We’re struggling! More people than ever before are falling prey to sexual temptation, especially through viewing pornography.
Unfortunately, many pastors admit (anonymously) to viewing pornography as well.
If this is a temptation for you, here are some steps to take . . .
Be honest when you’re fatigued and take a rest.
When you’re tired, you are vulnerable to a lot of things – discouragement, depression, and temptation. The Bible encourages us to work for six days and rest on the seventh. If you’re not taking a day off every week, you’re breaking the fourth commandment. Take a day off.
It’s particularly important to take some time off after a spiritual and emotional high. No doubt you’re familiar with the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18, where he had a big God contest with the prophets on Mt. Carmel. Right after that, he’s in the desert saying, God, I want to die. Take my life. Fatigue is a hazard of being in the ministry, and it lowers our resistance to temptation.
Don’t believe your own hype.
In ministry, you’re put on a pedestal with lots of people admiring you. After one high-profile leader sinned sexually and stepped down temporarily from ministry, William Martin, in People magazine, said, “I’ve seen him change over the years. He seems to have been seduced by the power and the fame.”
That fallen pastor himself said, “I forgot that I was human. I thought I was more than human.” Never forget that you are human and just as susceptible to sexual temptation as anyone else.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
— John Bradford
First Corinthians 10:12 in The Living Bible says, “So be careful. If you are thinking, ‘Oh, I would never behave like that’ – let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin.” The morning I start saying, I’ve conquered that problem, is the morning I’m openly vulnerable to temptation.
Keep a close watch on your spiritual temperature.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (NLT). When I am tempted, I remind myself of God’s omniscience and omnipresence. God sees everything in my life, and he is always with me. The Devil says, No one will ever know. If God is always with me, and he sees everything, that is my motivation to practice his presence in the midst of temptation.
Continually guard your mind.
Science reports that there is no difference between when you imagine something or if it actually happens – they both have the same effect on your mind. Neurologically, there’s absolutely no difference. The battle against sin always begins in your mind. If you lose the battle in your mind, then you’ve already lost the battle.
- James 1:14-15 – “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (NIV).
- 1 Peter 1:13 – “Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit” (NASB).
- 2 Corinthians 10:5b – “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).
- Romans 13:14 – “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
- Matthew 5:28 (Jesus speaking) – “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Remind yourself regularly of the damaging consequences of moral failure.
When you are tempted, think like this: minimize the pleasure and maximize the consequences.
Hebrews 11:25 says there is pleasure in sin for a season. Of course sin is fun. Nobody would do it if it weren’t fun. You wouldn’t be tempted if there wasn’t some kind of pleasure in it.
The writer Randy Alcorn says:
Whenever I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have:
- Grieving the Lord who redeemed me.
- Dragging his sacred name through the mud.
- One day having to look at Jesus the righteous judge in the face, and give an account of my actions.
- Following the footsteps of people whose immorality forfeited their ministries and caused me to shudder.
- Losing my wife’s respect and trust.
- Hurting my daughters.
- Destroying my example and credibility with my children.
- Causing shame to my family.
- Losing self-respect.
- Forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife.
- Wasting years of ministry training.
- Undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community.
- On and on.
Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself.
In Matthew 26:41, Jesus says, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (BSB). It’s interesting that he doesn’t say, “Watch and pray so you will not fall into sin.” He says, Watch and pray that you don’t even fall into temptation.
Don’t even put yourself in a situation where you can be tempted.
First Peter 5:8 in The Living Bible says: “Be careful – watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.”
Let me be clear on this – most sexual temptation in the ministry will not be from something overtly sexual in nature. It will come from someone you genuinely care about, from someone you love.
We need to pray for each other and support each other. We need to remember that the moment we think we’re beyond sexual temptation, that’s when we’re most vulnerable.
Editor’s note: If you struggle with temptation in the area of sexuality or pornography, we encourage you to reach out to Celebrate Recovery to find a recovery ministry in your area, and consider getting additional help from online sources.