Gaining the Victory Over Human Weakness
“The minding of the flesh means death.”—ROMANS 8:6.
1. How do some view the human body, and what question merits consideration?
“I SHALL laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) So sang the psalmist David while contemplating one of Jehovah’s creations—the human body. Instead of giving such well-founded praise, some religious teachers consider the body to be the lurking place and instrument of sin. It has been called “the garment of ignorance, the foundation of vice, the bonds of corruption, the dark cage, the living death, the sentient corpse, the portable tomb.” True, the apostle Paul said: “In my flesh, there dwells nothing good.” (Romans 7:18) But does this mean that we are hopelessly trapped in a sinful body?
2. (a) What does “the minding of the flesh” mean? (b) What conflict between “flesh” and “spirit” takes place within humans desiring to please God?
2 The Scriptures sometimes refer to the human body as “flesh.” (1 Kings 21:27) They also use “flesh” to represent man in his imperfect state as a sinful descendant of rebellious Adam. (Ephesians 2:3; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) Our inheritance from him has produced ‘weakness of the flesh.’ (Romans 6:19) And Paul warned: “The minding of the flesh means death.” (Romans 8:6) Such “minding of the flesh” means being controlled and motivated by the desires of the fallen flesh. (1 John 2:16) So if we are trying to please God, there is a constant conflict between our spirituality and our sinful nature that relentlessly exerts pressure upon us to carry out “the works of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:17-23; 1 Peter 2:11) After describing this painful clash within him, Paul exclaimed: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” (Romans 7:24) Was Paul a defenseless victim of temptation? The Bible answers with a resounding no!
The Reality of Temptation and Sin
3. How do many view sin and temptation, but how does the Bible warn against such an attitude?
3 For many today, sin is an unacceptable concept. Some use “sin” humorously as an old-fashioned term to describe human foibles. They do not realize that “we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of the Christ, that each one may get his award for the things done through the body, according to the things he has practiced, whether it is good or vile.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) Others may make the casual remark: “I can resist anything but temptation!” Some people live in a culture that thrives on instant gratification, whether it involves food, sex, fun, or achievement. Not only do they want everything but they want it right now! (Luke 15:12) They do not look beyond immediate pleasure to the future joy of “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) The Bible, however, teaches us to think carefully and to be far-sighted, keeping clear of anything that would harm us spiritually or otherwise. Says an inspired proverb: “The shrewd one that has seen the calamity has concealed himself; the inexperienced that have passed along have suffered the penalty.”—Proverbs 27:12.
4. What admonition recorded at 1 Corinthians 10:12, 13 did Paul give?
4 When Paul wrote to Christians living in Corinth—a city known for its moral depravity—he offered a realistic warning against temptation and the power of sin. He said: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13) All of us—young and old, male and female—encounter many temptations in school, at work, or elsewhere. Let us, therefore, examine Paul’s words and see what meaning they have for us.
Do Not Be Overconfident
5. Why is overconfidence risky?
5 Paul states: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” Overconfidence about our moral strength is risky. It betrays a lack of understanding of the nature and power of sin. Since people like Moses, David, Solomon, and the apostle Peter fell into sin, should we feel that we are not vulnerable? (Numbers 20:2-13; 2 Samuel 11:1-27; 1 Kings 11:1-6; Matthew 26:69-75) “The wise one fears and is turning away from badness, but the stupid is becoming furious and self-confident,” says Proverbs 14:16. Moreover, Jesus said: ‘The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.’ (Matthew 26:41) Since no imperfect human is immune to corrupt appetites, we need to take Paul’s warning seriously and resist temptation, or we take the risk of falling.—Jeremiah 17:9.
6. When and how should we prepare for temptation?
6 It is wise to prepare for trouble that may occur unexpectedly. King Asa recognized that a period of peace was the right time for him to build his defenses. (2 Chronicles 14:2, 6, 7) He knew that it would be too late to prepare at the moment of attack. Similarly, decisions about what to do when temptations arise are best made with a cool head in the peace of untroubled moments. (Psalm 63:6) Daniel and his God-fearing friends made their decision to be faithful to the law of Jehovah before they were pressured to eat the king’s delicacies. Hence, they did not hesitate to stick to their convictions and not partake of unclean food. (Daniel 1:8) Before tempting situations arise, let us strengthen our resolve to remain morally clean. Then we will be able to resist sin.
7. Why is it comforting to know that others have successfully resisted temptation?
7 What comfort we derive from Paul’s words: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men”! (1 Corinthians 10:13) The apostle Peter wrote: “Take your stand against [the Devil], solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1 Peter 5:9) Yes, others have faced similar temptations and have successfully resisted them with God’s help, and so can we. However, as true Christians living in a depraved world, all of us can expect to be tempted sooner or later. How, then, can we be confident of victory over human weakness and temptation to sin?
We Can Resist Temptation!
8. What is a basic way to avoid temptation?
8 A basic way to quit “being slaves to sin” is to avoid temptation when possible. (Romans 6:6) Proverbs 4:14, 15 urges us: “Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter, and do not walk straight on into the way of the bad ones. Shun it, do not pass along by it; turn aside from it, and pass along.” We often know beforehand whether a certain set of circumstances would likely lead to sin. Therefore, the obvious thing to do as Christians is to “pass along,” staying away from anyone and anything and any place that could kindle wrong desires and inflame us with unclean passions.
9. How is fleeing from compromising situations stressed in the Scriptures?
9 Running away from a tempting situation is another basic step toward victory over temptation. Paul counseled: “Flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) And he wrote: “Flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) The apostle also warned Timothy to flee from an inordinate yearning for material riches, as well as “from the desires incidental to youth.”—2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Timothy 6:9-11.
10. What two contrasting examples show the value of fleeing from temptation?
10 Consider the case of Israel’s King David. As he gazed from his palace roof, he saw a beautiful woman bathing, and wrong desires filled his heart. He should have left the roof and fled from the temptation. Instead, he inquired about this woman—Bath-sheba—and the results were devastating. (2 Samuel 11:1–12:23) On the other hand, how did Joseph act when his master’s immoral wife urged him to lie down with her? The account tells us: “As she spoke to Joseph day after day he never listened to her to lie alongside her, to continue with her.” Even without the commands of the Mosaic Law, which had not yet been given, Joseph answered her by saying: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” One day she grabbed hold of him, saying: “Lie down with me!” Did Joseph stay there and try to reason with her? No. He “took to flight and went on outside.” Joseph did not give sexual temptation a chance to overtake him. He fled!—Genesis 39:7-16.
11. What may be possible if we are experiencing a recurring temptation?
11 Running away is sometimes considered cowardly, but physically removing ourselves from a situation is often the wise course to take. Perhaps we are experiencing a recurring temptation at work. Though we may not be able to change jobs, there may be other ways to remove ourselves from tempting circumstances. We need to flee from anything we know to be wrong, and we should be determined to do only what is right. (Amos 5:15) Elsewhere, fleeing temptation would require avoiding pornographic Internet sites and questionable places of entertainment. It might also mean discarding a magazine or finding a new set of friends—those who love God and who may be able to help us. (Proverbs 13:20) Whatever tempts us to sin, we are wise if we determinedly turn our back on it.—Romans 12:9.
How Prayer Can Help
12. What do we ask from God when we pray: “Do not bring us into temptation”?
12 Paul gives this heartening assurance: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) One way that Jehovah assists us is by answering our prayers for his help in coping with temptation. Jesus Christ taught us to pray: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Matthew 6:13) In response to such heartfelt prayer, Jehovah will not abandon us to temptation; he will deliver us from Satan and his crafty acts. (Ephesians 6:11, footnote) We should ask God to help us recognize temptations and have the strength to resist them. If we implore him not to allow us to fail when we are tempted, he will help us so that we are not overreached by Satan, “the wicked one.”
13. What should we do when faced with persistent temptation?
13 Especially do we need to pray fervently when confronted by persistent temptation. Some temptations can cause powerful inner struggles, with thoughts and attitudes that dramatically remind us of how weak we really are. (Psalm 51:5) For instance, what can we do if we are tormented by recollections of some former depraved practice? What if we are tempted to return to it? Rather than merely trying to suppress such feelings, take the matter to Jehovah in prayer—repeatedly if necessary. (Psalm 55:22) With the power of his Word and holy spirit, he can help us to cleanse our mind of unclean inclinations.—Psalm 19:8, 9.
14. Why is prayer essential to cope with temptation?
14 Noting his apostles’ drowsiness in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus urged: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) One way to overcome temptation is to be alert to the various forms that temptation can take and be sensitive to its subtleties. It is also vital that we pray about the temptation without delay so that we may be spiritually equipped to fight it. Because temptation strikes where we are most vulnerable, we cannot resist it alone. Prayer is essential because the strength that God gives can shore up our defenses against Satan. (Philippians 4:6, 7) We may also need the spiritual assistance and prayers of “the older men of the congregation.”—James 5:13-18.
Actively Resist Temptation
15. What is involved in resisting temptation?
15 Besides avoiding a temptation when possible, we must actively resist it until it passes or the situation changes. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he resisted until the Devil went away. (Matthew 4:1-11) The disciple James wrote: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Resistance begins by fortifying our mind with God’s Word and firmly deciding that we will adhere to his standards. We do well to memorize and meditate on key scriptures that deal with our specific weakness. It would be wise to find a mature Christian—perhaps an elder—with whom to share our concerns and upon whom we can call for help when temptation strikes.—Proverbs 22:17.
16. How can we remain morally upright?
16 The Scriptures urge us to put on the new personality. (Ephesians 4:24) This means allowing Jehovah to mold and change us. Writing to his fellow worker Timothy, Paul said: “Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper. Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called.” (1 Timothy 6:11, 12) We can “pursue righteousness” by diligently studying God’s Word in order to get an intimate knowledge of his personality and then by conducting ourselves in accord with his requirements. A full schedule of Christian activities, such as preaching the good news and attending meetings, is also vital. Drawing close to God and taking full advantage of his spiritual provisions will help us to grow spiritually and remain morally upright.—James 4:8.
17. How do we know that God will not forsake us during temptation?
17 Paul assures us that any temptation we experience will never go beyond our God-given ability to deal with it. Jehovah will ‘make the way out so that we are able to endure it.’ (1 Corinthians 10:13) Indeed, God does not allow a temptation to become so overwhelming that we would lack sufficient spiritual strength to maintain integrity if we continue to rely upon him. He wants us to succeed in actively resisting temptation to do what is wrong in his sight. Moreover, we can have faith in his promise: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5.
18. Why can we be certain of victory over human weakness?
18 Paul was not uncertain about the outcome of his personal struggle against human weakness. He did not consider himself a pitiful and impotent pawn of his fleshly desires. On the contrary, he said: “The way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27) We too can wage a successful battle against the imperfect flesh. By means of the Scriptures, Bible-based publications, Christian meetings, and mature fellow Christians, our loving heavenly Father provides constant reminders that assist us to pursue an upright course. With his help, we can gain the victory over human weakness!
Do You Recall?
• What does it mean to ‘mind the flesh’?
• How can we prepare for temptation?
• What can we do to cope with temptation?
• What role does prayer play in dealing with temptation?
• How do we know that it is possible to gain the victory over human weakness?
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The Bible does not teach that we are helpless victims of our fleshly desires
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Fleeing from temptation is one basic way to avoid sin