A Full Proof Plan for How to Overcome Temptation
Are you Christian trying to navigate how to stop temptation or how to overcome temptation? I’ve got a full-proof plan that can help you but before we dig into the exact how-to’s, I want to set the stage for a conversation that’s going to teach you all about temptation from a biblical worldview.
Would you believe that every person in the Bible that we’ve put on a pedestal has struggled with temptation in some shape or form in their lives?
Adam and Eve; The first of God’s human creation (Genesis chapter 3).
Abraham, the man God appointed to be the father of many nations, and his wife Sarah (Genesis chapter 16).
David; the man after God’s own heart (we’ll talk more about him shortly).
Jesus; the Son of God and Savior of our souls (more on this story too!).
Judas; the disciple who betrayed God (we’ll learn from his example too).
Peter; the disciple who set the foundation for the New Testament church.
Each of these people responded to temptation differently and because of that, they each experienced different consequences. There is one lesson we can learn from these stories that are consistent across the board. The fact that we’ve experienced temptation is not a reflection of our heart or our commitment to God. However; our response to that can tell us a lot about our heart posture and where we are at in our relationship with God.
In this article we’re going to use the Bible stories above to cover the basics of temptation and give you a full proof, biblically sounds battle plan for how to overcome temptation.
What is temptation?
What does the Bible say about overcoming temptation?
How can we be practical about protecting ourselves from temptation?
Bible verses about temptation and of how to overcome temptation Bible verses.
You’ll find the answers to each of those questions here, PLUS a proven 6 ways to overcome temptation as demonstrated by Jesus Himself.
What Is Temptation?
Temptation is the act of being enticed to do what we know is wrong; usually for the purpose of pleasure of personal gain.
In Proverbs 1:10, King Solomon defines temptation as being enticed by sin or sinners.
I have yet to meet a person who has not dealt with temptation on some level in their lives. It’s present in nearly every area of our lives from recreation to education, family life, business, so on. Sometimes it feels small. We don’t stress about it because the negative impact was minimal. A little fib, a prideful thought, a quick glance. Yet in many other circumstances giving into temptation is the beginning of life-long battles; crime, addiction, health obstacles, spiritual decay, relationship damage…
Are you experiencing any of these things? It could be that you’re dealing with some unidentified temptations in your life. And chances are they started out small and some of them may even trace back as far as your youth.
Here are some common temptations of youth today:
- Dismissing wise counsel
- Rebelling against parents
- Peer pressure
- Unhealthy friendships
- Unhealthy romantic relationships
- Lying to avoid trouble or conflict
- Godless entertainment
Many of these habits stick with us in our youth and create strongholds in our lives as adults. Other habits we pick up as we enter adulthood. What does that often look like?
Here’s a list of 10 modern day temptations that many of us have carried from our youth into adulthood:
- Neglecting our bodies (which often looks like unhealthy food and nutrition choices but can show up in other ways as well).
- Poor relationship boundaries (infidelity, sex outside of marriage, casual sex).
- Entertaining lust.
- The temptation to let our emotions go take the lead and go unchecked).
- Godless entertainment
- Addiction (in its many forms)
- Pride (obsessing over self)
- Poor money management (because of our “have it now” culture)
It doesn’t matter where you fall on the sin and temptation scale, giving in to temptation is never harmless. Not all of these things affect our salvation, but they can interrupt our relationship with God and our ability to do the work He has for us.
If we want to get good at overcoming temptation, we need to get a clear understanding of what temptation is and rightly discerning, “what causes temptation?”
Where Does Temptation Come From?
The Bible teaches there are three sources of temptation. Each of these types of temptation can be conquered in the same way. What are the three sources of temptation?
- Our flesh (which is another way of saying our human nature).
- The world and our desire for the things of this world.
- The devil.
We separate these sources for the sake of comprehension, but really, the temptations we face are the results of sin entering the world via the devil and his agenda. Sin is the problem.
Temptation never comes from God. In fact, in the Bible God promises that He will not allow us to endure temptation beyond what we can bear and that when (not if, but when) we are tempting, He’ll provide a way of escape (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). God does not lead us into temptation. He does though, offers us freedom and a way out.
Real quick, let’s walk through some Bible stories about temptation that will help you understand each source and the causes of temptation.
King David’s Battle With Temptation of the Flesh
Chances are you have heard this story before. It’s found in 2 Samuel chapter 11.
It was spring in Judah; the time of year when kings lead their armies into battle. David was a warrior and had led his armies in many battles, but this spring was different. David decided to stay in Jerusalem. One night David got up from his bed and went to the roof of his home. While up there, his eyes fell upon Bathsheba. She was beautiful. So beautiful King David sent to find out more about her.
What did he discover? Bathsheba was married; not to just any man but to Uriah, a devoted warrior in his army.
That should have been enough information for King David to stop pursuing Bathsheba. Logic, law, and integrity would all tell him that Bathsheba was off-limits. David sent for her anyway. He was lead by his flesh; his body’s desire for pleasure outside of what God called good or acceptable.
Thankfully God saw. David’s actions didn’t go unaddressed. God held him accountable and there were consequences for the choices he made (see 2 Samuel chapter 12). David allowed the Lord to correct him and God willingly forgave him. You can find David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm chapter 51.
Judas Tempted by the Wealth of the World.
Remember how we mentioned some temptations seem small while others come with great risk and obvious consequences? That’s how I would describe the consequences of the temptation Judas faced; bigger than he imagined.
Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He walked, talked, laughed, ate with, and was taught by Jesus himself. Jesus poured so much love into him.
But Judas had a weakness. Two actually; one was his unbelief about Jesus as the Messiah. The second; Judas was a thief (John 12:6). Neither of these facts was a surprise to Jesus (see John 6:64), but they both play a significant piece in Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. These are the reasons Judas was confident in going to the Pharisees and welcoming their propositions.
“Then one of the twelve Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
He was tempted by money. This was a temptation he had battled and lost many times. We don’t have any hints about the prior consequences Judas faced for stealing, but this time would be different. His decision to betray Jesus had big consequences. You’ll find the specifics in John 13:26 and Matthew 27:3-9).
Adam and Eve Face Temptation From the Devil
The story of Adam and Eve is one of the most common examples of temptation in the Bible. It’s popular for a couple of reasons. It starts at the beginning of the Bible (Genesis chapter 3 to be specific). It’s mankind’s first encounter with temptation. Adam and Eve’s response to temptation is the reason sin was able to enter the world.
Genesis chapter 1 covers the creation of the heavens and the Earth.
Genesis chapter 2 covers the beginning of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
In Genesis 2:15-16, along with an abundance of freedom and provision, God gave Adam one boundary.
‘And the Lord commanded the man saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall eat; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ‘ Genesis 3:15
At this point, Adam didn’t have knowledge of what sin and evil really were. All he had ever experienced was God, His love, and His goodness. The world hadn’t been tainted by sin yet and Adam and Eve had no idea of the consequences of it. By honoring this boundary, Adam and Eve would partner with God to protect the righteousness of the world and their relationship with God.
In Genesis chapter 3 the devil makes a sly attempt to disrupt both of those things; the righteousness of the world and mankind’s relationship with God. He starts by tempting Eve to doubt the truthfulness of God.
“…Has God indeed said you shall not eat of every tree in the garden?..” (Genesis 3:1)
“…You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 4-5)
Notice how the devil is tempting Eve to deny the reality of God’s instruction? It was that seed of doubt that caused Eve to challenge what she knew about God, His character, and His will for her. A few short moments later and both Adam and Eve had turned a blind eye to God’s instructions and exchanged them for the devils.
They expected blessing to follow them. As mentioned earlier, and as shown in the remainder of Genesis and the Bible, giving in to temptation is never harmless. In Adam and Eve’s case, giving in to temptation affected the entire world. That one moment introduced mankind to a lifelong spiritual battle between good and evil.
What are the Affects of Temptation?
How does temptation affect us? Each story above gives us an example of how temptation affects our lives spiritually and tangibly.
From David, we learn that giving in to temptation often alters our character. It causes us to step out of alignment with the traits that reflect God, His love for us, and our love for Him.
From Judas, we learn that giving in to temptation can desensitize us to sin and harden our hearts.
Adam and Eve’s choice to give in to temptation taught us that temptations we aren’t willing to resist can and will eventually lead us away from God.
Satan Tempts Jesus.
In Luke chapter 4 we get a detailed description of an encounter between the devil and Jesus in the desert (when Satan tempts Jesus). Jesus had been fasting for forty days in preparation for his public ministry. Three times the devil tried to get Jesus to yield to him instead of God.
Keep in mind this is a face-to-face encounter with the devil.
He tempted Him with food, attempting to appease His flesh (Matthew 4:3-4).
He offered Jesus his own power, wealth, and kingdoms; attempting to entice Him with worldly lusts. (Matthew 4:8-11).
How did Jesus respond? What did He use to counter each opposition of the devil?
He kept His attention on God.
He pulled strength and direction from God’s words (the Bible).
In Luke chapter 22, just before Jesus was arrested in the garden called Gethsemane, He reminds His disciples about a key tool for overcoming temptation.
“When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
When He rose up from prayer and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Prayer is an essential piece of overcoming obstacles like temptation.
One last piece of advice we can take from Jesus’ example of how to overcome temptation is found in verse in look,
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will by Yours be done.” Luke 22:41-42
Instead of being tempted to save himself, Jesus held fast to his purpose. He made God’s will His ambition.
6 Proven Principles for How to Overcome Temptation
Whether you’re wondering how to resist temptation sexually, how to resist temptation in a relationship, or how to resist temptation with food; these 6 practices can lead you to freedom every time. Each principle is tied to what the Bible says about how to overcome temptation. Under each principle, I’ll share practical tips that you can start using today to move you closer to the freedom you’re desiring.
- Keep your attention on God.
- Seek God for instruction or an escape.
- Lean into God’s strength.
- Ask God to change your heart.
- Remember what God has saved you from
- Set boundaries to protect what matters most.
We Overcome Temptation By Keeping Our Attention On God
In so many ways this sounds oversimplified, but hear me out. Before temptation ever takes place on the outside (in our actions), it surfaces on the inside (in our hearts). It very much begins as an internal conflict. Our desires vs. God’s desires.
As Christians, the very purpose of our lives is to bring glory to God. When our desires get in the way of that the best decision we can make is to take our eyes off of us and put our attention back on the God who is worthy of it.
How do we make this practical? When temptation surfaces in your heart or mind here are 3 ways you can respond:
- Verbally, declare your choice. Say it out loud. God, I choose You. I choose to honor You with the choice I’m about to make.
- Worship. If you can’t get yourself to make a definite no, be still and worship until you can. You might need to change your setting. You might need to set down your phone, book, or magazine, maybe turn off the TV; whatever it is that’s battling for your attention. Turn your attention back to God, how great He is, and how deep His love for you is.
- Say Thank you. Temptation can only thrive when there is discontent in our lives. When our attention is on all that God’s provided in our lives, how He’s been present, how He’s come through for us – It’s really hard to want to give attention to anything that could pull us away from Him. Thankfulness clears our heart of envy and brings us to a place of contentment.
This is a verbal reminder that we are not ruled by how we feel. God has given us authority over our thoughts and actions. Instead of being enticed by sin or responding impulsively to it, we have the authority to say, no. Sometimes we need to hear ourselves say the words so that they become a reality to us.
These steps will lead you to the next best practice; resisting temptation.
Overcoming Temptation By Leaning On God’s Instructions
To resist means to take action in opposing.
How does the Bible say to resist temptation? According to Jame 4:7, it starts with submitting to God. Knowing his ways and walking in them. Could it be that some of the temptations we struggle with could be overcome through simple obedience?
Jesus found his way out of temptation by following the instruction God had given them in the Torah (the beginning portions of the Old Testament Bible).
Think about the temptations you’re facing. Have you studied the Bible to see if God offers instructions or guidance in those areas? When you find it, are you willing to cling to it?
In 1 Corinthians 10:15, Paul writes,
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:15
Sometimes that escape comes through obedience.
If that’s the case, are we willing to accept His way of escape?
Be bold friend, step out in obedience.
We Overcome Temptation By Leaning On God’s Strength and Instruction (the Bible)
Sometimes resisting temptation can be chalked up to personal discipline. Other times we need a greater strength to help us get the job done. What strengthens us to overcome temptation?
How do I stop being tempted? I draw near to God.
Temptation is a battle that is best fought with God. We were not created to battle sin on our own and when we try to, we often fail. We need God’s strength and grace when we stand against temptation.
I love how Paul explains this tension in Romans chapter 7.
“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do… For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Romans 7:15, 19-20.
Paul is talking about the tension between his flesh and his will. He wants to do what is good and right, yet somehow even with this desire, Paul stumbles. How is this remedied? Through the saving grace of Jesus Christ (see verses 24-25). This tension exists to some degree in every believer. This is why we need God’s strength when dealing with ongoing temptation.
When we draw near to Him, He leans in and carries us. He provides all the strength we need to keep moving towards Him.
Get under His covering. Ask Him for strength.
New to Prayer? A Woman’s Guide to Steadfast Prayer is designed to teach the basics of prayer in a way that is simple, approachable, and powerful.
We Overcome Temptation By Allowing God to Change Our Hearts
How can we overcome sin and temptation? We give God permission to uproot our desire for it. How do we do that? We simply ask.
When the prophet Nathan approached David and held him accountable for actions towards Bathsheba and sin against God, David was deeply repentant. He went straight to God and asked him to change his heart. Read the prayer in full in Psalm 51, but check out these snippets.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin (verse 2).
Against you and you only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight… (verse 4).
…You desire truth in my inward parts and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom (verse 6).
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (verse 7).
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (verse 10).
All this to say, we don’t have to endure temptation. We can give it to God and He can change our hearts.
We Overcome Temptation By Recalling What God Has Saved Us From
Do you really want to go back there? Back to that place where you lacked wholeness, joy, and peace? Back to the burdens that weighed you down? To the habitual choices that felt good at the moment but instead brought hurt, shame, discontent, and emptiness?
That’s the reality of what happens when we making giving into temptation a habit. The very burdens Jesus died to free us from, and everything attached to them, we pick up and claim as our own again.
It’s hard to go there, but sometimes we have to go there. We have to remind ourselves of all the things that Jesus brought us out of. Equally as important, we need to remind ourselves of what Jesus walked us into.
He gave us a new identity, He gave us new life, and the cherry on top of it all; He gave us a relationship with God.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of our testimony.
And then we have to ask, are we willing to do what it takes to protect our relationship with Him and the healing He’s brought?
We Overcome Temptation By Setting Boundaries to Protect What Matters Most
Growing up when we had to make hard choices my mom would always remind us,
The most important thing in life is a relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.
If you’re struggling with a specific temptation, one of the wisest choices you can make is to set boundaries that keep you from stumbling and protect your relationship with God. In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus is speaking to His disciples and brings up the topic of temptation. He gives an example of a person tempted to lust and says to His disciples,
If your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go to hell.
You may think that advice is extreme, but I think the point Jesus is making is that our salvation and our relationship with Him is the most important thing in the world. Sin disrupts both of those. Paraphrasing, Jesus is telling us to do what we have to do to keep sin from coming in between us and Him.
What that looks like is going to be different for each person. It could mean:
- Drastically changing our entertainment habits.
- Ending relationships we never should have entered into.
- Adjusting how you take care of your body.
- Making changes to how you spend your money.
- Spending some time in therapy or counseling.
- Welcoming personal and electronic forms of accountability into your life.
- Creating cell phone and social media boundaries.
- Confronting health concerns.
- Confronting addiction.
Again, not all of these are salvation issues, but they can affect our relationship with God and our ability to finish the work He’s called us to. That’s why boundaries are so important.
Boundaries are tools for protecting and maintaining what matters most. Without boundaries, we operate in the red at a deficit. With healthy boundaries, the areas of our lives we once struggled will begin to produce again.
I hope you’ve found these 6 steps for how to resist temptation helpful.
We all face temptation at one point or another, but we don’t have to fall victim to it. With some diligence, accountability, and help from God we can be victorious even in the hard things.
Hi friends! I’m Alonda Tanner; an Alaska Grown author and educator, with an ever-growing love for Jesus, books, and sparkling cider. In addition, I love serving the world by creating free education and resources that inspire women to embrace their God-given identity and live purpose-driven, faith-filled lives. I’m a firm believer that it all starts with digging into the Word. Ready to venture into a richness of the Bible? Join our Bible Study community and I’ll send you our most well-loved resources – our Bible study Highlighting Key – for free!