What Is Your Biggest Sin-problem?
My grad school professor looked at all of us in class and asked: “What is your biggest sin problem?” He said that, in order for us to learn to be good counselors of others, we first had to be able to self-counsel. Our assignment was to identify a sin pattern that we personally struggled with and to track it for six weeks.
And so, we began. We charted when we struggled most, when we failed and gave in to the temptation, and when we were able to resist and have victory. We studied out how to avoid the places of temptation, to be vigilant during the hours of typical temptation, how to respond when tempted, and how to fight back by renewing our thoughts, replacing the evil with the good. It was a very profitable and eye-opening assignment for me.
I would like to present a tool from James 1 that could perhaps help you fight temptation. I am certain that, if you are human, you are fighting some kind of temptation. It may be sexual sin, covetousness, lying, stealing, worry, gossip, anger, bitterness, selfishness, or greed. The list is long. God can use the battles with these temptations to mold us into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus, but the fight is REAL.
Here are the 4 L’s:
- Locate – identify the temptation (James 1:14)
- Link – connect the test with the Lord (James 1:2)
- Linger – stay a while with Him and describe the temptation with blatant honesty and cry for wisdom (James 1:5-6)
- Lieu – replace temptation with something (James 1:22)
Locating or identifying the temptation is a huge part of victory (James 1:14). Personally I struggle with worry. It is insidious and sneaks into the depths of my soul. I want to comfort-eat to relieve the pressure that I feel and get my mind off the vexatious thoughts. When I react sinfully, I feel badly afterwards because I know that I have not responded in a Christ-honoring manner. So if I am able to shine the flashlight on the temptation by locating it, that is a great start.
Linking or connecting the test with the Lord is the next key. We are told in James 1:2 that we are to count it joy when we are tested. Jesus said we should ask the Father, “do not to lead us into temptation.” He doesn’t tempt us with sin, but He allows the situation to make us stronger under pressure (vv. 3-4), and to motivate us to call out to Him for help (vv. 5-8).
In my own situation I felt like I could locate the temptation (anxiety) and link to the Lord right away by asking Him for help. But I find that often my focus is still on the temptation – for instance, I am getting more anxious as I pray. 😦
But when I begin to think thanks within the test, and for the test, I am able to link more profitably with the Lord. Saying out loud the things that I am thankful for right in the middle of the test, and then giving that thanks to God, grows my strength to fight.
“Count it all joy” means being th(i)nkful
Lingering with the Lord and sharing honestly with Him what I am struggling with, and even what I am tempted to do in sinful reaction, is like releasing the pressure that the temptation builds up. The sin especially flees if I speak it out loud or write it down. You shock yourself as you see your hand spell out the sin.
Rehearsing the promises that 1) God was with me, and 2) He designed and desired me to be victorious, and 3) He made wisdom available for free if I confidently asked just fueled my courage to trust in His help. If forgiveness was needed, He welcomed me with open arms. As I lingered with the Lord, my focus became different.
In Lieu Of, or the replacement principle, is the action part of winning over temptation. What you focus on you give power to. If I say “don’t steal this, don’t steal this,” I am repeating “this” and “steal” many times – not good. If I have the temptation to steal, I should immediately go to the front of the store and pay for someone’s purchase, or give a store clerk some money to say thanks for all of the people who don’t. Look at Ephesians 4:28!
This is the embodiment of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25). I need to replace the temptation. Problem with text-gossiping? Put it down and get busy. Think it out! Have a plan ready.
- Get down and do 10 sit-ups
- Put on your running shoes and get outside and run
- Take a shower
- Sing a chorus out loud
- Read a book that edifies your soul
- Write down 10 things that you are thankful for right now
Hey, this is just a simple suggestion, but it is helping me. When I did that six-week assignment back in grad school, it made me aware of how advantageous it is to have a plan. Being th(i)nkful is a key in winning over temptation.
Download grace/help from the Lord to think thanks in every circumstance – even for tests, trials, and temptations – as James 1:2-4 mentions. Then express that thanks orally or in a written form. If you are in Christ, you don’t have to live a defeated life!
LOCATE ~ LINK ~ LINGER ~ LIEU