I’m reminded daily that although God created the World, this World is not the way He created it. It became something else. When Adam sinned, everything in the environment – man, woman, the earth itself and the spiritual realm – changed. Read Genesis 3 in its entirety and you see the devastation of Paradise Lost, and the new form the world would take. An ongoing battle would ensue between Satan and Eve’s Seed, the coming Messiah, a battle with bloody long term ramifications for all of humanity. Adam and Eve (and thus all husband’s and wives) would experience physical pain and relational power struggles; man’s work would become hard; the ground itself would be adversarial at times, and everyone would eventually die.
This isn’t the World God intended. It became, in fact, an Arena in which His people would be called to exist, fight and conquer. And much of what we’re called to conquer is both subtle and pervasive. This Arena is clearly not your home field. You play here, but you’re citizenship is elsewhere. It couldn’t be in this sexually idolatrous environment, with monuments to erotic gods and goddesses everywhere. Yet these monuments have their dark appeal, and they become the external triggers all of us contend with. So let’s get a better understand what these triggers are, and what we’re required to do about them.
External Triggers Are Environmental and Unavoidable
Every culture has monuments to its deities, so it stands to reason that a sexually idolatrous culture would pay homage to its gods. And what homage this culture pays! Is there any product or creative endeavor that doesn’t use lust to promote itself? You’re bombarded daily – hourly, in fact, and maybe even more frequently – with sexy triggers. A “trigger” is something external or internal that arouses you sexually, so whatever turns you on qualifies as a trigger. When triggers are external, they’re part of the physical environment, appealing to one of your five senses. (Sight, sound, smell, taste or touch)
Most men get snagged by visual triggers, as we’re very visual creatures. A person or image that we see, then, can trigger us quickly. Of course, a sexy voice or appealing perfume can arouse our other senses as well, but visuals are usually the snares we trip on.
What’s our responsibility, then, if visual triggers are so common? Does God expect us to reach a point at which they’ll no longer tempt us? Or should we all relocate and move to some obscure place where we’ll never have to deal with billboards, sexy clothes or unexpected Super Bowl half time exposures?
Hardly. Good stewardship, not a temptation-free existence, is our goal. So a good steward will reduce the triggers in his environment when and where he can. Then, having done so, he’ll accept the fact that triggers are part of life in this fallen world. He’ll view them the way he views the smog – a nuisance, but on that doesn’t have to ruin his life.
So let’s concentrate on your personal section in this arena. Let’s look at the magazines you subscribe to, the books you read, the movies you rent, the music you enjoy and the television shows you watch. Do they present the lifestyle of a serious Player? Remember Paul’s thoughts on lifestyle:
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.” -I Corinthians 6: 12
Indeed, plenty of shows and movies are legitimate. But are they helpful? Do you feed your mind and soul with influences that move you along towards your higher goals, or do you binge on mental junk food that doesn’t relax you as much as it pollutes you?
Or, to put it another way: when someone visits your home, would they know from what they find there that you’re serious about your purity? Would the evidence be there, both by what they would and would not see in your environment?
That’s the acid test. So have you, as much as possible, reduced the physical triggers in the part of the arena that you can reduce them in? (Your home, your car, your office) If not, then you’ve got homework to do.
But having done that – that is, having reduced triggers when and where you can – you’ve got to accept the presence of the other triggers that will always be part of the broader environment. This has been a hard lesson for me, because I used to stress so badly over the fact that triggers could still arouse me. Every time I’d drive past a suggestive billboard and get turned on, I’d feel like such an unredeemable loser!
I’m learning, I hope, to relax a bit. Hating myself for being tempted doesn’t relieve the temptation. But immediate prayer and refocusing does, and I’m not, after all, responsible for all the sexual idols this world has erected. If and when they tempt me, that doesn’t mean I’ve sinned. It’s what I do when I’m tempted that counts.
When you and I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, He’s not going to ask us if we reached a point at which we became “temptation free.” He will, though, demand an account of the way we handled temptations when they came. And a special blessing is pronounced on those who handle them well:
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” -James 1: 12
So your management goal is to reduce the triggers in your environment when and where you can. Then, having done so, resist the ones that get in your way. There’s a crown waiting for you when you do.
(If you’re wanting to read more about this topic, check my book The Game Plan, available here)