When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
We are very good at externalizing things. When something goes wrong in our life, our first response is to look for someone or something to blame. Our society has programmed us to see ourselves as victims. We embrace this attitude because it relieves us of the responsibility for our actions. If I am a victim, then it is not my fault, therefore I am not responsible.
The Bible gives us a very different perspective. Although we cannot control the circumstances of life or the actions of others, we can control our response to these things. Instead of blaming some external force, our first response should be to look within ourselves. James makes this very clear when he reminds us that God is not the source of our temptations. The real source is the evil desires embedded within our soul.
Because of our sinful nature, there are things within us that would lead us away from God. These seeds of rebellion can take many shapes and forms. If we fail to identify them and deal appropriately with them, they will take root in our life and bear negative fruit. James again comes right to the point. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:15)
These evil desires within us represent our vulnerabilities. These are the areas where we are must susceptible to Satan’s influence. Satan cannot make us do something wrong, but he can use our vulnerabilities against us. He is a master at subtly probing our weaknesses until he can gain entrance into our mind and influence our actions. The real battleground is not the environment in which we live but our very mind. The battleground is within us.
Ken Sande, in his new program Relational Wisdom 360, highlights that self-awareness is a key to godly living. The more aware we are of our own emotional responses to life, the better equipped we are to deal with the circumstances of life appropriately. Being self-aware allows us to be honest with ourselves about our vulnerabilities and then take steps to deal with them.
One of the key things we need to recognize is that we are in a spiritual battle that has eternal consequences. How we live our everyday lives shapes us and will come to fruit in eternity. Paul reminds us of this reality. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) As long as Satan can get us to externalize the battle, he can manipulate us. He gets our eyes focused on the wrong thing so that we are unaware of the real threat.
During WWII, in preparation for the invasion of Normandy, the Allies created a fictional army to convince the Germans that the invasion would take place at Calais. It worked. They focused their attention on Calais. Even after the invasion began, the Germon high command was convinced that it was only a diversion and that the real invasion was still to come.
When Satan gets us to focus on our external circumstances or on a disagreeable co-worker, he is using a diversion tactic to blind us to the real attack. The real attack is on our character. Too often we walk right into the trap, and realize our mistake only after the fact.
Paul tells us that the way to counter the attacks of the enemy is to be fully equipped with the armor of God. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11) We do not face the enemy in our own strength. We face the enemy in the strength and power of God. When we put on the armor of God, we begin to see life from God’s perspective. He opens our eyes and our minds to the reality of our situation. He also gives us the resources to respond in an appropriate way.
The more that we spend time in God’s Word and actively apply it to our lives, the better equipped we will be to face our enemy. Again, James pulls no punches as he addresses our responsibility for our actions. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
We all struggle with the battle within. It is the common experience of every human being. The actual battlefield is unique to each of us, but we all face it. The more aware we are of our personal battlefield the better equipped we will be to withstand the enemy’s attacks. But remember, we are not alone in this. Our strength to resist comes as we yield to the power of God within us.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.