Temptation: As Comrades-in-Arms

Just as a wolf seeks out the weak, the straggler or the loner, temptation is always more dangerous for the believer who attempts to “go it alone.” Often, this isolation comes about, not by an active choice, but by a gradual withdrawal from regular involvement in the local church and from fellow believers. Whether precipitated by an unresolved conflict, a loss of one’s “first love” for Christ, or a false sense of personal resilience, the distant believer would be wise to begin recultivating healthy relationships with others. Paul writes, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose … The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1Co 12:18,21).1  Just as a solitary coal soon cools away from the fire, believers can grow cold through isolation one from another. “Paul calls us to fight sin not merely as an internal battle but as part of the living community, the body of Christ. The I set free from sin is one of a multitude of I’s connected to each other in Christ. Therefore, just as those fighting anorexia are best served through supportive relationships, each Christian is most free, most true, and most empowered to fight sin when living in that fellowship, when surrounded and strengthened by God’s people.”2 God’s design for believers (indeed for all people) is that we function and thrive in community.

Some temptations are stronger in a group – think peer pressure. This can be mitigated when we are intentional as to our social interactions and the friendships we cultivate both in person and online. However, temptation is often greatest when we are alone. In the Lord’s wilderness temptation, His only recorded company was the wild beasts. In a very real sense He was alone, and yet He wasn’t truly; ever before Him were His Father’s affection and presence. Additionally, He was led to this very temptation by, filled with during, and came out in the power of the Holy Spirit Himself. Even in the loneliness of the desert temptation, He was facing it in community with divine persons – and so can we! We note that He cultivated this fellowship on a regular basis, even during the busiest ministry periods of His life. When He was found alone, the benefit of that fellowship was still present. Even He, as the Son of God, chose to face temptation as the dependent Man. Of course, we cannot arrange to have ourselves constantly surrounded by multiple strong and encouraging believers at all times. It is inevitable that we will often face temptation alone. However, a believer who makes it a priority to be in regular and healthy contact with others will be the stronger for it when the moment of solitary temptation arises.

Community reminds us, helpfully, that we are dependent creatures with needs only others can meet. God is the divine Provider who chooses deliberately to meet many of our needs through the agency of others around us. The special family relationship between believers is crucial when it comes to facing temptation. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecc 4:9-10). The Lord, when sending out the 72 workers into the villages He planned to visit, assigned them each a partner and sent them out in pairs. He knew this partnership and mutual accountability would be crucial to the success of their mission.

The desire towards independence is exactly what temptation exploits. Temptation incites us to act independently of God, and of others as well. Facing temptation with this mindset sets us up for failure. Over-confidence in our strengths and abilities will be our downfall. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1Co 10:12). Paul emphasizes the importance God places on the development of strong, vibrant relationships between believers, whose growth God Himself cultivates. Paul exhorts the Colossians “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love … holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Col 2:2,19).

Facing temptation as comrades-in-arms will of necessity involve transparency and vulnerability. If there is sin among believers, James writes, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (5:16). “Will I be willing to admit a wrongdoing when I am convicted by God’s Spirit, or will I choose to bury it because I love appearing faultless in front of people? Will I be willing to admit my need for correction, or will I choose a façade because I love appearing right before others? Will I say no when I am asked to work overtime, or will I say yes because I love to be needed? The greatest temptations lure us by replacing truth with lies, authenticity with appearance, and love of God with love of self.”3  Furthermore, believers who acknowledge their own vulnerability will be better equipped to minister to those who are struggling.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal 6:1-3). When a brother has fallen into temptation, Paul emphasizes the need to care and to carry, the dual requirements of a humble and mature saint. Have I been blessed by the spiritual care of another believer and been strengthened in the face of temptation and my own weakness? How can I actively seek, in turn, to be a strengthening influence in the life of another believer facing the same or another temptation? Take heart, dear saint – you are not alone in this battle! Whether supporting others or receiving their support, William D. Longstaff expressed it well in his hymn “Take Time to Be Holy”:

Make friends of God’s children,
help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.4

1 Bible quotations in this article are from the ESV.

2 Kelly Kapic, You’re Only Human (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2021), 93.

3 Tim Chaddick, The Truth About Lies (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2015), 25.

4 William Dunn Longstaff (1822–1894).