The Moment of Conflict

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INTRODUCTION: This is the third and final message in our series on “Overcoming Sin and Temptation.” I hope you have been finding the series helpful, and I trust you will find today’s message especially helpful in finding victory over sin.

So far, we have looked at taking care of the basics. We have looked at preparing for battle. Now we come to the moment of conflict. It’s crunch time. All the preparation work has been done. You walk out into your day, and you are faced with the temptation to sin. What do you do to overcome sin and temptation in the moment of conflict? That’s what we are looking at today. (Pray for message.)

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The Olympic runner at the starting blocks. The musician at Carnegie Hall. The speaker approaching the podium. What do they all have in common? They have each put in an extraordinary amount of daily work in preparation for the few moments that will follow. And it’s the same way with overcoming sin and temptation. It’s a lifetime of daily work in preparation for the moments of conflict that will surely come your way.

But even with all that preparation under your belt, there are still several things you need to do in the moment of conflict to win the victory over sin and temptation. We are going to look at three of them today: 1) You need to be alert, 2) you need to pray for God’s help, and 3) you need to say, “No!”

If you’re not alert, then the enemy will catch you unawares. If you don’t ask for God’s help, you will surely fail trying to fight against temptation in your own strength. And if you don’t say a firm “no!” to sin, you will end up saying either “yes,” “maybe” or “later” instead.

So, today’s message is what everything has been building towards in this series. What do you do in the moment of conflict when temptation comes your way?

I. Being alert

First of all, you need to be alert. You know the enemy is going to attack, so it’s important to be alert throughout the day. There are two things to do here.

   A. Watch out for the enemy’s attacks
      – Ephesians 6:18; 1 Peter 5:8

First, you need to watch out for the enemy’s attacks. Last week we looked at the armor of God from Ephesians 6 which spoke about preparing for battle. After going through each of the pieces of armor Paul closed that section by saying, “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18) Once again, there is no sense in going into battle without your armor. But there is no sense in putting your armor on if you are not going to watch out for the enemy’s attacks as well.

1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) I’m guessing if you read in the news this morning that there was a lion loose in your neighborhood, you would probably pay attention to your surroundings. You would remain on high alert throughout the day. You would be constantly looking for the lion as you went about your business, watching out for an attack.

That’s how you need to approach your day when it comes to spiritual warfare. The enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, so you need to watch out for his attacks.

   B. Be aware of the enemy’s schemes
      – 2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11

And then, you also need to be aware of the enemy’s schemes. In battle it’s so much easier when you know what the other side is going to do – when you get hold of the enemy’s playbook, or you intercept the messages, or you decode the codes. Well God’s already done that for us. He’s already told us what the enemy is going to do.

Paul wrote certain instructions to the Corinthians telling them that we do these things: “… in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) This is one of the reasons we are told to put on the armor of God. Paul says in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)

So, what are the enemy’s schemes? We learned them all last week as we went through the various pieces of spiritual armor. We saw that the belt of truth protects against the enemy’s lies. The breastplate of righteousness protects against the enemy’s accusations. Readiness to share the gospel protects against the enemy’s distractions. The shield of faith protects against the enemy’s spiritual attacks. And the helmet of salvation protects against the enemy’s physical attacks. These are the various schemes the enemy uses to try and tempt you to sin. So, make sure you are aware of them.

How do you prepare for the moment of conflict? The first thing you need to do is be alert. You need to watch out for the enemy’s attacks and be aware of the enemy’s schemes.

II. Pray for God’s help in the moment

And then, secondly, you need to pray for God’s help in the moment. We talked about preventative prayer last week, things you can pray each morning to prepare for battle. But now you also need to pray in the moment of conflict. When the moment of conflict arrives, you need immediately to pray for God’s help.

   A. Draw near to God in prayer
      – Psalm 25:15; James 4:8

First, simply draw near to God in prayer. Psalm 25:15 says: “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:15) James 4:8 says: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

As soon as you are aware of the temptation, draw near to God in prayer. Begin praising him, begin thanking him for his love and forgiveness, begin thanking him for sending his Son to save you from sin. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Keep your eyes on the Lord, for only he will release your feet from the snare of temptation.

   B. Pray for God’s power over the enemy
      – Ephesians 6:10; 1 John 4:4

And then, as you draw near to God in prayer, pray for God’s power over the enemy. Ephesians 6:10 says: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10) You don’t have the power to overcome this temptation on your own, but God does. So, ask him to give you his power to overcome.

“But what about Satan?” you might ask. “Satan is a powerful, crafty being. I can never stand up against him. The temptation to sin is just too strong!”

It’s true, you are no match for the enemy, but the enemy is no match for God. 1 John 4:4 says: “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Yes, the enemy is strong, but if you are a Christian, God is with you. More than that, God is in you through the Holy Spirit. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. Pray for God’s power over the enemy.

   C. Ask God to show you his way out
      – 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 2:22

And then thirdly, ask God to show you his way out. We read in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

What a wonderful, encouraging verse! The temptations you experience are not unique to you. Everyone faces temptation to sin. But God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And along with every temptation, he also provides a way out.

Notice you don’t have to ask God to provide a way out, because he already has. God doesn’t allow the temptation without also providing the way of escape. So, don’t ask God for a way out. Simply ask God to show you his way out. God always provides an escape route for you. You just need to find it and take it.

Sometimes the way out is simply to leave the situation. 2 Timothy 2:22 says: “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) Sometimes the way out is simply to get out. Get out of town. Get out of Dodge. Walk away. Put some distance between yourself and whatever is tempting you. But even when you can’t remove yourself from the situation, there is always a way of escape. Ask God to show you his way out.

So, when the moment of conflict arrives, go right to prayer. Draw near to God in prayer. Pray for God’s power over the enemy. Ask God to show you his way out.

III. Saying no

And then, finally, you need to say “no!” to sin. You’ve been alert throughout the day watching for the enemy’s attacks. As soon as you recognized the temptation, you immediately began to pray. Now, finally, you need to say “no!” How do you say “no!” to sin?

   A. Take your stand against the enemy
      – Ephesians 6:11,13,14

First, you take your stand against the enemy. If you can’t flee the situation, then you need to take your stand. Three times in Ephesians 6 God tells you to take your stand: verse 11 says, “Take your stand against the devil’s schemes”; verse 13 says, “Stand your ground”; verse 14 says, “Stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:11,13,14)

You have spent too much time preparing for this moment just to give in to temptation as soon as it comes along. You need to take a determined attitude and take your stand against the enemy.

   B. Resist the devil and he will flee
      – James 4:7 (Ephesians 6:17)

Next, resist the devil and he will flee. James 4:7 says: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) If you can’t flee, at least make sure the devil does! Take your stand, resist the devil and he will flee from you.

How do you resist the devil? You use the sword of the Spirit – the word of God! (Ephesians 6:17) That’s what we learned last week. You use God’s word against Satan just like Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness. When you resist the devil using God’s word, the devil has no choice in that matter. He’s got to go. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Notice James says to submit yourself to God before you resist. In other words, don’t try to resist the enemy in your own strength. It won’t work because the enemy is stronger than you. That’s why you always ask for God’s help first. First you submit yourself to God in prayer. Then you take your stand. Then you resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Every time.

   C. Say “no!” to sin
      – Romans 6:11; Titus 2:11-12

Now, with the devil out of the way, you’ve only got one thing left to deal with and that’s yourself. It’s just you, God and the temptation, so make the decision, and say “no!” to sin.

Titus 2:11-12 says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

God’s grace teaches us to say “no!” to sin. Say it out loud if you must. Say it in Jesus’ name. Speak your decision and say “no!” to sin.
Romans 6:11 says: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11) Remind yourself that when you became a Christian, you died to sin. How can you live in it any longer? Count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ and say “No!” – not “yes,” not “maybe,” not “later,” but a good, strong, firm “No!”

Everything you’ve done so far has been leading up to this point. You’ve taken care of the basics by getting saved, getting the Spirit and getting strong. You’ve prepared for battle by engaging in praise and worship, by practicing preventative prayer and putting on God’s armor. You’ve walked out into your day fully alert, watching for the enemy’s attacks and being aware of the enemy’s schemes. When the temptation came, you immediately asked God for help, drawing near to God in prayer, praying for God’s power over the enemy and asking God to show you his way out. You’ve taken your stand, you’ve resisted the enemy using the word of God, and now you say “no!” to the sin in Jesus’ name.

And with God’s help, you just did what you could never do on your own. You chose God over sin. You chose victory over defeat. You experienced the blessing of obedience over the regret of sin. You can do this! You can overcome sin and temptation, but you need to do it with God’s help and in God’s way.

Post-victory prayer:

And then, when it is all over, and you have won the victory over sin and temptation, be sure to pray a post-victory prayer. There are three things I like to pray:

   1) Thank you for helping me overcome!

First – thank you, Lord, for helping me overcome! When you see a victory, give God the glory! We should always thank God for his blessings, and overcoming sin and temptation is an amazing blessing from the Lord. Take a moment and thank him for it.

   2) Help me to overcome the next time, too!

And then secondly – help me, Lord, to overcome next time, too! There’s no time like the present to pray for the future. God just helped you win a victory. Thank him for helping you overcome, and then ask him to help you the next time, too.

   3) Change me to be more like Jesus!

And then finally – change me, Lord, to be more like Jesus! Keep working on my heart, Lord; keep changing my desires; make me holy, make me loving, make me joyful, peaceful, patient and kind; keep changing me to be more like Jesus.

It’s a simple post-victory prayer, but so important. Just pray those three things: 1) Thank you! 2) Help me! 3) Change me!

CONCLUSION: Remember, the enemy wants to destroy your life through sin. He wants to keep you from God’s best for your life. He wants to make you miserable in defeat. He wants you to think you can never break free from sin. It is all lies. God has given you everything you need to walk in victory over sin. You just need to follow the instructions in God’s word.

And when you do fail, when you do give in to temptation, you simply need to confess your sins to God through Jesus, receive his ever-present love, mercy and forgiveness, and get ready to start over. When you fall down, get back up again. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a lifetime endeavor with many starts and stops. But the person who perseveres to the end will be saved.

Yes, it is possible to overcome sin and temptation in Jesus! You can win the victory with God’s help. I pray that you will take the various things we have learned in this series and put them into practice. I pray that when you come to the moment of conflict with God’s help you will choose God over sin. I pray that you will believe God’s promises over Satan’s lies and experience victory over sin and temptation in your life.

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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