Triumph Over Temptation
I still chuckle when I think about the joke I heard about the game warden who got a quick lesson on fishing.
It seems he noticed how this one particular fellow named Sam consistently caught more fish than anyone else. Whereas the other guys would only catch three or four a day, Sam would come in off the lake with a boat full. Stringer after stringer was always packed with freshly caught trout.
The warden, curious, asked Sam his secret. The successful fisherman invited the game warden to accompany him and observe. So the next morning the two met at the dock and took off in Sam’s boat. When they got to the middle of the lake, they stopped the boat and the warden sat back to see how it was done. Sam’s approach was simple. He took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it in the air. The explosion rocked the lake with such a force that dead fish immediately began to surface. Sam took out a net and started scooping them up.
Well, you can imagine the reaction of the game warden. When he recovered from the shock of it all, he began yelling at Sam. ‘You can’t do this! I’ll put you in jail, buddy! You will be paying every fine there is in the book!’ Sam, meanwhile, set his net down and took out another stick of dynamite. He lit it and tossed it in the lap of the game warden with these words, ‘Are you going to sit there all day complaining or are you going to fish?’
The poor warden was left with a fast decision to make. He was yanked, in one second, from an observer to a participant. A dynamite of a choice had to be made and be made quickly!
Life is like that. Few days go by without our coming face to face with an uninvited, unanticipated, yet unavoidable decision. Like a crashing snowbank, these decisions tumble upon us without warning. They disorientate and bewilder. Quick. Immediate. Sudden. No council, no study, no advice. Pow! All of a sudden you are hurled into the air of uncertainty and only instinct will determine if you will land on your feet.
Want a good example? Look at the three apostles in the garden. Sound asleep. Weary from a full meal and full week, their eyelids too heavy, they are awakened by Jesus only to tumble back into dreamland. The last time, however, they were awakened by Jesus to clanging swords, bright torches, and loud voices.
“There he is!”
“Let’s get him!”
A shout. A kiss. A shuffling of feet. A slight skirmish. All of a sudden it is decision time. No time to huddle. No time to pray. No time to mediate or consult friends. Decision. Peter makes his. Out comes the sword. Off goes the ear. Jesus rebukes him. Now what? Mark, who apparently was a young eyewitness, wrote these words, “Then everyone deserted him and fled.”1 That’s a nice way of saying they ran like scared mice. The only thing that was moving faster than their feet was their pulse rate. All those words of loyalty and commitment were left behind in a cloud of dust.
But before we get too hard on these quick-footed followers, let’s look at ourselves. Maybe you have been in the garden of decision a few times yourself. Has your loyalty ever been challenged? Have you ever passed by this trap door of the devil?
For the teenager it could be a joint being passed around the circle.
For the businessman it could be an offer to make a little cash “under the table.”
For the wife it could be a chance for her to give her “two bits” of juicy gossip.
For the student it could be an opportunity to improve his grade while looking at his friend’s quiz.
For the husband it could mean an urge to lose his temper over his wife’s spending.
One minute we are in a calm boat on a lake talking about fishing, in the next we have a stick of dynamite in our hands.
More often than not, the end result is catastrophe. Rather than calmly defusing the bomb, we let it explode. We find ourselves doing the very thing we detest. The child in us lunges forward, uncontrolled and unrestrained, and the adult in us follows behind shaking his head.
Now, it doesn’t have to be like that. Jesus didn’t panic. He, too, heard the swords and saw the clubs, but He didn’t lose His head.
In re-reading the garden scene we can see why. One statement made by our Master offers two basic tools for keeping our cool in the heat of a decision. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”2
All Jesus is saying is, “pay attention.” You know your weaknesses. You also know the situations in which your weaknesses are most vulnerable. Stay out of those situations. Back seats. Late hours. Nightclubs. Poker games. Bridge parties. Movie theatres. Whatever it is that gives Satan a foothold in your life, stay away from it. Watch out!
Second tool: “Pray.” Prayer isn’t telling God anything new. There is not a sinner or a saint who would surprise Him. What prayer does is invite God to walk the shadowy pathways of life with us. Prayer is asking God to watch ahead for falling trees and tumbling boulders and to bring up the rear, guarding our backside from the poison darts of the devil.
“Watch and pray.” Good advice. Let’s take it. It could be the difference between a peaceful day on the lake and a stick of dynamite blowing up in our faces.
1 Mark 14:50
2 Mark 14:38
Excerpt from “Winning Your Spiritual Battles”
http://www.upwords.com. Used by permission