On the path of faith toward heaven, sometimes we run into an obstacle, temptation. We have to overcome temptation, so that we can safely arrive in heaven, the spiritual Canaan. If we do not overcome but fall down in the middle, we will be further away from heaven.
It is important for us to let our faith burn bright. But above all, we must keep the spirit of faith that enables us to overcome temptation and constantly run toward the everlasting kingdom of heaven. Temptation comes at the beginning of our life of faith, and it becomes more severe as the heavenly Canaan draws nearer. The only way to overcome temptation is to remain steadfast in our faith in God and hope for heaven and to depend entirely on God with a positive attitude. Let us confirm this through the Bible.
We can find an amazing fact in the history of Israel in the book of Genesis: When Jacob brought his whole family to Egypt, there were only 70 people in his family. After 430 years, however, at the time of the Exodus, the number of Israelite men twenty years old or more was 600,000, as God had promised: “I will make you into a great nation there.” At the end of the forty years in the desert, just before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, a population census was taken again, and they didn’t increase in number; there were still 600,000 men twenty years old or more.
At first they greatly prospered with God’s blessing. Then, why did they stop growing in number? Because many of them fell into temptation and died in the desert.
. . . Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. . . . Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. Dt 8:1-6
The desert was a place of temptation and testing for the Israelites. Until the time of the Exodus, they remained fervent in their faith. However, various unfavorable conditions in the desert caused them to fall into temptation. Sometimes there was no food and sometimes no water, and they had to go around by a longer and more indirect route instead of taking the shortest route. During their desert journey, God gave them the commands, decrees and laws and let them know the way of obedience, in order that He might lead His people who had full faith in Him and feared Him to the promised land, Canaan.
If they had absolutely believed in God, they would not have worried about worthless things, become impatient and complained about difficult conditions that were merely temporary. However, they did not fully trust in God, and because of their weak faith they failed to overcome various temptations during those forty years, so most of them fell in the desert.
. . . Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did . . . So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Co 10:1-13
When they gave in to temptation, they put God to the test, grumbled against Him and committed sexual immorality and idolatry. Because of these wicked sins, they were eventually destroyed, and as a result Israel’s population stopped growing.
All the things that happened to the Israelites in the desert occurred as examples and were written down as warnings for us. Now we need to look back and ask ourselves whether we’ve given God our best in this spiritual desert. Taking a lesson from their mistakes, we should always pray with all kinds of prayers and requests, that we may have a strong faith to overcome any temptation.
God does not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. When we are tempted, God also provides a way out so that we can stand up under it. We can triumph over temptation if we absolutely obey God’s command and follow Him with gratitude and joy wherever He leads us.
In Matthew chapter 4 we can see that God, who came in the flesh, was personally tempted and triumphed. Our Father and Mother have set us an example of overcoming any temptation. We, too, should strongly resist the temptations that befall us and proceed toward the eternal kingdom of heaven.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Mt 4:1-11
As the Israelites were first tested with regard to eating and drinking in the desert, so Jesus was first tempted with food after fasting for forty days. Thus, food or money is a source of great temptation to human beings. However, Jesus resisted the devil by saying, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” and praised God.
In the second temptation, Jesus overcame the devil by emphasizing that God is the object of worship, saying, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Then, thirdly, Jesus was tempted with the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and He triumphed over this temptation by saying, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,” and displayed God’s glory.
Satan brings every kind of temptation to us, as he did to Jesus. Sometimes he tempts us with material needs, and sometimes with things that make us doubt the truth and power of God; sometimes he tempts us to pursue worldly things, leading us into the error of thinking that we can get everything we want if we do not keep God’s laws. The only way to overcome all those temptations is to always fear God and give glory to Him. When we have such an attitude of faith, we can overcome any temptation, just as Jesus showed us.
On the path of faith in the spiritual desert, we all have burdens to bear. It is for the good of our souls that God has given us the burdens. We have to believe this. Belief is a virtue essential for overcoming temptation.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. Heb 11:24-26
Moses refused all the honor and treasures of Egypt and chose to suffer with the people of Israel, because he was looking forward to his eternal reward God promised. Like him, we should also regard the fear of God as of greater value than worldly wealth and honor. When we have this kind of faith, we can overcome temptation.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Heb 11:6-7
Noah obeyed God’s word and built the ark; he spent all his time, worldly substance and efforts in the work. Can you imagine how many people scorned and ridiculed him? However, Noah absolutely believed God’s word and obeyed Him. Because he had such great faith, he and his family were saved eventually while all other men were destroyed.
So did Abraham. He passed the test to sacrifice Isaac. As he absolutely believed God’s word and had the highest regard for it, God took all temptation from him and gave him even greater blessings. Through the lives of our forefathers of faith described in the Bible, God shows us that we can overcome whatever tests and trials we face when we have absolute faith in God and fear Him.
If one falls into temptation, he sees even positive things in a negative way and negative things in a more negative way. However, if he does not fall into temptation, if he overcomes it, he sees everything in a positive light.
When the ten spies returned from the land of Canaan and gave a bad report, saying, “They are stronger than we are. We look like grasshoppers to them,” Joshua and Caleb, who had a positive attitude and absolute confidence in God’s promise, cried out, “We will swallow them up.” This firm positive faith enabled them to resist all temptation. Finally, the 600,000 men including the ten spies who had a negative attitude were all destroyed in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb, who had absolute faith in God and feared Him in all circumstances, were allowed to enter Canaan. Such people are worthy to obtain the eternal kingdom of heaven.
Walking the path of faith, some become discontent and grumble. Their negative attitude towards things causes them to lead not only themselves but also others around them into temptation and destruction.
We must not hear the words of the faithless nor keep company with them. The nearer the eternal kingdom draws, the closer we should come to God in faith.
A pastor of our Church, who was in very good health, happened to catch a terrible cold. As he was sick in bed for the first time, he thought much about those who were ill. He didn’t understand how much pain they were in. But after he became ill, he could fully understand the hearts of brothers and sisters in pain.
If he had always been in good health, he would not have understood the hearts of the sick. Because he personally suffered pain and found God’s hidden will with a positive way of thinking, he, as a pastor, became even more full of love than before.
Sometimes God puts trials into our lives. It is not because He wants us to fall into error. God loves us so much. He has sacrificed everything for us His children, enduring the extreme pain when His flesh was torn to pieces in order to save us. We have to understand it is for our own good that God places us in difficult situations. For our spiritual growth and fruitfulness, God gives us difficulties and trials. When we have a positive attitude and give thanks in all circumstances, we can overcome all temptations and safely arrive in the spiritual Canaan.
The 144,000 are the ones who follow God to the end wherever He leads them. They have such absolute trust in God. That’s why they are redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits.
God is now gathering the firstfruits in the spiritual farming. He gives fertilizer to us if we need it; sometimes He sends rain and wind. God does all this to bring us into the heavenly barn as good fruits.
Think of bean plants and bean sprouts that germinate and grow from the same seeds. They are products of their environments. The bean sprouts are sprinkled with water at room temperature a few times each day; they have no natural enemy and feel no pain. So they grow comfortably, which results in no fruit.
On the other hand, the bean seeds sown in the field sprout and grow under a variety of conditions: They have natural enemies; they take root and grow into bean plants, surviving the bitter winds and heavy rainfalls and the scorching sun, so that they may bear fruit dozens or even hundreds of times.
Considering the growing process of a plant, we come to realize that trials greatly help us grow and bear fruit, as the proverb goes, “No pain, no gain.” Suffering comes upon everyone. Each and every one of us has faced difficult situations. However, when we think back over our lives, we come to understand that God has put us in all those hard situations for our spiritual growth; all of our trials serve as a steppingstone to our spiritual maturity.
When we have absolute faith in God and see everything in a positive light, giving thanks rather than complaining, God helps us overcome temptation and produce good fruits. Let us do our best to resist temptation; let any temptation or trial not obstruct our spiritual growth. Let’s fear God and give Him glory, absolutely trusting and following Him. Then we, the 144,000 saints, will overcome all temptations and attain the eternal kingdom of heaven.