1 Corinthians 10: 13; Genesis 39
Oscar Wilde - "I can resist anything except temptation." We smile when we read those words because they speak about the human condition. Temptation pays a visit to each of us every day and most of us struggle to say no. C. S. Lewis - "no man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good." It is precisely because we can’t resist temptation that we learn how bad we really are—and how greatly we stand in need of God’s grace. Temptation is not new - it is the same for us as it was for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempts us today in the same way he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. From the very beginning a battle has raged for the souls of men and women.
It’s Not a Sin to Be Tempted
We know that our Lord was tempted and was without sin. Was the temptation real? Yes - if the sinless Son of God could be tempted, then temptation itself cannot be sinful. Suppose a young man and a young woman start dating. Few weeks - confesses to his pastor that he is experiencing sexual temptation. Pastor - "Why are you surprised? It would be more surprising if you weren’t being tempted." Temptation is a sign that we still live in a fallen world. It’s not the temptation that matters; it’s how you respond to it.
1 Corinthians 10: 13 - 3 truths –
A. Temptation is the common experience of all Christians.
If you say, "I’ll be glad when I’m not tempted," you’re really saying, "I’ll be glad when I’m dead" because you will be tempted as long as you are alive. Temptation changes shape across the years, but it never goes away completely.
B. God will not put you in a situation where you have to sin.
Pressure may be enormous but he always provides a "way out."
C. God’s "way out" does not remove temptation, but puts you in a position to endure it with grace. We will be tempted over and over again. God promises to give us what we need to resist.
As we lean on the Lord, we discover that even when we are pressed by the devil, God is faithful. There is always a "way out" for those who will take it. No better example of this truth than the case of Joseph in Genesis 39. Here I find 5 principles that will help us in our personal struggle with the temptations of life.
1. Temptation often comes when we least expect it.
The scene is the royal court of Egypt. Potiphar enters the room. He is the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. At his side is a young man, not an Egyptian - he is tall, well-built, blue eyes, casual walk with a high degree of self-confidence. As he follows Potiphar all eyes follow him. He had it all - his name is Joseph. They look good together - not father and son exactly. Potiphar had purchased Joseph as a slave. There is a kind of friendship that stretches across the years and the culture that separates them. Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard, likes this young man from Israel. For his part, Joseph admires his master.
Genesis 39: 2, 3 - Potiphar knew that the Lord’s hand was upon this young man. So he puts Joseph in charge of his house – v. 4, 5. It appears as if Joseph has got it made. Sure, he got sold into slavery by his brothers but things have really turned around. He’s 18 years old and now he’s managing the affairs of one of the most powerful men in Egypt. Joseph is exactly where God wants him to be. How, then, does he get into such trouble? Answer is crucial. There is no contradiction between God’s blessing and your temptations. We often think that if we do what is right, we will never be tempted. But we are much more likely to be tempted when things are going well for us.
If we are never tested when things are going well, we tend to get arrogant and big-headed. Satan tempts us during our good times in order to destroy our testimony. Temptation often blindsides us in the moment of our greatest success because that is when we least expect it. Temptation successfully resisted prepares us to do greater things for God. Lesson - when everything is going your way - when you’ve got the world by the tail - when you just got a promotion - when your popularity has never been higher - when your dreams start to come true - Watch out! Take nothing for granted! Keep your eyes open!
2. Repeated temptation may be resisted by those who know who they are.
Joseph on top of the world - a new character enters - Potiphar’s wife. v. 7 - Living Bible - she "made eyes" at him. As he crossed the room she followed him with her eyes, a smile of satisfaction crossing her face. He was a fine looking man, young and strong the way Potiphar had been when they first met, before too many dinners had spoiled his waistline and before too many late night meetings with Pharaoh had placed permanent bags under his eyes. Yes, this Joseph looked like an excellent companion for a casual affair between "a younger man and an older woman."
She was persistent - when Joseph turned her down she came back. Perhaps she thought he didn’t mean it when he said no - she could wear down his resistance - she thought he wanted to but was afraid to say yes. Back she came, slinking, offering him forbidden fruit, ripe, juicy, his for the taking. Still he said no. Why would a red-blooded young man say no to an available woman? 2 answers:
A. He was loyal to his boss. v. 8, 9a
B. He was loyal to God. v. 9b
Joseph did the right thing because he knew that adultery was wrong. We like to rename sin to make it sound less sinful. Instead of a hard word like "adultery," we use words like "affair," "fling," "one-night stand," and we even call it "making love." Call it what you like. Adultery is still sin because God says so.
Joseph knew he belonged to God. When a man knows that he belongs to God, it makes the decisions of life easier. If you belong to God, you can’t sleep with your boss’s wife. It’s just that simple. It doesn’t matter that she’s lonely or attractive or available or anything else. You just can’t do it. End of story. No discussion. He didn’t mess around. He didn’t flirt with trouble. He didn’t say, "How far can I go?" He just said no! He didn’t apologize for saying no and he didn’t worry about hurting her feelings.
3. God’s way of escape is not easy and must be quickly taken.
List of excuses Joseph might have given for sleeping with Potiphar’s wife: We’re all alone (true). She made me do it (true). No one else will know (probably true). She’s in a bad marriage (possible). I’m single and I have needs too (true). I deserve this (not true). Everyone fools around (not true, but it sounds good). God will understand (definitely not true, but a popular excuse).
Joseph reasoned with Potiphar’s wife, then he avoided her as much as possible, but in the end she forced the issue. It was all or nothing. Either he slept with her or he faced losing his job – v.12.
When she grabbed him, he made up his mind in an instant. He started running and never looked back. When she said, "Why don’t you stay for awhile?" he said, "I’d love to, but I’ve got to run." That’s exactly what he did. Out the door, across the lawn, over the hedge, dodging camels as he went.
We need to make up our minds in advance. What will you do when you are tempted to do wrong? Don’t wait until she’s playing games with you. It’s too late then. Make up your mind now, before it happens, so that when it happens, you’ll know exactly what to do. There is a time to talk and a time to stop talking - time to stay and a time to go - time to walk and a time to run away. You’ve got to move fast. God isn’t obligated to give you a 2nd chance to get out clean. He promised to make a way but he isn’t obligated to give you 3 choices in case you don’t like the first 2.
4. Those who resist temptation are not rewarded by the world.
Potiphar’s wife wasn’t too happy about all this. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. 2 things happen -
A. She makes a false accusation v.13 - 18. She accuses Joseph of attempted rape. When she calls him "a Hebrew,” there is even a touch of racism in her words.
B. Joseph is unjustly imprisoned v.19, 20. When Potiphar heard this story, his anger burned. So he had Joseph thrown into jail with the common criminals. How could such a thing happen? It happened because the world cannot understand a believer with conviction. That’s why Joseph was locked up. He knew who he was and he acted on his convictions. His reward was a trip to jail.
The good news is you can stand up to temptation. The bad news is you may end up losing your popularity in the process. After all, the world crucified Jesus. Why should we get off any easier?
5. God honours those who dare to say no.
We need to see how the story ends - not the way we might have expected. v. 21 – 23. Because of his faithfulness to God, he lost his job, his freedom, and his reputation. He appears to be a ruined man. This story proves that God honours those who dare to say no. It may not appear that way at first. Things may not work out exactly like we think they will. But when we have the courage to say "No" to temptation, God takes care of the details. Remember, it’s always better to do right the first time. There are some things worse than going to jail for doing right. One of them is living in the prison of a guilty conscience. It is better to do right and sleep well than to toss and turn because you couldn’t say "No."
This story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife opens with Joseph enjoying good success because "the Lord was with him." Although he ends up in jail, even there he prospers because "the Lord was with him." In between he proves himself worthy of greatness because he knew how to say no.
Remember - Temptation comes to all of us. Temptation itself is not a sin. How you respond makes all the difference. God is faithful to us when we are tempted. In the moment of temptation, we must be faithful to him. Here are 4 "Don’ts" that will help you think clearly about your own personal struggles: Don’t be surprised when temptation knocks at your door. Don’t be deceived by persuasive voices. Don’t be gentle with your emotions. Don’t be confused by the immediate results.
Three Simple Words
If we are going to be victorious over temptation, we must do what Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him: Just Say No. When you are tempted to do wrong this week, Just Say No. When someone says, "Come sleep with me," take a deep breath, leave your coat behind, run the other way and Just Say No. When Satan whispers in your ear, "Go on. Everyone else is doing it." Remember, everyone else isn’t doing it, and Just Say No.
When you feel like giving someone a piece of your mind, grin and bear it and Just Say No. When a friend says, "You want to hear a good joke?" and you know the joke will do you no good, look him straight in the eye and Just Say No. When the boss asks you to sign a report and you know the numbers on it aren’t right, remember who you are, smile at him and Just Say No. When your mind plays tricks on you and says, "Go ahead. No one will see you," remember that God sees everything you do, and then Just Say No. When you find yourself down and out, up against the wall, nothing is going right, you are hopelessly entangled, you see no way out of the mess you are in, before you say something you shouldn’t say or do something you shouldn’t do, before you blow your top, remember that God still loves you and then Just Say No.
I believe the key to resisting temptation lies in knowing who you are. And whose you are. Christian, do you know that you belong to God? His name is tattooed on your soul and written on your heart. You belong to him - should make a difference when you hear the seductive voice of temptation. Romans 12:1 tells us to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices. Why your body? If God has your body, he’s got you. If you decide that your body belongs to God, you’ll find it much easier to say no when the devil comes knocking at your door. Have you presented the parts of your body to God? Lord, here are my hands, my lips, my eyes, my ears, my feet, my heart, my mind, Lord, here are my most private parts.
If you ever decide to get that specific with God, you’ll find a level of joy and freedom in Christ you never knew before. Temptation is the common experience of the people of God. We will never escape it as long as we live in a fallen world. But God has given us everything we need to win the battle every time.
Stand and fight, child of God. The Lord is on your side.