One of my favorite memorized Scriptures is the one about *“a roaring lion seeking to devour you.” My Lutheran elementary school teachers explained to us how Satan is always tempting and prowling like a fearsome—and hungry—lion. The teachers’ warnings were a helpful blessing.
One major problem: 99.9% of life’s temptations don’t present themselves as noisome feline predators. If they did, I’d hear the thunderous vocalizations and so avoid the Devil’s much more subtle attacks. After decades of facing temptations, I’ve learned that they’re more like the sneaking of a snake or quiet whispering accompanied by a winsome smile. Harder to spot and evade.
In my older adult world, there are still roaring-lion temptations, but I’m more likely to encounter geeks bearing gifts (click-bait presenting free stuff); anger-pushers offering fixes for anger addiction; sellers of unnecessary tech-toys or anti-aging snake-oil purveyors. Because I’m in an age cohort presumed to be vulnerable, I’m also a de facto market segment for the wiles of other garden variety tempters. (E.g., guaranteed safety, political success, national superiority.)
The second part of that Bible passage—“Whom resist steadfast in the faith”—is perhaps the most useful. The attitudes, skills and wisdom that come from the Spirit’s work are practical means for naming and avoiding impulses or cravings. (Those tools might include other-centeredness, patience, kindness, confession, forgiveness, courage, justice or humility.) Faith in God’s pre-eminence helps me deal with the most basic sin: Self-idolatry. Whatever else comes along with the gift of faith—virtues, values or principles—can help me identify and dodge enticements. I’m not always successful at resisting temptations, of course, but at least I’m aware of their presence and so can readily confess when I’ve yielded to lions, snakes or whisperers.
Thankfully, all that grade school memorizing continues as a blessing!