It took me about four decades to perfect the art of brushing off pushy solicitors. Not that I begrudge anyone their means of making a living, but when I want something, I’ll go out shopping for it. I’ve no need for anyone to call me suggesting a product or service, and I have a particular dislike for telephone solicitors invading my home with their pitch. I’ve tried listening politely, only to have my politeness mistaken for weakness. I’ve tried venting my frustration at being interrupted by a sales call, only to hear that I’d be glad I was interrupted when I heard what a great deal was being offered. Finally I got it: Nothing I said would dissuade the salesman from his goal, so I adopted the simple phrase, “Not interested. Thanks. Goodbye.” Then click. No point waiting for a response, which would only morph into
That’s not a bad tactic to take with temptation, either. I think you’ll agree, on a daily basis, lust presents itself somewhat like a pushy salesman, asking for just a few moments of our time to explain what a terrific deal we can have if we’ll only invest in a sexual fantasy, flirtation, whatever. No surprise there–this fallen world has deified the Erotic apart from the Committed and the Intimate. So there’s no sin in having that pushy solicitor present himself to you, but our responsibility begins with our response, which will either be a quick “No thanks” or a prolonged,
Stimulation: Opportunity Knocks
Temptation begins with stimulation. That happens when something from within you (a thought, memory, or longing) or an external trigger (something or someone in the environment) appeals to you. It basically presents itself as an option,
or an invitation.
Think of stimulation as the proverbially pushy door to door salesman. He knocks. You look through your peephole and see him standing there with his briefcase, and you make a decision:
“I will or I will NOT answer this door.” There’s your goal–don’t answer when stimulation knocks. It’s not that hard to do this, if you do it during the first part of the stimulation phase. Because when you don’t decide to resist the opportunity, you do decide to entertain it.
Entertainment: A Slippery Slope
Once you let the Stimulation inside, that’s Entertainment. When you decide not to resist the stimulation by continuing to look it over, your ability to detach from it gets worn down. That’s because stimulation, once it gives way to lust, quickly becomes obsession.
It’s easy to visualize how King David’s attraction to Bathsheba probably evolved.
•First look: “Wow, she’s beautiful. Should I look again?”
•Second look: “She’s incredible. Hmmm — I’m alone; her husband’s probably in the battle; she’s available. Should I go for it?”
•Third look: “I have to have her. Nothing else matters.”
Something scary happened to this good man’s judgment between the First and Second Look–a consideration. The first look simply identified the woman as attractive. He decided then and there whether or not he’d indulge in a second look.
The second look, I’ll bet, involved a consideration–“Should I or shouldn’t I go for it?”
No doubt his heart pumped, he got aroused, and his imagination raced. After that, it was full speed ahead: “Nothing else matters.”
That’s the obsessive nature of the Entertainment phase. Once your lust is inflamed, judgment falters, then fades. Indulgence–acting out the lust that’s been inflamed–is a short step away.
James said as much when he described lust, action and consequences:
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived (second look) it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” -James 1: 14-15
Management Goal: Stop at Stimulation
You can’t prevent Stimulation. You can, though, decide NOT to entertain it. That’s your management goal, and it’s reachable. Remember:
1.It’s no sin to be sexual. You were created that way.
2.It’s no sin to be sexually tempted. How you respond to the temptation determines whether or not you’ve sinned.
3.When temptation begins (stimulation) your goal is to decide not to entertain
Can you? Without question. Remember two hopeful and astute observations Paul made about sin, and its relation to you:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you.” -Romans 6: 14
It will be present, in other words, but not all-powerful. It will be with you–enticing and distracting–but you aren’t doomed to indulge in it.
Why? Because, as he confidently points out one book later:
“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13
So be it, today and always. Amen.