self-control, and this means we must rely upon the Spirit of God to resist the many temptations we face in life. This starts with a humble admission that we need the Lord for our daily living. Further, this means we must continually approach God for the strengthening grace we need to stand firm in the faith. This is the reason why Jesus calls us to pray for strength (Mark 14:38), “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The Word of God
Second, God graciously gives us his living Word. Through it, we learn of God’s good character and nature as his message of salvation is revealed to us. But it also empowers us to holy living during our exile on this earth. In short, God’s Word is transformative. From beginning to end, throughout our entire lives as followers of Christ, we are taught, corrected, and trained through it (2 Timothy 3:16), so that we would do good (2 Timothy 3:17). If we want to resist Satan—if we want to stand firm as doers of good—we would do well to continually feed upon the Word of God which graciously empowers us to live in faithfulness to the Lord (Psalm 119:9).
The People of God
Third, God graciously gives us the body of Christ. It’s not just that God mercifully empowers us through his Spirit and his Word; he also gives us an entire family of faith to rely on. The Christian life is not meant to be lived as an island, isolated from other islands. We’re meant to experience the richness of living as one people united around the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:42, 44). This means we belong not only to God, but to one another, as well, as adopted members of the spiritual family of God (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 3:6). So, when Peter calls us to resist and stand firm, he calls us to do so together. This isn’t something that’s merely implied, either. When Peter says, “Be alert… resist him” (1 Peter 5:8-9), his imperative verbs are written in the plural, as in “You all be alert; you all resist him.” Resisting firmly in the faith is something we do collectively, together.
Our struggle, of course, is either our own pride or our shame (or both). They’re the two hurdles that keep us from turning to one another for help against temptation. But if we want to resist Satan’s fiery darts, we must be willing to set our pride and shame aside in order to turn to each other for the accountability and encouragement we need to grow in faithfulness to the Lord. God has graciously brought us into relationship with each other in the church; may we be humble enough to confess our struggles to one another so that we could pray for one another (James 5:16) and encourage one another as we faithfully point each other to Christ. Conversely, may we live as trusted sources for others who come to us for that kind of help, keeping confidentiality out of love for our family-in-Christ.
Our Faithful Sustainer
God has given us everything we need in our spiritual fight against the one who wants to devour us. He has given us his Spirit; he has given us his Word; he has even given us his people. He is the faithful one who sustains us and provides us with all we need to stand firm (1 Corinthians 10:13). May we turn to and rely on the resources he’s given us to endure faithfully.
By God’s grace alone,