Temptation has a mission. Our Lord was led by the Spirit into the wilderness—to be tempted. If he had missed being tempted—he would have missed something that was necessary to the complete development of his manhood. For any man, temptation is an opportunity.
If the soldier never had a battle, how could he become a hero? How could he ever learn the art of war? It is foolhardy for anyone to seek to be tempted—but when temptation comes to us while we are in the line of duty, as we follow the divine guidance—we dare not shirk it, nor run away from it; we must meet it with faith and courage, and in doing so we shall take a blessing from it. In this way lie crowns, which can be won only by those who are victorious in temptation.
Yet there is no fear that any of us may be overlooked in this matter, or may miss this opportunity. Soldiers sometimes chafe in time of war, because they are kept in the camp while their comrades are in the field. They are eager to become real soldiers. But none miss struggle with temptation. No one escapes the experience. Then, our foes are also real. They are not fancied or imaginary. They are of two classes—there are enemies in our own heart, and enemies fighting outside.
The enemies within complicate the struggle. In war, a traitor in the camp may do great mischief. He is unsuspected. He knows all that is going on inside, the movements that are planned, the strength or weakness of the citadel, the resources at command. Then he can open the door for the enemy—and deliver the place into his hands.
So the enemies in our heart have vast power of hurting us. They may betray us in the very time of our battle with some outside foe, and cause us to lose the victory; or after we have been victorious in the struggle—they may cause us to fall into some other subtle sin. These hidden evils in our own heart make it easy for the assailants without to break through the gate. They parley with them over the wall, and treacherously slip the bolt on some door and let them in. We have much to fear from the unholiness that we carry within us. If every feeling, disposition, affection, desire, and impulse in our heart were pure and altogether like Christ; if the enemy came and found nothing in us—we would be far safer in the midst of this world's wickedness.
But there are also outside foes. We are like little forts in an enemy's country. All about us swarm those who are hostile to us, watching every opportunity to break in at some gate, or to climb over the ramparts to take possession. We must never forget that this world is not a friend to grace.
We are in danger of imagining in quiet days, that the antagonism around us has ceased, and that we shall no more be assailed by evil. This is always a fatal mistake for anyone to make. The tempter is never better pleased, that when he gets us into this kind of confidence. We are then off our guard, and it is easy for the foe to steal in. When the sentinels at our heart doors and the outposts of the enemy get on familiar terms—our danger is greatly increased. We are safest—when we are fully aware of our danger. We are kept then ever watchful and on the alert. An important counsel, given over and over again in the Scriptures, is, "Watch that you enter not into temptation." Incessant watchfulness is half of every Christian's defense!
We should never forget that no hand but our own—can open the door to the tempter. Every man's house is his castle, and no one can cross the threshold, but by his permission. This is true of the good, as well as of the evil. No angel of heaven can gain access to our heart, unless we show him hospitality. With all the gifts of divine love in his hands for us, Christ comes to our door and knocks, and stands and waits. We must open the door if he is to come in. The same is true of evil. No temptation can ever compel its way with us. Our quiet, persistent "No!" will keep it out. If we resist the devil—he will flee from us. We cannot hinder temptations flying about us like birds—but it is our fault- if they build their nests in our heart!
The enemies outside us—are of many kinds. There are evil men who are under the control of Satan, filled with his spirit, and who come to us continually with temptations to sin. We need to be on our guard against these. They are among those whom we meet daily in our common interaction. We cannot keep ourselves apart from them, and we need, therefore, to watch against their unholy influence. Many a young person is led away from God and into sin—by a friendship which at first seems altogether harmless, and even sweet.