“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.“ Matthew 6:13
We are all being led somewhere. Some of us are leading ourselves. Some of us are letting the world or others lead us. And some of us are letting the Master of the Universe lead us. Now, I’m here today because I believe this is where You have led me, Lord. I was praying for someone and asking You to give me wisdom in praying and You put Your prayer in my head. This is what You used when Your disciples asked You to teach them to pray. And this part is what is standing out this early morning in me.
I want this for me and I want this for the family I’m praying for. And it’s not that they’re doing bad things or being tempted per se. I mean, not if I think of temptation like we usually do. But what if temptation isn’t as obvious as I think? What if temptation goes deeper than I think?
Skip Moen likened temptation to a puncture wound. Think about it. A puncture wound doesn’t seem so bad. It covers itself back when the damaging instrument is pulled out. There’s not much blood. It hurts when it happens but then seems OK. But let me tell you something, you better have your tetanus shot up to date. You better keep an eye on it because there is probably an infection within coming up.
Temptation is like that. It sinks a barb in and we think we’ve handled it for the moment. But it may have gone deeper than we think. There could be thoughts we haven’t handled or doubts that we haven’t noticed. Think of a situation you are praying for. What if it doesn’t turn out the way you want? What will your response to God be? Will you be angry? Will you curse God? Or will your response be like Job’s after he lost his wealth, all his children, and his health? “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him…” Don’t tell me he wasn’t inflicted with many barbs of temptation. I mean, his wife told him, “Curse God and die.” I think temptation comes in all forms; even in the form of trials and difficult situations that test our faith.
I mean, who would think that suffering would tempt me? But it does, doesn’t it? Doesn’t my pain, whether in sickness or job loss or family problems sink deep? And my faith may look strong on the outside but what about the doubts or thoughts being harbored on the inside? Am I handling them rightly? See, it’s so easy for me to think I’ve got everything covered when it’s an “outward” difficulty. But I can’t forget that even though something attacks me on the outside, I’m not just waging a “battle of the flesh.” Am I taking care of the spiritual warfare that is going on within? Am I letting a stronghold creep into my heart? Or am I attacking every thought, every doubt that’s raising it’s ugly head against Your truth, Lord, grabbing it, identifying it, and utterly destroying it? If I’m in You, Jesus, Your divine power is there to enable me to do just that.
Paul knew we’d go through this. So he powerfully reminded us “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The Corinthians that Paul was talking to were going through some hard times and situations. But what they were doing was fleeing to idols instead of You. “Well, I’m not going to flee to an idol!” Really? What if I come into a hard situation, and I don’t “agree” with the way You are handling it, Lord? Do I continue to trust You even when I don’t understand and can’t make sense and hurt like there’s no tomorrow? Or do I trust in my own reasoning, my anger, my justification, or whatever else? Isn’t it “funny” how I turn to myself as an idol without even realizing it? I didn’t even realize what that puncture wound had done.
But Paul is telling me that when the tough times and decisions hit me, that You will get me through it. You don’t snatch me out of it, Your ultimate way of escape is for Your provision of strength and power for me to ENDURE it. You know everything about me. You know my limits. And You know what You created me to be able to handle better than me. Which means that every thing that happens in my life, no matter how terrible, is do-able and do-able well in Your power. You give me the power to overcome in every situation. I just need to act and think in belief, in agreement with You and Your word. Because You have recreated me and renewed me to “endure living in a broken world.” See, Your idea of enduring is from the Greek word “hupophero.” It’s the idea of bearing “up under pressure. It does not imply removal of the opposing force. It implies the ability to resist that force, to bear the load.” Because the whole point is, in You, I never have to bear the load alone. And the fact is, that You bore the heavier load already for me when You went to the cross. And look how You overcame. So, I’ve got that same resurrection power behind me, if I’m in You.
So, prayer empowers me when I pray rightly. Prayer should be me remembering who You are and what You are doing and Your promises to me. I obey. Every thought. I follow Your path, even if it’s just in my thinking. I handle the wrong thoughts, by capturing them and slaughtering them. The truth is, I don’t need any devil whispering temptations to me. I’m my own idol easily enough. My desires kick in too easily. I need every reminder of You. And I must act upon those reminders immediately. I must not ignore You or Your instructions. I have to grab on because they are my weapon that will take me through and make me an overcomer in You. I need to drop my pride and ask for directions from You. I don’t want to wander off, and believe me, wandering off is very easy for my active mind. “Lead me not into temptation.” Don’t let me wander off Your path. You would never lead me off, it’s me who wanders. Help me! But all the help is right here. I have all I need in You and in Your word, if only I will rely on it and act upon it and guard it and do it and think it and live it.
So, Lord, deliver me from evil. Evil is from the word “poneros”, from “ponos”, which means toil, to labor in pain under intense demands. The Hebrew equivalent word is “atsav” “describing the toil in sorrow that accompanies the Fall.” So what if evil isn’t just bad deeds? What if evil includes the effects of sin, like death and pain and hardships? Why? Because I live in a broken world and evil is all about that brokenness. Evil is about the lack or absence of God. It’s all about independence from Your authority. I live in a broken world that doesn’t acknowledge You as God. But what about me? Am I refusing Your authority in any situation? Do I want to make this situation my own? How’s my worship? Because if I’m refusing Your authority, I’m going to lose in the area of worship. I may win my way, but I’ll also win emptiness, because I’ll lose my intimacy with You.
No matter how hard this evil in the world is around me, in You, I can get under it’s weight and stand strong. I’m stronger than Atlas, bearing the world on his shoulders. When I respond rightly in You, I have Your strength strengthening me, and You hold all of creation by just the power of Your word. You don’t even have to raise a pinky. Atlas has to use his muscles. Not You. Evil hurts. It stands in the face of You. But evil is puny compared to You. And You’ve got my back.
Paul wasn’t the only one trying to get me to understand this truth. So did John. And he used that word “poneros” too. He reminded, “I have written to you fathers [spiritually matured believers], because you have known Him that is from the beginning [Jesus]. I have written to you, young men [believers in their earlier walk], becaue you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the Evil One [Satan and sin].” The truth is that Sin is rampant. This world is filled with it. But in Christ, when I know Him, I am strong. I am “ischuros.” I am powerful, mighty, valiant! In You, I’m empowered to tear down strongholds. But it’s better, Lord, if I don’t let them get built in the first place.
Lord, no matter what happens in my life, to me, or the people around me, I want to keep a right focus on You. I want to apply Your word rightly in my life and in my mind. Bring to mind and point out everything I need for each moment. And keep me constantly seeking You in Your word and in prayer and in fellowship. Because I’m going to face hard, evil things. But I abide in You. And that’s where I want to stay, abiding in You. And I want to make sure that Your word abides in me. And you’ve already told me that I have overcome the Evil One. And that means that I’ve already overcome every evil thing that gets thrown at me, because You have already empowered me in You. So let me live in the middle of Your authority, Your control, Your power, always giving You the glory no matter what. Let me remember that Job lost everything but You were still worth more. Let me believe that though You slay me, yet will I trust You. Let me believe that You are my salvation. Let me trust in You for my justification. Just don’t ever withdraw Your hand from me and don’t ever let Your dread make me afraid. Let me hear Your voice, always. Let me obey. Hear my voice when I cry, and direct me to what I need to hear and obey.