Triumph over Temptation

It’s been said that your reputation is what others can see. But your character is what God sees. Joseph was a man of great character and integrity. What God sees and what God knows mattered more to Joseph than anything else. This divine inner sense of God’s holy presence gave him the strength to triumph over temptation.        

Joseph’s awareness of the Sovereign:

Joseph’s power to resist the sexual advances of the wife of a powerful Egyptian commander was rooted in his awareness of God:  

“And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:7-9).  

Several years ago there was a reality show called Preachers of LA. As I expected, what the show managed to do was give Christianity a bad name. One of the preachers on the show, whose girlfriend was pregnant, made this comment on the show regarding his moral failures:

“It’s all about the truth for me from this point on; the truth about my baby born out of wedlock, the truth about my divorce. It happened. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m a pastor but at the end of the day, I’m a man.” (Detrick Haddon)

Likewise, Joseph, who was a slave at this time, could have easily rationalized giving into the sexual advances of his master’s wife. He could have thought, “I’ve been called by God, but at the end of the day, I’m a man.” Or he could have thought, “I’m lonely and I don’t have anybody in my life thanks to my brothers who sold me as a slave. After all I’ve been through, I deserve some companionship. Besides, everybody is doing it. It’s not a big deal.”

We give in to temptation when we give in to the wrong thoughts. Joseph, on the other hand, overcame temptation because in the heat of the moment he spiritually fought to maintain a right view of the situation and most of all, a right view of God.  

It’s been said that whatever captures the mind captures the man. Joseph didn’t allow his mind to be captured by the moment. People do stupid things because they live in the moment – because they get stuck on stupid. But Joseph could see beyond the moment. He was able to not just think about himself or his own interests. During the intense moment of temptation, he was able to think of others.

Concerning her husband, Joseph said to the temptress: “He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife” While Joseph was being tempted, he thought about the woman's husband, (who was also his boss,) and how he would be sinning against him if he gave in to his wife’s sexual advances.

“How rare this resolve. In a culture that uses phrases like “consenting adults” and “sexual rights,” we forget how immorality destroys the lives of people who aren’t in the bedroom. Years ago a friend gave me this counsel: ‘Make a list of all the lives you would affect by your sexual immorality.’ I did. Every so often I reread it: ‘Denalyn (my wife), my three daughters, my son-in-law, my yet-to-be- born grandchildren, every person who has ever read one of my books or heard one of my sermons, my publishing team, our church staff.’ The list reminds me: one act of carnality is a poor exchange for a lifetime of lost legacy.” (Max Lucado)
Moreover, Joseph’s thoughts were not only on her husband; more importantly, they were on His God. He said, “…how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God.” Joseph words reveal loyalty and love for his master, but most of all they reveal a superior loyalty and love for God.    

Joseph didn’t overcome the intense external temptation of the seductress because of low testosterone levels. Rather, he overcame through a superior internal awareness of God. And the divine awareness of God that he had in that moment did not just arise out of nowhere. He had great thoughts of God in the heat of the moment because he set his mind on God in his everyday life. What’s more, when the temptress tried to get his attention, he turned his attention to God—a God that he knew intimately—a God whom he was in awe of—a God who satisfied the deepest needs of his heart.

When we are tempted, we must launch a counter attack by turning our attention to God. He is the way of escape. But again, the way of escape is not just something we think about in the moment of temptation, but a reality that we’ve been cultivating through daily communion with God. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

When Jesus himself was being tempted by the devil before the start of His public ministry, He launch His counter attack by wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). But keep in mind that before He was tempted, He fasted in the wilderness for forty days.

Concerning how Jesus progressed in wisdom and divine awareness, (Luke 2:52) one commentator explained:

“When he became human he placed the exercise of his divine knowledge and power under the discretion of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore, we understand that His human mind progressively acquired a divine awareness as the Father willed it.” (Hughes)

Again, Luke 4 notes specifically that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where He fasted and was tempted by the devil. The wilderness was not a place of weakness, but a place of strength because the wilderness, which can also be translated desert place, or desolate place, was a quiet place where Jesus could shut Himself away and get alone with God.

Often when we hear about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, it’s emphasized that the devil did so because he might have thought that He was weak. But again, the Spirit didn’t lead Him in the wilderness to make Him weak but to strengthen Him before the presence of His Heavenly Father. The desert, where Jesus often resorted to get alone with His Father, didn’t make Jesus less prepared for the attacks of the devil. On the contrary, like His time in the garden of Gethsemane, He was strengthened by His Father.

And again, if this was true of Jesus, if He made time for silence and solitude so that He could get alone with His Father and receive in His humanity what He needed, how much more do we need to do the same? (Psalm 46:10)
Furthermore, when your feel tempted to sin, say, like Joseph, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Set your mind on God and all that He’s done for you in Christ and all that He promises to do according to His word. Begin to praise God when you’re being tempted and you will find that you will gain the strength to resist. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee” (James 4:7).  

Joseph’s avoidance of the seductress:

Secondly, we see that in addition to Joseph’s awareness of the Sovereign, he triumphed over temptation because of his avoidance of the seductress. Under the circumstances (Joseph was a slave), Joseph did the best that he could to stay away from the temptress:

“And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.” (Genesis 39:10)

“Joseph gave the temptress no time, no attention, no chitchat, no reason for hope…When her number appeared on his cell phone, he did not answer. When she texted a question, he didn’t respond. When she entered his office, he exited. He avoided her like the poison she was.” (Max Lucado)
If we are to overcome temptation, we must avoid, as much as possible, people, places, and positions that will arouse the wrong desires. Avoidance is a vital biblical strategy in your fight against temptation. (Proverbs 4:14-16)

It's been said, “He that would not fall ought not to walk in slippery places.” Don’t put yourself in positions that will feed your fleshly appetites. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).

Now Joseph did his best to avoid the temptress, but she was relentless:

“But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house." (Gen. 39:11-12)

Joseph did not try to talk his way out of this one. He did what we must all do in a heated situation like this: run as fast as you can. A Pastor friend of mind did just that when he found himself in a vulnerable position.

“When I was a freshman at Word of Life Bible Institute each student served in different ministries throughout the campus every weekend. I typically served in the choir each weekend, however there was one weekend the choir did not go out and sing. So that weekend I was assigned to serve at the Word of Life Inn; students who worked at the Inn stayed at the Inn, the accommodations were very nice. Everyone had their own room. At the end of a long day of cleaning, attending to the guests, and entertaining children, I found myself heading back to my room with one of my female friends. We were laughing, talking, and having a good time. Before I knew it, I was in her room sitting innocently on her bed as we continued to talk. By the grace of God I realized where I was and knew I had to get out immediately. I didn’t try to be strong and remain and resist. I didn’t slowly and politely excuse myself. I just left. Praise the Lord!  God woke me up to the situation.”

The Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy, a young Pastor, wrote, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Notice that Paul exhorted Timothy to flee youthful passions. What Paul is saying here is that we are to flee from anything and anyone who will stir our sinful desires. But in addition to the need to flee, Paul adds that we must pursue righteousness. And we must do so along with those who call on the name of the Lord. Are you struggling with sinful desires and temptations? Don’t try to go at it alone. Seek the help of a wise friend who will pray with you, hold you accountable, and regularly encourage you in the Lord.

To overcome temptation, we need more than will power. We need an awareness and awe of God that will give us the strength to avoid and flee. When we are looking to God and leaning on His power—when we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we won’t put ourselves in vulnerable situations. You won’t, for example, sleep over at your girlfriend’s house. When your ultimate allegiance is to God and not to something or somebody, which is idolatry, you will avoid people, places, and positions that will feed the flesh and gives the devil a foothold.  

The allure of temptation will lose it’s grip when we live and enjoy God’s presence—when we bask in all that God is for us in Christ. God is faithful! Not only can we trust Him to make a way of escape; living in and delighting in His presence is our escape.

In His service,
Pastor Marco