Day 13: How to Run From Temptation
In 1960, Wilma Rudolph was born just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Severely crippled at birth, doctors had little hope of her living a normal life. For a long time, this was true. As her siblings ran and played outside, Wilma sat indoors, comforted only by the braces that held her together.
Inspired by her parents' faith, she began to practice walking without her braces. Wilma believed that God could and would make her able to walk some day, free of the machines that bound her. At 12 years old, she was walking around the doctors office unassisted. She never needed those braces again.
In high school, she was denied the opportunity to play on the basketball team. Through the persistence of her father, the coach reluctantly accepted her onto the team. Wilma practiced vigorously throughout the season, practicing with her best friend regularly. In time, she came to be one of the team's best players. Her team went on to play in the state championship, where she was noticed by one of the referees for her skill and determination. The referee recruited Wilma to his track team, the Tigerbelles. By the age of 16 she had become one of the best runners for her age in the country. In 1960, Rudolph went to the Olympics where she won the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and anchored for the winning 400-meter relay team. All of these performances set world records, and she was awarded the Sullivan Award for being the most outstanding United States athlete. 
Early in our struggles it feels as though we're like Wilma Rudolph, starting her life crippled and in braces. The first time we break free and run from temptation feels nearly impossible. It feels as though the whole weight of the world is forcing you into submission. Just as we're about to succeed, we give in and stumble back into that place of despair.
During these struggles we tend to overlook the simple things. Things like simply walking away from the person, place, or thing that is tempting us. We can over-complicate things - making freedom seem elusive. One example is thinking the only path forward is to grit our teeth in the face of these temptations. There are times to stand and fight, but more often than not, the solution is to simply walk away. If you feel you're about to stumble into something inappropriate on the internet, then shut the computer down and go do something else.
Today's lesson is about recognizing when it is time to run.
JOSEPH AND POTIPHER'S WIFE
...and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. -Genesis 39:7-12 (NIV)
If we dwell on this story for a moment, we see just how intense this must have been for Joseph. Potipher was in a place of power, so it’s not a stretch to recognize that his wife was likely an attractive woman. Joseph had the chance to give in and get away with it...but he didn’t. Notice that he didn’t stick around to think about it either. He knew when it was time to run.
If you wait and think about it, then suddenly it's too late. Run before the temptation even begins to overtake you. In moments of weakness and temptation, the worst thing we can do is stay put.
In my past, I’d pray during temptation. I planned in my head how to escape when the time came. If I didn’t immediately run from temptation when it came, I almost always gave into it. It took a spirit of discipline and ferocity to develop a habit of leaving a situation before it became too much to bear. A close friend and brother in Christ describes his bouts with temptation in college and how he overcame them:
When I was tempted in school, I would oftentimes attempt to go back to doing homework. It was always a recipe for relapse. On one occasion I literally left everything, went out of my dorm, and ran the half-mile or so to my campus church and spent the rest of the evening there.
WHAT RUNNING LOOKS LIKE
God has broken the chains that hold us down. He has set us free from the prison of our own making, giving us the strength to flee. God can break the chains and set us free, but he doesn't do so until we ask or invite him to do so. We are not set free until we accept Christ and his work in our lives. Once that has been established, then we have been set free.
- Use the Door
Sometimes the literal doorway out of a place is the way of salvation. If you’re home alone, go for a drive. If you’re in your car, pull over, take a walk and pray. Sin will consume us in an instant, so flee like Joseph at all costs. Are you ready to get serious about freedom, lay down your pride and recognize the strength of your enemy? Don’t give him the opportunity to bring you down. Running from temptation is vital to success, although difficult at first.
- Figuratively Run
Sometimes we need to train our minds to “run” from temptation. This means developing a habit of quickly changing your train of thought. For me, I imagine spiritual warfare taking place in my mind and an actual battle going on. Naturally, I don’t want to lose the fight. Instead I focus on being an overcomer, refusing to dwell on impure thoughts. Remember that it is possible to figuratively run, training our mind to shift away from the temptation.
- Make the Call
This is going to be the most difficult step early on. You may find yourself running constantly, but so be it! To aid in this, get accountability. Call someone when you see the temptation coming. Let them know what is happening and what you’re going to do about it. When facing temptation, do not think or dwell on the moment, run at the first opportunity.
The video below illustrates what we've been talking about perfectly. In moments of weakness, when we stick around, it becomes extremely difficult to resist:
THERE IS A TIME TO FIGHT... BUT IT'S NOT EVERY TIME
A common mistake when seeking freedom from sexual sin is thinking that every temptation is an opportunity to fight instead of flee. There are many battles that we simply cannot win. God will always give us a way out of these temptations, but we must be brave enough to take it.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. -1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV)
Many times when I needed to run, both physically and mentally, I stayed put only to fall moments later. Sometimes the temptation happened over the course of an hour, day or even week. The point was, I kept waiting around for the temptation to stop instead of running.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. -John 14:27 (ESV)
I remember being in constant fear that I’d be tempted. This was particularly true after I had been walking in freedom for a few days. I knew it was coming, I dreaded it. Jesus however commands us to be of good courage, to show courage against evil, for he is with us. This is why it is critical to run. Sometimes running is pre-emptive. For example, if you know that you’re going to be alone for a weekend and that you usually fall during times that you’re alone, plan on staying with a friend or having a friend stay with you. Call your accountability partner and let them know your situation. Most important, pray to God for freedom from temptation.
It is easy to make plans, difficult however to follow through with them. So many times I came up with ways to escape temptation but quickly fall as soon as I failed to follow through.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
God's plans and ways are higher than our ways, but unlike us He will follow through. His desire is to prosper you, and that includes freedom from sexual immorality. Know this, the creator of all existence, all the universe and all creation is on your side. When you put your faith in Christ, you have access to God the father and that plan.
Day 13 Application
Have you made the mistake of sticking around when you needed to run?
When are you the most vulnerable to temptation? What is your plan to not fall during these times?
Have you spent time with God today? Have you been in contact with your accountability partner such that you were asked tough questions about purity?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?