If you’re serious about dealing with the temptations that pursue you day after day, you may need to take a few steps back––a few wise steps toward safety and away from the temptation.
A friend of mine in another city had to take a few steps back in the area of sexual sin. One afternoon, we pulled up in front of a convenience store to get a paper. As I was about to get out of the car, he said, “Don’t go. I’ll send Sarah.” Sarah was his eight-year-old daughter. He gave her some change and off she went, barely able to open the door by herself.
I made a humorous comment about his being too lazy to get the paper himself. His reply, however, explained why he sent his daughter and why he was the godly man I knew him to be. “You see,” he said, “I used to go in all the time. But … to the left is a magazine rack. It’s full of trashy magazines. Every time I’d go in I would battle the temptation to pick one up and flip through it. I decided the wisest thing to do would be to send Sarah. That way I could avoid the temptation altogether.”
Now that’s taking a few steps back. Does my friend think it’s wrong to go into convenience stores? No. That is not the question at all. The question is, “What is the wisest thing to do?”
I have another close friend who battled with changing the channel when something of inferior quality came on. He would sit for hours, late into the night, watching whatever was on. He had to take a few steps back. He made it a rule never to turn on the television and just flip through the channels. He always checks first to see if there is anything on worth watching. He learned that it’s easier to walk away from the programming guide than from an actual show.
I believe this principle alone could eliminate some of the most difficult temptations confronting you. You say, “But you don’t even know me.” That may be true. But the people with whom I have shared this principle, and who have taken it seriously, always see a dramatic decrease in the power of the temptations with which they struggle.
Let me warn you that it may be a simple principle, but it is not always an easy one to apply. People will not understand why you can no longer go with them to the places you used to go. Even some of your Christian friends won’t understand. They’ll think you’re being legalistic or “holier than thou.” Your lost friends certainly won’t understand. Their comments may sting. “He can’t go. He’s a Christian.” You may find yourself sitting at home more often.
But let me ask you again; are you really serious about gaining victory over temptation? If you are, are you willing to take a few steps back? Are you ready to step back away from the edge as if to say, “That’s okay. I can see fine from here”? Are you willing to evaluate every opportunity in light of your past, experiences, your present state of mind, and your future goals, plans and dreams? Are you willing to question every invitation and decision in light of what is the “wisest” thing to do?
Are you willing to use your spare time carefully, not always reaching for the radio or the television or the newspaper? And are you willing to face up to what you know in your heart God wants from your life? If you are, why don’t you take a few minutes right now and think through those areas in which you feel you need to take a step or two back. Write them down. Perhaps you’ll want to take an index card and record the key point of this article and put it in a prominent place so that you’ll see it often. Then pray and ask God to forgive you for ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to increase your sensitivity to His Spirit as He leads you down the path of wisdom and away from the danger zones.
Adapted from “Winning the War Within: Facing Trials, Temptations, and Inner Struggle,” by Charles F. Stanley, 1988.