By Mike Mounts

It’s near midnight. The moonlight I casts its reflection on the warm I waters of Tampa Bay. There’s a gentle southwest breeze.  A perfect night . . . for fishing. For the last four hours I’ve walked the southeast side of the Skyway Bridge, trolling an eight-inch Cisco Kid up and down the bridge, with one thing in mind: land a snook (Florida’s game fish).

Because of the time, and because I was on my honeymoon (l wouldn’t recommend this to all newlyweds), I needed to leave. But before I left, I wanted to make one more cast. Just one more trip to the bend and back.

Then it happened. Something took the bait. I felt the strike—looked out—and there in the light of the moon, jumping out of the water—a snook!

With my heart in my throat, I began to reel, but the fish continued to take line. After several minutes, I began to reel in the tired fish. Because of his size, I was concerned about trying to reel him out of the water and up to the bridge. So I decided to walk back to my tackle box, dragging him through the water.

I finally made it to my tackle box, tightly gripped the rod-and-reel, reached into my tackle box and pulled out a snitch hook with a long nylon rope tied to it. I lowered the rope alongside the line, snitched the fish and raised him up and over the bridge. All 24 pounds and 36 inches!

Now in today’s no-fault, guilt-free world, the snook might claim he’s a victim of circumstance. He may blame his capture on learned behavior. Perhaps he was neglected as a little snook, and it’s his way to release pent-up anger. Maybe he’s suffering from low fish-esteem. Then there’s always the old fish-demon behind every rock.

Assume Responsibility

It’s interesting that James uses a fishing term to describe our enticement to sin (like baiting a hook) and a hunting term to describe the drawing us away to sin (the baiting of a trap): “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,” (James 1:14).

Yes, we’re tempted by Satan and the world-system, but how we respond to the bait is our own personal responsibility. We are drawn away by our own lust—our own individual sinful and selfish desires. When man sins, he has only one person to blame—himself.

Meditate on God’s Word

While in the wilderness, Jesus faced the tempter and resisted him through the scriptures. Jesus used the Word of God to detect the bait, disarm the trap and defeat the tempter.

The psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (Ps. 119:11). As God’s Word fills the mind and controls the thinking, we are then equipped to apply it in everyday, real-life situations. Use “the sword of the Spirit” with precision to detect and beat temptation.

Trust God and Not Yourself

The moment you think you stand, look out for the big fall! (1 Cor. 10:12). Without God’s saving, sustaining and sanctifying grace, we’re no match for the world, the flesh, or the devil. When our brother or sister lapses into sin, that’s prime time to guard ourselves against the sin of pride and comparison.

We’ll say, “Oh, that would never happen to me,” or “l would never do that.” But Paul said, “Consider thyself, Iest thou also be tempted,” (Gal. 6:1).

Fear the Lord

Solomon wrote, “And by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil,” (Prov. 16:6). To successfully and consistently beat temptation, we must live in the awareness of God’s presence. He watches and weighs our every word, thought, motive, action and deed (Prov. 5:21b).

David wrote, “Stand in awe and sin not,” (Ps. 4:4a). A high and holy view of God should stop us dead in our tracks when we even consider sin, let alone commit it. God’s holiness is motive for our holiness when He says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Make No Provision for the Flesh

There was a story told of a little boy excited about going to summer camp. Because of his recent illness, his parents made it clear that if he went to camp, under no circumstance should he go swimming.

When he returned from camp, his mother found his swimming trunks among his dirty clothes. Immediately she went to him and asked, “Didn’t we tell you to not go swimming?”

“Mommy,” he said, “l didn’t go swimming.”

“Then why did you take your swimming trunks?” she asked.

“Just in case I was tempted to go swimming,” he replied.

In his case, he did what others so often do . . . “make provision for the flesh,” (Rom. 13:14). You know what your own particular weakness is, so don’t feed it. Don’t fan the flame. If you’re made out of dynamite, don’t stoke blast furnaces!

Consider the Consequences

“When lust is conceived it gives birth to sin, and when sin is finished, it gives birth to death” (James 1:15). Sin is out for the kill. It will kill our joy and testimony. It kills: marriages, families, ministries, relationships, jobs and careers, even local churches.

Be Accountable

Because we’re members one of another, we must be accountable to one another. For instance, we’re called to consider one another, provoke one another unto love and good works, admonish and exhort one another.

Accountability helps prevent us from falling, but if we fall, accountability also helps in the purifying process (Eccl. 4:9-10).

Watch and Pray

Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Matt. 26:41). Watching keeps us alert for our adversary, while prayer acknowledges our weakness and God’s ability.

In the model prayer, Jesus reminds us that our need to confess sin is a constant reminder to trust God and not ourselves (Luke 11:4).

Be Filled with the Spirit

Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh,” (Gal. 5:16). Day by day, moment by moment, we are to continually yield to the Spirit’s control. Only through a Spirit-filled and scripture-filled life are we able to resist and conquer temptation.

Focus on Christ

Did you know that according to His divine power, Jesus has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness? (II Pet. 1:3). When we give in to temptation, it’s simply our failure to appreciate our full satisfaction in Christ and apply the all-sufficiency of Christ. Temptation is common to us all. But, because Jesus Himself felt the full force of temptation, He is ever-ready and able to run to your cry and give you aid (Heb. 2:18, 4:15-16).

Article adapted from Contact magazine, July 2002.