While on my morning run the other day, I found myself taking a different route around the neighborhood than usual. As I rounded one corner, I came across the biggest prickly pear cactus I had ever seen.
It was partly hanging over a low chain link fence into the alley. The plant was taller than me and must have had 100 red, ripe fruit on it. I had never tried prickly pear before, so this seemed an opportune time. I halted my run to sidle between some of the big cactus pads. I was cautious not to brush against any of their needles as I reached to collect one of the bulbs. What I didn’t know (and couldn’t see) is that prickly pear fruit are covered in very fine needles. I didn’t feel them as I was picking, but boy, I did almost immediately after. I gingerly held my prize until I got home and set it on the kitchen counter. I put on reading glasses to inspect the damage, revealing fingertips that resembled overfilled pin cushions. The plucking session went on for a good while.
It isn’t hard to draw parallels between my misguided cactus encounter and the sin process: We see something we desire (temptation), we act on it (sin), and we pay the price (consequence). Scripture lays it out similarly in James 1:14-15,
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (NKJV)*
The progression of temptation, sin and consequence is evident, but fortunately, the last two need not follow the first. The Bible assures us,
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Our loving God limits the severity of temptation and supplies an escape. We can do our part to diminish its frequency by avoiding situations, people or places that make us susceptible to sin. We can also follow Christ’s advice to,
“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)
Most importantly, we can stay rooted in the Vine and in God’s Word.
Jesus said of himself in John 15:5,
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Without Jesus sharing in our lives, we can do “nothing” — not live a fulfilling life, not build successful relationships, and not even resist the temptation to sin. When we partner with Jesus, we have a friend who watches out for us, prompts us in what we do, and gives us the strength to overcome the devil’s temptations. (John 15:11, Jude 24, Galatians 5:16-25, Hebrews 2:18)
When it comes to fighting temptation, staying connected to Jesus is directly linked to being grounded in the Word of God. Paul counsels in Ephesians 6:11,
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
Cloaking ourselves with God’s Word, which is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), allows us to assert verses like:
Yes, the prickly pear fruit was tasty and sweet. No, it was not worth the price of damaging my fingers, just as sin is not worth earthly or heavenly consequences. When we do sin, it is comforting to know,
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1),
and that our friend Jesus is right there to entreat us,
“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
For this we proclaim,
“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
*All Scripture verses are quoted from the NKJV
Copyright © 2021 Joseph Chmiel, used with permission.