Temptation is not sin. It is a private tempest that rages against the soul of a saint. It presents itself as an insidious insistence, urging us to tamper with our moral compass.
Picking an issue, it goes to work. Timing is its tidal wave. A well-aimed quiet suggestion crashes over the soul again and again, unexpectedly, at any time, and in any place. That is why the Lord suffered the onslaught of temptation at its zenith strength for 40 days, not just 40 minutes. The sheer length of the battle was our Forerunner's proving ground.
Fighting temptation produces moral sweat. This is no game. Resistance to well-dressed mincing evil is hard work. Our Lord's sweat was so deep, it dredged up drops of blood. We're not there yet, in the degree of our loathing of its origins.
Temptation often supplies rational reasons, appealing to the intellect, to do what the spirit knows not to do. Timing, longevity and rationalization are its age-old, well-honed tactics against the human soul. We must resolve to keep our ship steady in the tempest, remembering that ours is not a solo voyage. A weathered Captain sails with us. Holiness is accrued via hundreds of these unsung victories waged and won in the secret recesses of the heart before an audience of ONE. Coveting an unshakeable rudder works within the saint a spiritual maturity that grows more confident as the years roll on. We learn the enemy. But more importantly, we learn where our own soul draws succor against all unrighteousness, successfully.
The awesome young Scottish theologian McCheyne advised: do not tempt temptation. “Do not go to the end of the string, that is, going as far as one can in dallying with temptation without actually committing open sin. Remember that it is our own happiness to be eager to live in obedience, for every sin will be bitterness in the end, and will take something out of our eternal portion of glory.”