This is a brief outline of a sermon that was preached at the Peoples Church, Sri Lanka, last Sunday, 16th October 2016. . The video of the full sermon will be available in a few days.
Every child of God faces temptation. That’s a given fact! As we look at the scriptures, we see that Esau gave up his birthright for stew, Ananias and Sapphira made shipwreck because of money, Samson lost his anointing because of a lady, Saul lost his Kingship because of cattle and the Prophet Elisha’s servant Gehazi lost his calling because of silver and clothes!
1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Whenever temptation comes our way, satan will use it to target our faith, our character, and to wreck God’s plan for our life.
Today, I would like to focus on the temptation Joseph faced as Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him into sexual sin. It came at a time when he had found great success in Potiphar’s household and business. The story is found in Genesis 39:6-12 and in this encounter, I can think of at least 6 types of temptation that Joseph had to face. They are;
1. NATURAL TEMPTATION
Everyone of us has natural desires that God has given us, which include the desire for acceptance, sex, food and more. The Bible says “Now Joseph was well built and handsome” (v 6). He was a very normal, attractive, strong young man and would have faced temptation like anyone else, for scripture says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (1Cor 10:13). Joseph was no exception!
Today, we too are tempted on every side through billboards, magazines, videos, pornography and many other ways. How comforting it is to know that Jesus can give us strength to face all temptation for Hebrews says, “We have one (A high priest) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin” (Heb 4:15). Yes, Jesus understands our temptations and he will help us through them!
2. INFLUENTIAL TEMPTATION
“After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said “come to bed with me!” (v 7)
This was sexual harassment in the workplace and it involved the first lady; the Chairman’s wife! She was a lady of great influence and would most probably have used her powers often against people. To therefore resist would have been difficult and dangerous for Joseph! But, resist he did, even though he knew well what she could do because of her influence! As we know, she exacted her revenge to the maximum (vs 20)!
Are you facing temptation because of some influential person? How are you coping with it? On the other hand, maybe you are a person of influence. If so, are you using it to hurt others?
3. PROMOTION TEMPTATION
“No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me…” (v 9)
Joseph had risen to a place of trust with Potiphar and been given full Executive powers in Potiphar’s business. He clearly knew that promotion comes from the Lord. But with promotion comes new challenges as Joseph soon found out!
God’s desire is to bless our work and this may well lead to promotion. When that happens, let’s be careful that we learn to handle the temptations that come with it, especially pride and arrogance! We may also want to please our boss and our company more than we please God. We may give all our time to find greater success and make more money at the expense of neglecting our family. Our integrity could go out the window unless we let God stay in control of our hearts!
4. PERSISTENT TEMPTATION
“She spoke to Joseph day after day” (v 10)
Yes, some temptations hit us repeatedly, especially in our weak areas. Whenever our church is in a period of fasting and prayer, I find that good food seems to be around wherever I go! That’s persistent temptation!
Potiphar’s wife kept persisting, hoping that Joseph would yield one day. Thank God, he didn’t.
Are you being tempted to yield to something that is coming against you repeatedly? How can you overcome it? Are you seeking help, prayer and counsel?
There is a story about a man who repeatedly asked the Pastor to pray that the cobwebs in his life would be removed. After quite a number of such prayers, the Pastor got tired of removing cobwebs and prayed that God would kill the spider that was making the cobwebs! We have to put to death anything that comes against us repeatedly to bring dishonor to our Lord.
5. PERFECT SETTING TEMPTATION
“She caught him by his cloak…” (v 12)
The stage was ready for a perfect setting for temptation to overpower Joseph. No one was at home, Joseph was alone, and she was showing no doubts about her intentions. To make it more difficult, she caught him by the cloak! Joseph may have taken his cue from the athletes of his day, because he followed their example. He ran!
When the setting is perfect for sin to flourish, we may make excuses saying that even God would understand. We may even say that God allowed it to happen! But the scripture says that God doesn’t tempt anyone. He will not lead us into anything that dishonors him.
The song says, ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the Light of His glory and grace’!
There is a story of a University student who had a good reputation for integrity, but blew it one day. When the disappointed Principal talked to the student in his office, he responded by saying that the Principal would most probably not be able to find even 10 students who wouldn’t have acted in similar fashion in the same situation. The wise Principal replied, ‘That’s true son, but you could have been 1 of those 10’!!
6. ISOLATION TEMPTATION
“One day he went into the house to attend to his duties and none of the household servants was inside”. (v 11)
Joseph was not only alone in the house, but he would have been missing his family and childhood friends.
Like predators in the animal kingdom, Satan is a predator who looks to attack and to devour the weak, the marginalised and the lonely. Joseph was alone when the temptation hit like a whirlwind. You too will be attacked if satan is able to isolate you! (Those who travel out of town or overseas for work should be extra careful).
STRATEGIES FOR OVERCOMING TEMPTATION
1. DON’T BATTLE ALONE
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Pro 15:22)
Find a trustworthy friend or a group you can be accountable to. Seek their advice, counsel and prayer when needed. An African Proverb says,
‘When you run alone, you run fast; when you run together, you run far’
“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, …. Out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). This is the Apostle Paul’s advice to the young Timothy.
Follow Joseph’s example -“He left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Gen 39:12)
3. WATCH YOUR EYES
Note how temptation trapped Eve in the Garden of Eden -“When the woman (Eve) saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye …. She took some and ate it” (Gen 3:6)
The Psalmist said, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (Ps 101:3)
4. BE CAREFUL OF LITTLE THINGS
“Catch for us… the little foxes that ruin the vineyards” (Song of Solomon 2:15)
5. DEPEND ON GOD’S STRENGTH DAILY
“God is faithful; He will not let us 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” (1 Cor 10:13)
Look for God’s strength and escape route. As someone said, ‘If He bolts a door, don’t try to jump in through a window’!
May the Lord’s grace be with you as you face the minefield of temptation!
(Note – Some of the thoughts in this sermon were taken off a Bible Commentary)