A common theme I hear when counseling men struggling with pornography addiction is that they feel ashamed over being tempted. The shame sounds something like this,
Yeah, I thought I was doing pretty good, but, yesterday I woke up and I was just plagued with thoughts and couldn’t seem to get away from it. I thought by now I would be past that…
But this is nothing of which to be ashamed. Being tempted does not mean you have failed. Being tempted does not mean that you are not making strides in your sobriety or towards holiness. Being tempted does not mean you are far from God.
Rather, being tempted means you are alive.
How do I know this? Because Jesus, God in flesh, was tempted. At the beginning of his ministry, just after his mountain top experience of baptism, he was tempted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. And at the end of his ministry, just prior to his crucifixion, he was tempted to let the cup of God’s wrath pass from him. In both cases he chose the will of God over what his flesh wanted. In both cases he chose to obey God rather than his emotions.
Because Jesus experienced temptation I know that I will, and you will, too. In fact, the bible tells us to expect it. Paul writes to Christians in Corinth,
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).
From this we can learn a couple of things. First, my temptations and your temptations are not unique. You aren’t the only one going through what you are going through. You may feel like you are, but countless others have battled the same thing…and won. Nothing has overtaken you which isn’t common to all mankind. Second, you can overcome it. Not on your own, of course, and not by your own power, but you can resist whatever is raging a war within you. Yes, it will feel like hell. Yes, it will be the fight of your life. Yes, it will feel like you are going against every impulse and desire you have. But you will endure. God will make sure of it.
When you are tempted, you are being given an opportunity to obey God rather than the enemy who is pursuing your soul so long as you are breathing this side of heaven (1 Peter 5:8). Your success of failure is not to be found in the temptation itself – we are all tempted – but in your response to it. And the longer you walk in obedience to God the stronger you will become at warding off not only this present temptation nipping at your heels, but future ones as well.
Some practical helps with tempted:
- Keep focused on good thoughts. It’s imperative that you be rooted in God’s word and preach the gospel to yourself at all times. You must be renewed- and continue being renewed- in your mind (Rom. 12:1-2) or you won’t make it out the gate.
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 (Phil. 4:8).
- Get a spiritual partner. Find someone you can confide in and who will hold you accountable. Rigorous honest with another human being (and with God) is a must.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.(Eccl. 4:9-10)
- Pray the Mercy Prayer. When I was tempted and battling a war in my head I prayed this prayer sometimes a thousand times a day. I went to bed exhausted from the battle, but victorious. This prayer will change your heart if you take it seriously. Learn more about it HERE.
God wants us to become like His Son, Jesus Christ. That means you and I will experience all that Jesus experienced, which includes temptation. But you need not be a victim. With Christ, you can be more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37).