Overcoming Temptation

By Charles H. Spurgeon

    "And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season" (Luke 4:13).

    Beloved friends, we have very much to learn from our Lord’s temptation. He was tempted in all points, like as we are. If you will study the temptation of Christ, you will not be ignorant of Satan’s devices. If you see how He worsted the enemy, you will learn what weapons to use against your great adversary. If you see how our Lord conquers throughout the whole battle, you will learn that, as you keep close to Him, you will be more than a conqueror through Him that loved you.

    From our Lord’s temptation we learn, especially, to pray, "Lead us not into temptation." Let us never mistake the meaning of that petition! We are to pray that we may not be tempted, for we are poor flesh and blood and very frail. It is for us to cry to God, "Lead us not into temptation." But we also learn a great deal from the close of our Lord’s great threefold trial. We find Him, afterwards, peaceful – ministered unto by angels – and rejoicing. That should teach us to pray, "But, if we must be tempted, deliver us from the evil," or, as some render it, and very correctly, too, "Deliver us from the Evil One." First, we pray that we may not be tempted at all and then, as a supplement to that prayer, yielding the whole matter to Divine wisdom, "If it is necessary for our manhood, for our growth in grace, for the verification of our graces and for God’s glory, that we should be tempted, Lord, deliver us from the evil, and especially deliver us from the impersonation of evil, the Evil One!"

    It may be a long time, when you are suffering from his attacks, before he will hold his hand, for he will try all that he possibly can to lead you into evil and to destroy the grace that is in you. Still, he does come to an end with his temptations sooner than he desires, for, as God has said to the mighty sea, "Until this time shall you come, but no further; and here shall your proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:11) – and so says He to the devil. When He permitted Satan to try the graces of Job and to prove his sincerity, He let him go just so far, but no farther. And when he asked for a further stretch of power, still there was a limit. There is always a limit to Satan’s power and when he reaches that point, he will be pulled up short – he can do no more. You are never so in the hands of Satan as to be out of the hands of God. You are never so tempted, if you are a believer, that there is not a way of escape for you!

    "When the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him." When the Lord had foiled him at every point – had met every temptation with a text of Holy Scripture and had proved His own determination to hold fast His integrity and not let it go – it was not till then that the enemy departed. O brothers and sisters, if you can hold out, if you can stand against this and then against that; if you are protected against frowns and protected against flatteries; if you are protected against prosperity and against adversity; if you are protected against sly insinuations and open attacks – when you have won the day, as by God’s grace you will do, even as your Master did, then the enemy will depart from you!

    He leaves God’s people very quickly when he sees that they are sustained by superior grace. He hopes to catch them when grace is at a low ebb. If he can come upon them when faith is very weak, when hope’s eyes are dim, when love has grown cold – then he thinks that he will make an easy capture. But when we are filled with the Spirit as the Master was, (God grant that we may be), he looks us up and down and he presently leaves. Like an old pirate who hangs about on the lookout for merchant vessels, but if he meets with ships that have plenty of guns on board and hardy hands to give him a warm reception, he goes after some other craft not quite so well able to resist his assaults. O brothers and sisters, be not merely Christians, only barely Christians, with just enough grace to let you see your imperfections, but pray to God to give you mighty grace, that you may "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10), so that, after the devil has tested you and found that the Lord is with you, that God dwells in you, then you may expect that, as it was with your Master, so it will be with you – Satan will leave you.

Cast Your Burden upon the Lord

    Again, I doubt not that Satan leaves us – no, I know that he does – when the Lord says to him what He said in the wilderness, "Get you hence, Satan." And He does say that when He sees one of His poor children dragged about, tortured, wounded, bleeding. The old Hell-dog knows his Master and he flies at once. This voice of God will come when the Lord sees that we cast ourselves wholly upon Him.

    Let me remind you of a story of a gentleman who, riding along in his coach, saw a packman carrying a heavy pack, and asked him if he would like a ride. "Yes, and thank you, sir." But he kept his pack on his back while riding. "Oh," said the friend, "why do you not take your pack off and put it down in front?" "Why, sir," he said, "it is so kind of you to give me a ride that I do not like to impose upon your good nature, and I thought that I would carry the pack myself!" "Well," said the other, "but, you see, it makes no difference to me whether you carry it or do not carry it – I have to carry you and your pack – so you had better unstrap it and put it down in front."

    So, friend, when you cast your burden upon God, unstrap it! Why should you bear it yourself when God is prepared to bear it? Beloved, there are times when we forget that, but when we can come and absolutely yield ourselves right up, saying, "Lord, here I am, tempted, poor and weak. But I come and rest in You. I know not what to ask at Your hands, but Your servant has said, ‘Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.’ I lie at Your feet, my Lord. Here I am, here would I be. Do with me as seems good in Your sight – only deal in tender mercy with Your servant." Then will the Lord rebuke the enemy! The waves of the sea shall be still and there shall be a great calm.

Watch and Pray

    I close by reminding you of the limitation of our rest. Satan left Christ "for a season," or until a fit occasion.

    Dear friends, if we have peace and quietness, and are not tempted, do not let us become self-secure. The devil will come to us, again, at a fit opportunity. And when will that be? There are a great many fit opportunities with you and with me. One is when we have nothing to do. You know Dr. Watts’ lines – "Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do."

    He will come and attack us when we are alone. I mean, when we are sad and lonely, and are sitting still, and moping by ourselves.

    But Satan also finds a very fit occasion when we are in company, especially when it is very mixed company – a company of persons, perhaps, who are superior to ourselves in education and in station – but who do not fear God. We may easily be overawed and led astray by them. Satan will come then.

    I have known him frequently come and find an occasion against the children of God when we are sick and ill, the old coward! He knows that we would not mind him when we are in good health, but sometimes when we are down in the dumps through sickness and pain – then it is that he begins to tempt us to despair.

    So will he do with us when we are very poor. When a man has had a great loss in business, down comes Satan and insinuates, "Is this how God treats His children? God’s people are no better off than other people."

    Then, if we are getting on in the world, he turns it the other way, and he says, "Does Job fear God for nothing? He gets on by his religion." You cannot please the devil and you need not want to please him! He can make a temptation for you out of anything!

    I am going to say something that will surprise you. One time of great temptation is when we are very spiritual. As to myself, I have never been in such supreme danger as when I have led some holy meeting with sacred fervor and have felt carried away with delight in God. You know that it is easy to be on the Mount of Transfiguration and then to meet Satan at the foot, as our Lord did when He came down from that hill.

    Another time of temptation is when we have already done wrong. "Now he begins to slip," says Satan. "I saw him trip. Now I will have him down!" Oh, for speedy repentance and an earnest flight to Christ whenever there has been a grave fault, yes, and before the grave fault comes, that we may be preserved from falling!

    And Satan finds a good occasion for tempting us when we have not sinned. After we have been tempted and we have won the day and stood fast, then he comes and says, "Now, that was well done on your part, you are a splendid saint!" And he who thinks himself a splendid saint is next door to a shameful sinner, depend upon it! And Satan soon gets the advantage over him.

    He will tempt you when you have obtained some blessing that you have been thinking was such a great gift. Just as you have secured the thing that you are seeking, then comes a temptation – to which all I have to say is this – "Watch."

    "What I say unto you, I say unto all," said Christ, "Watch. Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation" (Matt. 26:41). And by the conflict and the victory of your Master, go into the conflict bravely and expect to conquer by faith in Him, even as He overcame!

    – Condensed from the sermon, "Satan Departing, Angels Ministering."