Overcome Circumstantial Temptations

Overcome 'Circumstantial' Temptations

Chapter Two

Overcome 'Circumstantial' Temptations
Conquering The 'Giant' Of Jealousy! 26 Conquering The 'Giant' Of Negativism! 34
Conquering The 'Giant' Of Judgmentalism! 28 Is Faith 'Idealism' Or 'Realism'? 36
Conquering The 'Giant' Of Envy! 30 Discussion Questions 38
Are You 'Exclusive' Or 'Inclusive' In Your Love Of Others? 32    

Matthew 20:20-28

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Jealousy!

Let that 'mind' be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. The battle against jealousy is won in the mind Step by step, let us note how this deliverance is accomplished. First, see the possibility of deliverance through Christ alone who never envied another.

Second, honestly face your personal need for deliverance. It is humiliating to admit you have this problem, but the Great Physician can only heal you if you confess it.

Third, re-channel your tendency towards comparison with others. God accepts you just as you are and, therefore, you don't need to build up your ego by comparing yourself with others in a less favorable condition than you (which leads to ugly pride), and you don't need to plunge yourself into despair or into jealousy by comparing yourself with others who appear to be in a much more favorable condition than you. The quest in our society for power, popularity, dominance, and leadership breeds envy, strife, and jealousy. Compare yourself only with yourself, that you might continue to grow.

Fourth, rejoice in the God-ordained place which Christ has for you personally. God has a place for all in His great family. There is no need for any member to compare itself with any other member of the Body of Christ (Church), for each member has a different function and each member is needed for the healthy functioning of the entire Body. A great antidote against envy and jealousy is learning to enjoy others and learning to enjoy giving preference and honor to others. The only competition, worthy of the name of Christ, is the competition of love – seeking to outdo one another in ads of compassion and love! This attitude makes for a harmonious Church!

Fifth, realize that Christ can take away the desire for the approval and praise of the 'Crowd' – the source of much envy and jealousy. and that Christ can replace this desire with the sole desire for the praise and approval of God. The one-talented servant of God, who is inwardly confident that he is sincerely seeking to 'please the Master', may feel the 'smile of God's approval' on his life. If his Savior approves of him and 'praises' him, why should he need the applause of mere men?

Sixth, play down your own successes. Emphasize long-time brotherhood. Don't magnify new differences in status or attainments or successes. Never deliberately provoke envy in another, either through overt remarks of conceit or through actions of pride. "Let your love be perfectly sincere… allowing one another to enjoy preference of honor." (Romans 12:9, Berkeley) Says Proverbs 27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." Focus on others, not on yourself!

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"Father, help me to die, both to the praise and to the blame of men, and study only to show myself approved by You. Make me 'jealous' only for your 'smile of approval.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will rejoice in the God-ordained place which God has given to me and not envy God's place for someone else!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 7:1

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Judgmentalism!

One 'trap' (sin) that believers must always guard against is the 'trap' of judgmentalism. It is far too easy for Christians, who are 'very different' from each other, to succumb to the temptation to judge each other. The Christian with an impulsive temperament may be misunderstood (and judged) by the Christian whose temperament is passive. The cheerful temperament may have 'problems' with the artistic temperament which is given more often to moodiness. The activistic temperament may have 'problems' with the meditative temperament. The extrovertive temperament may grow impatient with the introvertive temperament. When different temperaments conflict and patience grows thin, there is need for the 'grace' of tolerance and understanding, and for the 'oil' of forgiveness. Try to overlook the 'personality flaws' in others, and focus instead on their strengths and virtues. Be patient with others, slow to judge, quick to forgive!

William Barclay suggests three reasons why no one is capable of judging another: (1) We never know the whole facts or the whole person. We cannot understand his circumstances or temptations. (2) It is almost impossible for any man to be strictly impartial in his judgement. (3) No man is good enough to judge another man. Our own faults and our own inability to resolve them automatically disqualify us as fair critics.

Notes John Church, "This leads me to call your attention to the fact that in the Book of Leviticus, the 13th and 14th chapters, the truth is brought out in a very striking way, that sometimes there was brought to the High Priest a person who had an eruption which looked very much as if the person was a leper. However, the High Priest was not hasty in his judgment on that person, for it was a serious thing to pronounce him a leper. If there was any doubt at all in the mind of the Priest, he always gave the person involved the benefit of the doubt. He had him shut up for seven days and then he looked again. If he was still not sure, he withheld judgment and had the person shut up for seven more days. In some cases this was repeated until a period of twenty one days passed before he would pass final judgment on a person. I have often read this passage and thought of what a wonderful thing it would be if all Christian people would manifest the same patience in judging their fellow men about their sins and faults. Just suppose that we would be willing to wait twenty one days before we finally passed judgment upon the conduct of our brother. What a different world this would be! The trouble with us is that we condemn and pass judgment before all the evidence is in, and many people are condemned before they have a hearing. Too bad that this is true, for many lives have been hurt and reputations have been ruined by such hasty judgment. Let us be patient and wait until all the evidence is in; it may not be as bad as we think," (Earthen Vessels; pg. 16,17)

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"Father, forgive me for my critical, judgmental attitude towards my fellow Christians. Help me to be slow to speak and quick to listen, slow to judge and quick to forgive."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus said 'Judge Not' and He also said 'Ye shall know them by their fruit.' Fruit-testing (1 John 4:1-3)? Yes! Critical Judging (Matthew 7:1)? No!

– Ron Christian –

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Matthew 6:19-21

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Envy!

Have you ever felt like you took two steps forward and three steps backward, that the harder you tried to live a godly life the more adversities and reverses you seemed to experience? Have you ever felt a spirit of envy and covetousness come over you when you observed the wicked in their prosperity in contrast to your hardships and obstacles and financial troubles? Have you ever wondered why God allows the wicked man to enjoy pleasures and power and position and prestige, while God, at the same time, allows the righteous man to suffer hardships of all kinds – financial losses, physical infirmities, heart-breaking sorrows, spiritual depressions? Have you ever thought that health and wealth automatically belonged to you by virtue of your spiritual sonship in God's family, and that, when you weren't enjoying prosperity, God must be failing to keep His promises? Have you ever been tempted to demand an explanation of why some who are not as righteous as you are, seem to get ahead in life? If you believe that material prosperity is a sure sign of God's blessings, then you will be very confused, maybe even bitter, if you observe the wicked prospering while you are not prospering! Envy is the result of one person (in this case, a believer) making an unfavorable comparison with another(in this case, with a prosperous wicked man). If we are honest, most of us would have to admit that the seeming "prosperity" of our unsaved friends, in contrast to our seeming "failure", causes envious feelings to rise to the surface of our hearts.

What is the answer to your evil coveting? He who falls in love with God soon falls out of love with the things of this-world! It is learning to covet what God covets, to treasure what God treasures, to delight in what God delights in. Setting your affections on God and on heavenly things, is exchanging the world for heaven, is exchanging the temporary for the permanent, is making the Living God the object of your coveting rather than making your false and manmade gods the object of your coveting. Treasuring God and desiring the smile of God's approval, and coveting a God-like character – these new affections replace the old affections. It is the object of your coveting that determines whether your coveting is right or wrong. Jesus did not forbid you to lay up treasures, but He did define the kind of treasures you are to lay up and He did pinpoint. the place where those treasures are to be deposited. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) Loving God and His eternal Kingdom is one of the best antidotes for evil coveting! He who is preoccupied with trying to please and obey God, is not preoccupied with trying to outdo his fellow men. The one who follows God need not envy the worldling whose desires are inflamed by what the world has to offer-houses and lands, power and pleasures, fortune and fame.

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"Jesus, You are the "Water of life" and the "Bread of life" – the satisfaction of my greatest 'hungers' and my insatiable 'thirst'! In Thee, all my needs are fully supplied!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus never promised His-followers material wealth or worldly power, but He did promise "abundant life" here and "eternal life" hereafter!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Are You 'Exclusive' Or 'Inclusive' In Your Love Of Others?

One of the temptations which believers often face is the temptation to be 'exclusive' in their attitudes and actions towards other persons (persons who are 'professing Christians') who greatly differ in their religious beliefs and practices from themselves. Followers of Jesus Christ must never forget that love (given to humble believers as a gift by the Holy Spirit, Romans 5:5) not only covers a multitude of sins (James 5:20 and I Peter 4:8), but that love also seeks to include in one's circle of fellowship the greatest number of believers that one can possibly include. Love is 'inclusive', not 'exclusive'! There are certain negative words which accurately describe what love is NOT. Love is not narrow, sectarian, judgmental, rigid, critical, proud. Rather, love is broad, open- minded, charitable in judgment-making, accepting, positive, humble, teachable, flexible, and tolerant. Notes the great Christian theologian and philosopher, Francis A. Schaeffer, "One must realize that there is a great difference between believing in absolutes and having an absolutist mentality about everything." (The Church At The End of the 20th Century; pg. 151)

In his excellent book 'Love Covers', Paul Billheimer notes, "The only power that will bring unity in the Body of Christ is the power of agape love. Adequate love for Jesus enables one to accept and love those whom He accepts and loves, regardless of their opinions in non-essentials. We shall never be united by conceptual truth, church polity, liturgy, or any canon or confession of faith – only by agape love. With a sufficient flow of love in the Body, all divisive factors will shrink and diminish in significance. No breach in the Body of Christ is caused primarily by superior knowledge, differing convictions, or divergent views of truth; but by one thing and only one – lack of agape love. Therefore, the only remedy will be found in growth in love, that is, authentic love for God. God knows that finite minds will never reach absolutely inerrant conclusions. He knows that many controversies will never be settled this side of heaven. If infallibility in doctrine or conceptual truth in nonessentials is all important in God's sight, why did He leave room for doubts and differences of opinion? May it not be that He permits uncertainty in nonessentials to give opportunity for practice and growth in love? Which is more important, to be right in opinion and wrong in spirit or to be wrong in opinion and right in spirit? What happens when one is wrong in spirit? Is not the Holy Spirit within him consciously grieved and does He not witness to offense by an inward sense of disapproval? God may, and does, bless those with opposite views on nonessentials. God may and does bless those with contradictory views but He never blesses lovelessness." ('Love Covers' by Paul Billheimer; portions, pgs. 106,107,112)

"Loving Heavenly Father, I confess that I too often have sinned by excluding your children from my personal fellowship, simply because they think and act and react and worship differently than I do. Please forgive me for my sectarianism, and now open my

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heart to embrace all true believers in my affections. In Jesus' charitable name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: All who have bowed their knees and who have declared with- their lips that' Jesus Is Lord' are my brothers and 'sisters in God's big Family!

– Ron Christian –

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is a 'gold mine' of creative genius hidden in every person; I determine to help others discover their God-given treasures!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Samuel 17:8-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-51

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Negativism!

In your 'battle' against the 'giant' of negativism remember that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you serve the most positive person who ever lived! Jesus is the 'Divine Yes' to all of life, for He puts a positive Yes upon every No that comes to a Christian! When a believer experiences unexplainable tragedy or when he observes life's many inequities, injustices, and mysteries, he is tempted to become cynical, bitter, pessimistic, and negative. When you are severely tempted to become an 'agnostic', you must express your faith in God! That is to say, in spite of your confused mind and your 'bleeding' heart (because of life's losses and disappointments), you must reaffirm that God knows what is best (Be is all-wise), God wants to give what is the best (He is all-loving), God can do what is best (He is all-powerful)! Even though you can't understand with your mind, you can accept (trust) with your heart! In all of life's experiences you can learn to give thanks, for nothing can happen to the true believer but what God allows, and God will not allow His children to shed any 'needless tears'. To help you avoid falling into the 'trap' of 'negativism', you must often quote Romans 8:28 – "And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans."

As in the case of young David who courageously confronted the evil giant (Goliath) – as recorded in today's Scripture Reading – you must not dwell on the 'discouraging' conditions which surround you, and you must not absorb the negative spirit of reactionary and critical people! What is one of the greatest 'secrets' to overcoming the 'giant' of negativism? David didn't lose heart and succumb to the temptation to be negative and pessimistic because he had his eyes on God, not on Goliath. David did not make youthful boasts based on his own supposed strength. David made confident claims based on his personal faith in Almighty God! David remained 'positive' and did not become paralyzed with fear because he knew God, and in knowing of God's power, the power of Goliath looked like nothing to David! The 'secret' to facing threatening situations (the 'giants') is to know God, to have so much confidence in God's strength and might that the might of Duman problems looks small in comparison!

Your faith in God (during life's crisis) can be contagious. David's close contact with God was David's basis for encouraging others not to lose heart, as they faced the 'death threats' of Goliath. If you choose 'optimistic faith' instead of 'pessimistic doubt', you will be amazed at the number of 'timorous believers' whom you will excite and awaken in their exercise of faith in the Almighty God! Like David, when you live close to God, you are in a position to be a great encourager to others (especially to those 'weak believers' who are wavering in their faith – who look at the 'dark side' of life).

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"Father, hold me 'steady' during life's losses and griefs, when I find it too easy to think and speak and act negatively. Use me to help 'rally' others to exercise positive faith!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God is on the 'throne' of the universe, I believe there is 'sunshine' behind every 'cloud', purpose in every mystery, 'grace' for every tragedy!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Samuel 17:8-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-51

Is Faith 'Idealism' Or 'Realism'?

When the adults (including King Saul) confronted the mighty giant (Goliath), they believed that their reaction of 'fear' was a reaction of 'realism'. These negative-thinking and negative-speaking adults (Israelite soldiers) ridiculed young David for his optimistic talk, in defiance of Goliath. The faith-filled and positive-minded David asked: "Who is this heathen Philistine, anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26 b, Living Bible) David, who was accused of ' youthful idealism', was the only one present who was truly 'realistic'. David alone 'focused' on the God of Israel, whose power was far greater than the boasted strength of Goliath who served the false gods of the Philistines. When a believer (like David) trusts alone in the God of the universe, that believer is the person who has truly 'connected' with reality! In this classic story of David and Goliath, adult pessimism (in the name of 'realism') confronted youthful idealism (in the name of 'faith') and David's victory over Goliath proved to everyone that day that 'faith in God' (not 'pessimistic fear') was what constituted 'realism'!

So-called 'youthful idealism' (as seen in the courage and faith of David) is too often criticized by 'sophisticated' adults. When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard David speaking with the Israelite soldiers, Eliab burned with anger at David and he asked: "Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle." Eliab and the other brothers were negative, faithless, critical, pessimistic – and all in the name of 'realism'! What a 'perversion of reality'! David alone was the 'realist', for David focused his sole attention on Almighty God! King Saul too was negative and faithless: "You, David, are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him, you are only a boy, and Goliath has been a fighting man from his youth. " Saul pointed out David's limitations. David was small and Goliath was big! David was inexperienced, and Goliath was an experienced warrior!

There are adults today who try to discourage a child's or a youth's exercise of faith and optimism. There are those who attempt to bring death to youthful aspirations and dreams and hopes. What kind of 'word' do you give to young persons – a 'discouraging word' or an 'encouraging word'? Do you help inspire the visions and dreams of young people, or do you, in the name of 'realism', throw 'cold water' on their zeal and enthusiasm? Parents (and other adults) who destroy the faith, idealism, and spiritual visions of their children, cause their children to lose hope and to despair and to become (like the adults) pessimistic and negative! What tragedy and what a sin! Woe to such an adult (see Matthew 18:6)!

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"Father, I want to be a person of positive faith, encouraging young people to 'focus' on their potential, not on their limitations; to 'reach for the stars', not 'wallow' in the mud."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There are no 'impossible' situations in life, only people who have grown faithless when confronting the challenges of life!

– Ron Christian –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Tell to what extent you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "God accepts you just as you are and, therefore, you don't need to- build up your ego by comparing yourself with others in a less favorable condition than you (which leads to ugly pride), and you don't need to plunge yourself into despair or jealousy by comparing yourself with others who appear to be in a much more favorable condition than you."

  2. What steps have you personally taken to curb your tendency (temptation) towards selfish (hurtful) competition with others?

  3. Have you learned to rejoice in the God-ordained place which God has uniquely given to you and not to envy God's place for someone else? (Note John 21:15-23)

  4. Why do you think there's such a strong tendency (temptation) for Christians to judge (i.e., to criticize) their fellow Christians (or other persons, in general)? What is the difference between properly evaluating (testing) the life and character of other persons, and improperly judging (criticizing) other persons? (Note Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3; Matthew 7:1-5)

  5. Give several reasons why you (as a believer) are incapable of 'judging' another person.

  6. Have you ever felt a 'spirit of envy and covetousness' come over you, when you observed the wicked in their prosperity in contrast to your hardships and obstacles and financial troubles? If so, what is the 'answer' (solution) to your wrongful coveting? (Note Psalm 73)

  7. From your own personal experiences and from your .observation of other godly persons, tell if you believe the following statement reflects 'reality': "He who is preoccupied with trying to please and obey God, is not preoccupied with trying to outdo his fellow men."

  8. Why is it "so dangerous" for Christians to teach that financial prosperity and physical health are "evidences" ("signs") of God's special favor on a person's life? Tell to what degree you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "Jesus never promised His followers material wealth or worldly power, but He did promise 'abundant life' here and 'eternal life' hereafter!"

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  9. What should your attitude be towards fellow Christians whose theological beliefs and personal 'convictions' and Biblical interpretations and material lifestyle and worship style are very different than your own? (Note 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Romans 14:1; Romans 15:7)

  10. Which is more important, to be right in opinion and wrong in spirit, or to be wrong in opinion and right in spirit? Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God may and does bless those with contradictory views but He never blesses lovelessness."

  11. How does belief in God's sovereignty help you to cope with life's inequities and mysteries and injustices? (Note Romans 8:28) Tell to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement: "In spite of your confused mind and your 'bleeding' heart (because of life's losses and disappointments), you must reaffirm that God knows what is best (He is all-wise), God wants to give what is best (Be is all-loving), God can do what is best (He is all-powerful)!"

  12. What is one of the greatest 'secrets' to overcoming the 'giant' of negativism?

  13. From the example of David's defiance against the pagan giant (Goliath), what affect will your "positive attitudes of faith" have upon other persons surrounding you? (Note 1 Samuel 17:8-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-51)

  14. Is faith in God 'idealism' or 'realism'? Why? Why can it be said that the Christian, whose sole focus is on God, is the genuine 'realist'?

  15. Do you help inspire the visions and dreams of young people, or do you, in the name of 'realism', throw 'cold water' on their zeal and enthusiasm?

  16. Are you a 'possibility thinker' or do you tend negatively to focus on the problems in people and in situations? What steps have you taken to rid yourself of your tendencies (temptations) towards negative (pessimistic and faithless) thinking?

  17. Do you, like the apostle Paul, tend to see the possibilities and potential in other people (in even 'down-and-out' people), or do you tend to disqualify and disinherit and discriminate against people? (Note Philemon 1:1-25) In your 'general outlook' on life, do you tend to see 'problems' or 'possibilities' in people and in life's situations? Generally-speaking are you a 'positive-minded' or a 'negative-minded' person? From a Biblical and practical perspective, why is it so vitally important for you to be a 'positive-minded' person? What are some of the specific benefits which you and others receive as a result of your positive thoughts and positive actions?

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  18. Do you see a 'bundle of possibilities' in every child you meet, or do you see most children as an 'immature annoyance'? Do you believe that encouragement will do far more for people than rebuke will do? Why or why not?

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