Fall Into Temptation

We have all stumbled across the “Serenity Prayer” at some point in our lives. Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, it contains a lot of truth. You may be surprised that it is longer than the abbreviated opening stanza. After reading it, you will understand why most organizations omit the second half.

“God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.”
This poem contains some truths about life. There are so many things that I cannot change, and more troubling, there are many things that are “not as I would have it.” Reinhold powerfully observes that many of the things that trouble us are due to the sinful/fallen world we live in.
Like most siblings, our three boys know how to push each other’s buttons. Sometimes, it is malicious and intentional, and sometimes, it happens by living in proximity to other humans. All children can be highly reactionary, and Milo has figured out that it is fun to watch his brothers explode when things aren’t going their way. My job as a parent is to teach them that no matter what is happening to them, they are only responsible for how they react. Someone can take your favorite toy, you might fall off your bike, or someone might call you a rude name; however, these things can only bother you as much as you let them. So I give them that sage fatherly advice: “Don’t let him bug you.”
The world can and will relentlessly and mercilessly throw obstacles and trials at us, and as Christ-followers, we must know how to respond and discover how to be like Christ in the most challenging moments.
The synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ moments before his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knows that for his disciples, this will be a situation far outside of their control and not the way they would have it. He knows their entire paradigm and worldview will be turned upside down. Amid his agony, he gives them instructions to consider. Here is Luke’s account:
Luke 22:39-46 – “39 And He came out and went, as was His habit, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you do not come into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and [began] to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43 [Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground]. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you do not come into temptation.”
The temptation for them and all of us is to Abandon, Disown, and Deny. When you are presented with challenging and “button-pushing” situations, you may desire to rebel against God, question His goodness, disregard His authority, and ignore His provision for us. These temptations are real and persistent; Jesus’ words are for us to prepare for them, asking God to assist us before they happen. Jesus knows what is about to happen, and he wants his disciples to pray that they are prepared to act the way he will when the temptation comes. We know the narrative, except for John (who follows at a distance); they all fall into this snare.
Although they all stumbled to an extent, the hindsight of Jesus’ words would serve them well in the future. Whether they were about to be beaten, imprisoned, or executed- I am confident they prayed they would not fall into that same temptation.
On a far smaller scale, this is my same request for my kids. We don’t have to be reactionary, exploding, or imploding when things do not go our intended way. Someone may hurt us, a disease may disrupt our plans, or we may have stumbled in our walk, but our goal is to prepare for the next opportunity and ask God so He can strengthen us for the next time. So that we won’t abandon, disown, or deny Him. Our sufferings can leave scars and wounds that are imperceptible yet very real; however, it is up to me how I let it affect me. No matter what the world throws at me, I don’t have to fall into temptation.

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