By Palitha Jayasooriya, Crosswalk.com
Every child of God faces temptation. It’s a given fact. As we look at the scriptures, we see that Esau gave up his birthright for stew, Ananias and Sapphira wrecked their lives over money, Samson lost his anointing because of a lady, Saul lost his Kingship because of cattle, and the Prophet Elisha’s servant Gehazi lost his calling because of silver and clothes!
1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Whenever temptation comes our way, Satan will use it to target our faith, our character, and to wreck God’s plan for our life.
Let’s look at temptations Joseph faced as Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him into sexual sin. It came at a time when he had found great success in Potiphar’s household and business. The story is found in Genesis 39:6-12 and it illuminates 6 types of temptation that can come against a child of God:
1. Natural Temptation
Now Joseph was well built and handsome – Genesis 39:6
Each of us have natural desires that God has given us, including the desire for acceptance, sex, food, and more. The Bible says “Now Joseph was well built and handsome” (Genesis 39:6). He was an attractive, strong, young man and would have faced temptation like anyone else, for scripture says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Joseph was surely no exception to what afflicts common humanity, and he would have faced temptation many times. Being handsome, he probably would have attracted the attention of many ladies. One thing is certain, he was soon noticed by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph however, found his strength in the Lord.
Today, we too are tempted on every side through billboards, magazines, videos, pornography, and many other ways.
How comforting it is to know that Jesus can give us strength to face all temptation for Hebrews says, “We have one (a high priest) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Yes, Jesus understands our temptations and He will help us through them. We need to seek His help daily.
2. Influential Temptation
After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said “come to bed with me!” – Genesis 39:7
This was sexual harassment in the workplace and it involved the first lady; the Chairman’s wife! She was a lady of great influence and would most probably have used her powers often against people. To therefore resist would have been difficult and dangerous for Joseph. But, resist he did, even though he knew well what she could do because of her influence. As we know, she exacted her revenge to the maximum (Genesis 39:20)!
Are you facing temptation because of some influential person? Is it in the office or through your boss? Is it in your family circle or in your circle of friends? Are influential people pressurizing you to take ungodly decisions? How are you coping with it?
On the other hand, maybe you are a person of influence. If so, are you using it to hurt others or to pressure them to do something that dishonors God?
Think about it, and remember that 1 Corinthians 10:3 includes the promise that “when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out.”
3. Promotion Temptation
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me… – Genesis 39:9
Joseph had risen to a place of trust with Potiphar and been given full executive powers in Potiphar’s business enterprise. He clearly understood that promotion comes from the Lord (Psalm 75:6-7). But with promotion came new challenges as Joseph soon found out. His promotion caught the attention of Potiphar’s wife as he would have had to interact more frequently with her now.
God’s desire is to bless our work and this may well lead to promotion and success. When that happens, let’s be careful to handle the temptations that come with it, especially pride, greed, lust, compromise, and arrogance.
We may also want to please our boss and our company more than we please God. We could be tempted to give most of our time to find even greater success and to make more money, often at the expense of neglecting our family and our health.
Our integrity could well go out the window unless we let God stay in control of our hearts.
4. Persistent Temptation
She spoke to Joseph day after day – Genesis 39:10
Yes, some temptations hit us repeatedly, especially in our weak areas. Whenever our church is in a period of fasting and prayer, I find that good food seems to be around wherever I go! That’s persistent temptation.
Potiphar’s wife kept persisting ‘day after day’, hoping that Joseph would yield one day. Thank God, he didn’t.
Are you being tempted to yield to something that is coming against you repeatedly? How do you plan to overcome it? Are you seeking help, prayer, and godly counsel or even running away when needed?
There is a story about a man who repeatedly asked the Pastor to pray that the cobwebs in his life would be removed. After quite a number of such prayers, the Pastor got tired of removing cobwebs and prayed that God would ‘once and for all’ kill the spider that was making the cobwebs!
We have to put to death anything that comes against us repeatedly to make us dishonor our Lord.
5. The Perfect Setting Temptation
One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak... – Genesis 39:11-12
The stage was ready with a perfect setting for temptation to overpower Joseph. No one was at home, Joseph was alone, and Potiphar’s wife was probably showing no doubts about her intentions.
Maybe the lights were dim, with romantic music playing in the background. To make it more difficult, she even caught him by the cloak.
Joseph, in response, may have taken his cue from the athletes of his day, because he followed their example. He ran!
When the setting is perfect for sin to flourish, we may make excuses saying that “even God would understand.” Joseph could have thought so, too. We may even say that “God allowed it to happen.” But the scripture says that God doesn’t tempt anyone. He will not lead us into anything that dishonors Him.
There is a story of a University student who had a good reputation for integrity, but blew it one day. When the disappointed Principal talked to the student in his office, he responded by saying that the Principal would probably not be able to find even ten students who wouldn’t have acted in similar fashion given the same circumstances. The wise Principal replied, ‘That’s true son, but you could have been one of those ten!
The setting may be perfect to yield to sin, but we are called to please God in every such perfect setting.
6. Isolation Temptation
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties and none of the household servants was inside. – Genesis 39:11
Not only was Joseph alone in the house, but he was also isolated from his home and people. He would have been missing his family and childhood friends. He could have been lonely and in need of comfort, but he refused to sin.
Predators in the animal kingdom normally look to isolate their targeted prey from the rest of the herd when they hunt. Similarly, Satan is a predator who looks to attack and to devour the weak, the marginalized, and the lonely. Joseph was alone when the temptation hit like a whirlwind. You too will be attacked if Satan is able to isolate you.
Those who travel out of town or overseas for work, away from family, should be extra careful.
So, which of the above mentioned 6 temptations are you battling now?
Here are a few steps that could help you overcome these temptations:
1. Don’t Battle Alone
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. – Proverbs 15:22
Find a trustworthy friend or a group you can be accountable to. Seek their advice, counsel, and prayer when needed.
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart – 2 Timothy 2:22
This is the Apostle Paul’s advice to young Timothy and that’s exactly what Joseph did. (Genesis 39:12)
3. Watch Your Eyes
The Psalmist said, “I will set before my EYES no vile thing” (Psalm 101:3)
4. Be Careful of the Little Things
It’s the smaller sins that lead to the bigger ones. Telling little lies can lead to the bigger lies and being dishonest with small change may well lead to outright cheating.
5. Depend on God’s Strength Daily
Look for God’s strength daily through prayer (1 Corinthians 10:13), and for His escape route. As someone said, “If He bolts a door, don’t try to jump in through a window!”
May the Lord’s grace be with you as you face the minefield of temptation.
Palitha Jayasooriya is an Executive/Preaching Pastor of the 4000+ strong People’s Church, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His writings, sermons, and illustrations can be found on You Version, Sermon Search and Thoughts about God. Palitha is happily married to Regina and is the father of two adorable sons, Sheriah and Sheramiah. He can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to his blog ‘The Preaching Platform’ (www.preachingplatform.org).
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/Jonah Cowie