Temptation. By Charles Stanley. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988. 192 pp. Cloth, $12.95.
In this book the well-known pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta gives the Christian community helpful teaching on the subject of temptation. He writes in a positive tone, assuring believers of their ability through Christ to resist temptation. At the same time, however, Stanley makes it quite clear that those who seriously wish to overcome sin must stop making excuses when they fail and must stop blaming others, including God and Satan.
Stanley devotes a good deal of space to covering the biblical-historical background behind temptation: the original fall of Lucifer from heaven, his new role as Satan (Adversary, Deceiver) in the world, and the devastating effects of Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. The seriousness of understanding the full force and danger behind temptation is stated mathematically—but based on Scripture—in the formula: TEMPTATION + SIN = DEATH (Jas 1:14–16). Both spiritual and physical death result from this tragic combination.
With the sentence of spiritual and physical death passed on to the human race, Satan gained temporary dominion over the kingdom of men. God’s plan of redemption through Christ is then brought into the picture, showing how God’s kingdom has been in opposition to Satan’s since the beginning. With all this background in view, Stanley eloquently expresses the universal role of temptation: “All our struggles are spiritual in nature … we do not struggle in a vacuum; every temptation is a small part of a universal struggle between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of the living God” (p. 32).
On the positive side, God has promised believers that no temptation has presented itself to the believer that cannot be resisted (1 Cor 10:13). Furthermore, the included “escape clause” assures us that God will provide “a way of escape,” which, as Stanley points out, is not an escape “from temptation,” but rather a means of escaping sin in spite of the temptation. God does not remove the temptation from our path, but allows us to go through it without being harmed. The escapes are not experienced as all-purpose conveniences, nor are they provided to all customers identically like “assembly line” parts. Rather, as Stanley illustrates, God provides distinctively individual “escapes” to meet the current need of the one being tempted.
In one scenario, for example, a daughter who was constantly tempted to rebel against her overbearing parents said that when she was tempted to blow up, she would stop and think for a minute, and would always find “another way to handle the situation” (p. 80). The particulars are not spelled out in Stanley’s example, but the main idea comes across well.
Stanley goes on to give practical suggestions on how to deal with temptation. After postulating the universality of the fight against sin and temptation, and its persistence to the very end of earthly life, he strongly admonishes the reader never to stop resisting. If we are to have any hope at all of conquering sin, at the very least it requires a struggle that does not give up!
The author presents an interesting method of confronting temptation which is used successfully by himself and those who have followed his example. Based on Eph 6:10–17, the method involves the putting on of one’s spiritual armor each day. Since the armor is spiritual and not physical, it is put on by faith. The important thing, says Stanley, is to wear every single piece, since a “soldier would not dream of going into battle without every part of his equipment secured and ready for action” (pp. 122–23).
A question is raised in this reviewer’s mind regarding the full suit of armor: Should not “prayer” be considered a weapon, since in the Ephesians 6 passage the Apostle Paul concludes the list of weapons by stressing prayer? The model prayer used by Stanley is a helpful tool for putting on the armor, but here the reviewer refers to everyday prayer “in all things.” For example, Jesus included in His model prayer the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” No doubt He intended that some portion of our prayer life should include this prayer in order to strengthen us against temptation. Paul urged believers to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). A fuller section on prayer as a weapon in resisting temptation would probably have enhanced the section on spiritual armor.
Stanley’s emphasis on the importance of the “Sword” for defeating our Enemy is much appreciated. He points out by way of reminder that the Sword is an offensive weapon, used for attack (not like the shield, a defensive weapon). A skillful handling and knowledge of Scripture, Stanley maintains, is important in fighting against temptation. Stanley quotes relevant Scripture texts throughout the book, and very briefly touches on Scripture memorization and meditation.
In the reviewer’s opinion, the book would have been strengthened by a chapter devoted to the memorization and meditation of important Bible passages (e.g., Romans 6 and 8, and key Psalms that deal with temptation and struggle against enemies).
All in all, Temptation is practical, easy to read, and gives a broad sampling of various aspects of temptation. Included throughout are colorful illustrations and story-form examples of actual situations. These help to keep the reader interested while at the same time explaining their relevance to various temptations to commit sins (such as sexual immorality, smoking, gluttony, materialism) which abound in our day-to-day experience.
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society