I confess that I have had a lifelong struggle with temptation. By this point in my life, I recognize that I will never get over it. I will never reach a point at which I will be free of every temptation. The best I can hope for is to endure temptation without giving in—which is actually what Scripture calls us to do. James 1:12 states, “Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
One of the major problems with temptation is that it leads us astray from where we should be.
In Huelvo, on the southern coast of Spain, is buried the body of Major William Martin, a British officer who played an important role in the Allied success in World War II—without his knowledge. After the Allies invaded North Africa, the next logical step was to invade Sicily. The problem was that the German army was planning for such an attack. The Allies needed to outfox the Germans. This is where Major William Martin comes in. Major Martin actually died of pneumonia in the foggy dampness of England without ever engaging in battle. But the Germans didn’t know that. One dark night, an Allied submarine surfaced off the coast of Spain just long enough to put Martin’s body out to sea in a rubber raft with an oar. In his pocket were placed “secret documents” indicating that the Allied forces would strike next in Greece and Sardinia. When Martin’s body washed ashore, German intelligence operatives assumed he had crashed at sea. They passed the secret documents through Axis hands all the way to Hitler’s headquarters. While Allied forces moved toward Sicily, thousands and thousands of German troops moved to Greece and Sardinia where the battle was not.
That’s what temptation does to us. But instead of needing a dead British officer, temptation simply plays on the desires that are already in us. Temptation intensifies those desires and distorts them until we become obsessed with them. Then we end up being led astray. James 1:14-15 offers this explanation: “But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”
The Greek word deleazomenos, translated here as “enticed,” is an old fishing term. It had to do with baiting a hook so as to catch a fish. In the same way one would attach a juicy worm to a hook or tie a colorful fly to a hook, Satan holds out to us something that looks appealing. But like a fishing hook hidden in a piece of chocolate cake, when we bite into that chocolate cake we get hooked. Satan’s desire is to ensnare us in what will keep up away from God, and will keep us away from spiritual growth, and will keep us away from doing anything meaningful with our lives, and will keep us away from the peace God intends for our souls.
No wonder James stresses, “Blessed in anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”