Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

May 27, 1897

Temptation—What is it?

What is temptation?—It is the means by which those who claim to be the children of God are tested and tried. We read that God tempted Abraham, that he tempted the children of Israel. This means that he permitted circumstances to occur to test their faith, and lead them to look to him for help. God permits temptation to come to his people today, that they may realize that he is their helper. If they draw nigh to him when they are tempted, he strengthens them to meet the temptation. But if they yield to the enemy, neglecting to place themselves close to their Almighty Helper, they are overcome. They separate themselves from God. They do not give evidence that they walk in God's way.

Thus the Lord determines character. Thus he decides whether we are obedient or disobedient. He does not do this for his own enlightenment; for he reads all things as an open book. He does it that the secret motives of men's hearts may be manifest, that his true witnesses may be strengthened, that others may become intelligent in regard to the ways and works of God as contrasted with the ways and works of the enemy.

Temptations will pour in upon us; for by them we are to be tried during our probation. This is the proving of God, the revelation of our own hearts. There is no sin in having temptation; but sin comes in when temptation is yielded to.

When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted, he was led by the Spirit of God. By going into the wilderness, he did not invite temptation. But Satan knew that the Saviour had gone there, and he thought it the best time to approach him.

Christ went to the wilderness to be alone, to contemplate his mission and work. He had taken the steps which every sinner must take, in conversion, repentance, and baptism. He himself had no sins of which to repent, and therefore he had no sins to wash away. But he was our example in all things, and therefore he must do that which he would have us do. Christ fasted and prayed, bracing himself for the blood-stained path which he must travel. He was the Son of the eternal God, but as man's surety, he must meet and resist every temptation with which man is assailed.

When Christ had fasted for forty days and forty nights, the enemy came, tempting him to make bread of the stones. Christ knew that he would be assailed upon appetite, for it was upon this point that Adam and Eve had failed. And with the terrible weight of the sins of the world upon him, he withstood the fearful test upon appetite, upon the love of the world, and upon that love of display that leads to presumption. He endured these temptations, and overcame in man's behalf, working out for him a righteous character, because he knew that man could not do this of himself.

The world's Redeemer, the second Adam, by his suffering and death worked out a redemption for the human race. He was tempted in all points like as we are. He knew that the enemy would come to every human being, to take advantage of hereditary weakness, and to ensnare, by his false insinuations, all whose hope and trust is not in Christ. And by passing over the ground which man must travel, by showing that, through the divine power granted him, man can overcome every form of temptation, Christ prepared the way for us to gain the victory.

If Satan can persuade people to follow a course that is contrary to the principles underlying and running through every enactment of God's law, he has a chance to work upon their minds. One venturesome step in deceptive practises, under the specious direction of Satan, leads to a second such step. Those who follow this course depart from God. The poisonous malaria of worldly principles is so disguised by the enemy that the actors become willing to work in lines which are contrary to the will of God. They make use of the world's artifices in order to gain an advantage over their neighbors. This creates a train of thought which separates the soul from the Spirit of God. The mind becomes more and more infatuated, and the power to overcome temptation is destroyed. The tendencies thus cultivated are transmitted to the offspring, as Adam's disobedience was transmitted to the human family.

Christ came to our world as man's surety, preparing the way for him to gain the victory by giving him moral power. It is not his will that man shall be placed at a disadvantage. He would not have those who are striving to overcome, intimidated and discouraged by the crafty assaults of the serpent. “Be of good cheer,” he says, “I have overcome the world.”

With such a general to lead us on to victory, we may indeed have joy and courage. He came as our champion. He takes cognizance of the battle that all who are at enmity with Satan must fight. He lays before his followers a plan of the battle, pointing out its peculiarities and severity, and warning them not to join his army without first counting the cost. He tells them that the vast confederacy of evil is arrayed against them, and shows them that they are fighting for an invisible world, and that his army is not composed merely of human agencies. His soldiers are coworkers with heavenly intelligences, and One higher than angels is in the ranks; for the Holy Spirit, Christ's representative, is there.

Then Christ summons every decided follower, every true soldier, to fight for him, assuring them that there is deliverance for all who will obey his orders. If Christ's soldiers look faithfully to their Captain for their orders, success will attend their warfare against the enemy. No matter how they may be beset, in the end they will be triumphant. Their infirmities may be many, their sins great, their ignorance seemingly insurmountable; but if they realize their weakness, and look to Christ for aid, he will be their efficiency. He is ever ready to enlighten their dullness and overcome their sinfulness. If they avail themselves of his power, their characters will be transformed; they will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and holiness. Through his merits and imparted power they will be “more than conquerors.” Supernatural help will be given them, enabling them in their weakness to do the deeds of omnipotence.

Those who fight for Christ are fighting in the sight of the heavenly universe, and they should be soldiers, not cowards. Those who truly desire to serve God will not follow their own wisdom, or the wisdom of the arch-deceiver, who is playing the game of life for their souls. By faith they are to look calmly upon every foe, exclaiming: “We fight the good fight of faith, under the command of an omnipotent Power. Because he lives, we shall live also. Through Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, we may withstand all the fiery darts of the enemy.”

Abraham certified his obedience to God when, with Isaac by his side, he journeyed on his way, in response to the command, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Job was permitted to suffer; he was severely tempted; but he would not speak one word against God. During Christ's life on earth the scribes and Pharisees, instigated by Satan, tempted him in every possible way. But he never allowed these temptations to lead him from the path of obedience. When God speaks, let us obey, no matter how the enemy may tempt us to disobey; for the path of obedience is the only safe path.

Christ's example shows us that our only hope of victory is in continual resistance of Satan's attacks. He who triumphed over the adversary of souls in the conflict with temptation understands Satan's power over the race, and has conquered in our behalf. As an overcomer, he has given us the advantage of his victory, that in our efforts to resist the temptations of Satan, we may unite our weakness to his strength, our worthlessness to his merits. And, sustained by his enduring might, under strong temptation, we may resist in his all-powerful name, and overcome as he overcame.

Mrs. E. G. White

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