There is a tale about a person who sat outside the church building, weeping profusely. A woman felt pity upon him and had asked, “Why are you crying?” He replied, “You people commit sins and then blame me for everything you do?” The woman confusingly questioned, “Who are you?” “I am the devil,” said the sorrowful person.
Who doesn’t know the great tempter—the devil? But should we have to blame him whenever we fall into temptation? There are two ways, I have observed, we fall into temptation. Sometimes temptation comes knocking our door and we yield unto it. At other times we go knocking the temptation and fall into it. In both ways our fall is due to our choice.
The devil knows he has no power over us. He has the power only to tempt us. And we have been given the power in Christ Jesus to resist Him (Jas. 4:7). If we happen to fall it is only because of the choice we make to yield to the temptation instead of resisting it. We are responsible for our own fall. Yet we often behave like Eve who blamed the devil, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13).
Let me share with you an interesting incident which the Lord had used to teach me an unforgettable lesson. It was a time of intense struggle with a particular temptation. I desperately cried out to God for help, only to face His silence. I know how on one side we cry to God to help us overcome temptation and on the other side walk into all possible things that drag us into sin.
One midnight, I woke up and went to the toilet. I saw, at the corner of the wall, a spider spread its web and hanging in the centre, probably waiting for some prey. Then I have noticed a small ant busily going on its way. It could have gone straight but somehow turned to the right and drew nearer and nearer to the web. When it reached close, it suddenly fell into the intricate web.
The ant struggled to come out of the sticky net but it couldn't. The poor ant was helplessly trapped. The spider then wrapped the prey and within a moment it devoured the ant. I didn't understand anything in that sleepy mood and returned to my bed. The next morning when I came back I saw neither the spider nor the web. Suddenly God enlightened my mind and spoke to me that it is I, like that foolish ant, was making a choice to get closer and closer to the temptation, only to fall in it and wrestle to come out.
Ah, this is what the devil does! Satan will not throw his net directly upon us; instead, he will set a trap (like the spider that spun a web in the above incident) and patiently lures us to draw closer to sin. He entices our senses and will and waits for us to respond. We are left with a choice. How we respond makes the rest of our life. If we don’t flee from temptation we will inevitable cleave to it.
Do not forget, the devil tempts us towards the pleasures of sin by obscuring our attention from its consequences. Once we make a choice to walk on the slippery path of temptation, the devil puts his feet up and reclines to see our fall. The exhortation of Paul given to Timothy should knock some sense, “Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Tim. 2:22).
It is also written to us, "Do not give the devil a foothold" (Eph. 4:29). Just a little foothold is enough for the devil to drag us into the mire of sin. I know how a lustful thought, if entertained, can become a stronghold in mind. I know how a simple glance, if cherished in an unhealthy way, would become an irresistible imagination. I know how a short unnecessary talk, if not avoided, can lead into gossip and harmful conversation. I know how a fit of temper, if not controlled, would cast me into irreparable consequences. I know how a little bitterness, if not forgiven, can result in strong hatred.
Satan's devious task is to tempt but ultimately it is I who is responsible for my fall. I am not free from facing temptations but am certainly free from yielding to them. As Martin Luther said, “I can't stop the birds from flying overhead, but I can keep them from building a nest in my hair.” I cannot blame the devil or the circumstances because I have the power to overcome the temptations. If anyone has to be blamed it has to be ‘myself’. May we learn to acknowledge our sin (without getting into condemnation) and determine to resist the temptations of the evil one by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelt within us.