"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, October 29, 2012

Diminishing Return

Usually I have something intended for the following week's message about a week ahead of schedule. This week would have been a message I had initially written up for youth group I felt God placing on my heart to speak on the nature of temptation instead. 

The way I intend to do this is over two weeks focusing on two principles relating to temptation though I can't promise anything as I tend to come up with new ideas spontaneously or I will blame William for giving me new sermon ideas. :P And if anyone has any other sermons ideas, don't hesitate to leave a comment or message me. 

I've been thinking about this topic recently and I want to share with you all today this particular principle regarding temptation that I learnt about several years ago and hope that, in turn, you too will benefit.  

We know that Scripture speaks a lot on temptation and one of the first things to point out is that temptation is not a sin. It is possible to be tempted and not give into sin. Christ Himself was tempted in the desert as we know and yet He was without sin throughout His entire life on earth. 

But I think, far too often, we allow the enemy's lies to tell us otherwise leading us to believe that because we have been tempted that we have sinned. Maybe he tells you "If only you were stronger as a Christian, you wouldn't have been tempted in the first place" or "The temptation is too strong, you're too weak, there is no hope". 

Too often we believe these lies. 

But how does temptation like to toy with us? 

This first principle is called diminishing return. Its this idea that when we have something, whatever that thing may be, after a while, we desire more because what we have no longer satisfies us as it once did. Most of us can relate to this. 

This idea can be expressed in a multitude of ways from relationships to possessions and so on but I think a very clear example is with drugs and this happens to a lot of people. First they start off with something small and then they desire more and more and the situation becomes worse and worse until the consequences of their sin have irreversible consequences. 

But the scary thing is is that this can happen with just about anything, whether it be with how we spend our money or how we spend our time. Satan will tell us "Hey, it was fine the first time and you want that 'feel good' feeling again, let's have some more." This is an utter lie. 

Oh how easily fooled we can be and soon enough we become a slave to our greed and though we are made new in Christ and can not be plucked out His hand, as a dog returns to its vomit, so we also return to our sin. 

What can we learn from Scripture though? How can we escape this mindset? Couldn't we say that this desire for satisfaction comes from this idea that if we don't feel as good then we won't be complete... or happy? 

Have we forgotten the God we serve? 

Philippians 4:6 NIV says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." 

Matthew 7:7 NIV says ,"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Scripture tells us not to worry about what we don't have. To stop focusing on the have-nots because He provides. A beautiful passage in Matthew 6 illustrates this where Christ talks about how God provides for he birds of the air and how much more must He provide for us because of how He values us. 

But here's where I just want to clarify something. Yes, Scripture promises that if we ask, we shall receive, but too often when we pray, WE think we know more about our needs than God does and that's where problems arise. (An amusing YouTube video by the Skit Guys looks at the ways in which we pray). 

I think its time to sit back and let God take care of our needs and learn to be content with whatever God provides. 

Paul figured it out. Philippians 4:11 NIV says "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."

And yet the enemy will say, "Paul was a great Christian, you aren't. You have no hope for learning to be content in all circumstances."

And again, God proves otherwise. 

In his book, Love is a verb, Gary Chapman shares the testimony of a married woman who concludes "Expecting less, I am more thankful." This is something we must all learn. This, I believe, is a major key to being able to say the same as Paul. 

Is this easy? No. Did Christ ever say the Christian walk would be easy? If you say yes, I'm not sure what Bible you are reading but one thing we must always remember when this life seems overwhelming and we think we can not overcome is this:

Philippians 4:13 NIV, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength"

1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV, "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."

And these are just empty promises. I have been in situations where temptation has felt overwhelming and the next moment, it disappears. God doesn't always work this way, but He always brings things out for the good of His children so trust Him with how He chooses to provide for you. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV


  1. Jam 1:12 Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. :)

  2. Amen, that's an awesome verse. :)