Friday, November 05, 2010

Fighting The Persistence of Evil - Genesis 39:10

And it came about as she spoke to Joseph day after day, that he did not listen to her to lie beside her, or be with her.

There are some things in life that are “one-time” events. Birth is one; death is another. In between those two, one may be able to think of a small number of other “you only do it once” milestones in life. Certainly for the believer in Jesus, receiving the free gift of salvation is indeed one such event.

But for the most part, life is a journey of repeated opportunities and experiences – some that we welcome; others that we wish would just go away. Those events that most would say “I never want to go through that again” about them represent the latter. A real serious illness for a loved one or us is one such example. Another might be being unemployed for a long time. Still another may be the feeling of being violated when someone has broken into your home and literally trashed everything in sight to get to what they were looking for. And so on.

And then there are the pesky things in life. The power keeps going out. The kids keep losing their mittens. The car always needs repairs. My clothes no longer fit. I have the “nothing to wear again” blues. And so on.

Somewhere between these and the ‘never again’ events lies ‘temptation’. According to Wikipedia, “a temptation is an act that looks appealing to an individual. It is usually used to describe acts with negative connotations and as such, tends to lead a person to regret such actions, for various reasons: legal, social, psychological (including feeling guilt), health, economic, etc.”

Wikipedia continues with respect to the word’s derivation: “Though at present used in many non-religious connotations, the term has implications deeply rooted in Judaism and the Old Testament, starting with the story of Adam and Eve and the original sin.” Finally it goes on to give this observation: “‘Temptation’ is usually used in a loose sense to describe actions which indicate a lack of self control.”

I am sure there are entire sermons that can be written and given on the very concepts included in the above write-up. The Bible does deal extensively with ‘temptation’. Today’s verse is an early example.

Potiphar’s wife was indeed Joseph’s temptation. She persisted “day after day”. Temptation is like that, once it gets the whiff of your presence that it craves, it hunts you down until either it captures you or you kill it. You can only fight it or even run away from it for so long. At some point, you will need to give in to it, utterly destroy it, or ‘get out of Dodge’. Those are your choices. Giving in usually wins hands down, but it does not need to. Removing yourself from the circumstances (changing jobs, or neighborhoods, changing churches, etc.) can help tremendously but inherently there are two problems with that. First, it is not always practical. Second, you may just be running into the next bad town, scene, church or workplace. Somehow, your best choice is to determine how you can utterly destroy it.

The good news is that like Joseph, you do not have to do it alone. God is willing to fight temptation with you. He’s an expert at that. When faced with temptation, we often fail to avail ourselves of the greatest resource given to us to contend against all evil and that is Jesus Christ. God has given us everything in Him (Ephesians 1:3). With Him, all things are indeed possible. The scripture says Joseph “did not listen” to his temptation. He did not sleep with Potiphar’s wife. In fact, he avoided her.

There is no better advice we can give each other. Stand firm and fight temptation. Do not give in. Count on God’s help. Then avoid the circumstances that allow temptation to think it still has a chance. That is my desire for each of us today as we battle the temptations we will all face, even this day.

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