Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek worship. Today we will be thinking a little more about what it will mean for us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
But first let’s take a moment to pause and to talk to our heavenly Father, let’s pray…
Lord of heaven and earth, of all that is and has been and will be- forgive us for trusting in our own strength rather than yours.
Forgive us for thinking our way is best, for claiming honour that is rightly yours, for seeking our ends rather than your Kingdom, for putting our confidence in things which have no power to save or satisfy. Forgive us for trusting in our own strength rather than yours.
Forgive us for the people we have let down, the circumstances we have despaired of, the opportunities we have wasted, all because we have trusted our judgement, before yours. Forgive us for trusting in our own strength rather than yours.
Forgive us even during these difficult days of restricted living that we have tried to sort out our own problems or cope with our own emotions and fears rather than sharing them with you and seeking your wisdom and comfort. Forgive us for trusting in our own strength rather than yours.
Lord, teach us that when we feel most weak and helpless, you are at your strongest, that what the world counts powerless is often most powerful. Save us from closing our lives to your mighty presence. Forgive us for trusting in our own strength rather than yours.
Give us renewed faith, greater trust and deeper confidence in all that you are able to do. Teach us to trust in your strength and to put that into practice by talking to you much more regularly about every detail of our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Join me as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Reflection “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”
“I know I shouldn’t say this but…”
“Officer, it was only a short text and I never took my eyes off the road…”
“Sure they’ll never miss a few reams of paper…”
“Why don’t you just call in sick?...”
“Go on, just tell them you’re 18!...”
“This is God’s fault, I’m not going to church anymore…”
Whether it’s gossip, texting while driving, stealing office stationery, taking a day off work, buying alcohol when you are under age or giving up on God because of some painful experience, life is full of temptations. Temptation is normal; it’s not something we can avoid. It’s also probably true that the more seriously we start to follow Christ, the greater our temptations will become. That’s because when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, He makes us more sensitive to what is right and what is wrong. It’s also really important to realise that temptation is something that we’ll have to face on a regular basis until we reach heaven. Sometimes when we have resisted a particular temptation we think, “Great, thank you Lord, I’ll not have to face that again!” But the reality is that even when we’ve resisted one temptation, there will always be another one waiting for us around the corner.
It’s also important to remember that temptation can be potentially serious. Yielding to certain temptations can damage our reputation, it can destroy our relationships, it can lead to serious injury, it can cost someone their job, it can result in a court appearance or a prison sentence. Even when no-one else but us knows that we have given in to a particular temptation, this still has the potential of grieving God and slowly but surely causing us to drift away from His presence and blessing. Temptation is a serious business; it is not something to be treated lightly. That’s the bad news if you like. But the good news is that it is perfectly o.k. to be tempted! Temptation isn’t wrong no matter how strong it feels or how difficult it might be to say, “No!” But perhaps the most encouraging news of all is that God has promised to provide everything that we need to be able to resist temptation no matter when or how it comes. That’s why St. Paul encouraged the Christians living in the notoriously wicked city of Corinth with these words,
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to all people. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide you with a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
One of the main ways that God has given us to overcome temptation is prayer. Last week we reflected on the fourth phrase in the Lord’s Prayer – “Forgive us or sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” It’s often when we have just finished confessing our sins that we are reminded of how weak and vulnerable we are. I think that’s why immediately after praying for forgiveness, Jesus teaches us to pray to God, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. It’s when we are at our humblest that we are most likely to realise our need of God to overcome temptation.
It is not easy to understand exactly what Jesus is saying in this phrase. Throughout church history bible scholars have wondered why we would ask God not to lead us into temptation when the bible quite clearly teaches us that it is the devil, not God, who tempts us. Some have tried to find a solution by pointing out the reality that the same Greek word used for temptation is more often translated as ‘tested’. Scripture shows that God often tests us to cause the muscles of our faith to grow. But if testing is a good thing, then why would Jesus encourage us to pray that God would not test us? I’ve spent many hours this week trying to find an answer to these questions and to be totally honest with you I haven’t been able to find one that is completely satisfactory.
There is mystery here. But what I can do is give you the best explanation I can as to what I think Jesus means when he teaches us to pray, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
Whatever else this means, Jesus is not saying that God tempts us. The bible is very clear that God never tempts us. It is the enemy of God, a beautiful angel called, “Satan” who tempts us to ignore God and to do what is wrong. Having said that, it is also true to say that just as God allowed the devil to test Job and just as the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, so God may allow the devil to tempt us in order that our faith and character may be strengthened just as steal is hardened in the fire. But even when God allows this in our lives, we must always remember that it is the devil who does the tempting, not God and it is God who provides the way of escape. But what do these ways of escape look like and how can we apply them in our daily lives? Well today and next Wednesday I want to spend some time explaining in what practical ways we can receive the help of God to overcome temptations, to maintain our faith under trials and difficulties and to overcome the attempts of the evil one to hinder the work of God in our lives.
Where I’d like to begin is with the temptation of Christ Himself. The strategy that Jesus used when He was tempted during His 40 days of spiritual reflection in the wilderness was to recall Holy Scripture that he had memorised.
If this method of memorising scripture worked for Jesus, then you can be sure that it will pay dividends for us. That’s why I want to encourage you to keep reading your bible and your Word for Today. That’s why I want to encourage you to keep making listening to our online reflections a priority in your week. That’s why when we’re back in church that you keep coming each week. That’s why I want to encourage you to buy and read good Christian books. The more we read the bible, the more its message will stick in our minds. Then when we are tempted, the Holy Spirit will be able to bring to our mind a few verses or a passage of scripture which will empower us to resist that temptation. Let me give you a few examples of how I have found this to work in my own life:
There is a verse in Proverbs that says, “A quiet word turns away wrath.” On a number of occasions that verse has come into my mind and stopped me from overreacting when someone has spoken aggressively to me.
Last week we looked at the verse, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Over the years there have been many times when I’ve found myself thinking angry thoughts about someone. But as we have prayed these words in church every week, God has said to me loud and clearly on many occasions- “Michael if you want me to forgive you then you have got to let go of those thoughts.” In the middle of services, even as I’ve led others in saying the Lord’s Prayer, I have done that and I gradually felt the anger inside me disappear. It was the voice of God in Holy Scripture that gave me the power to resist the temptation to continue thinking those thoughts about someone else.
There are times in all of our lives when we think, “I couldn’t do that. I don’t have enough experience. I’m just not clever enough.” In those times we are tempted to give up or not to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God. There are lots of times in my life when God has asked me to do something and I’ve felt exactly like that. At those times, a particular phrase from Psalm 18 has given me the courage to give it a go. The reason these words have stuck in my mind is because I learned them in German from a good friend who lived there for a year. They are, “Mit meinem Gott kann Ich uber mauern springen,” which translated means, “With my God I can leap over a high wall.”
Over the years this verse has given me courage to do things that I would have never thought possible.
Even during the last period of time when we were in church, I found that reading Paul’s description of love every week helped me to memorise that passage. So often it comes to mind and helps me to treat other people the way God would want when I feel myself tempted to be impatient or unkind or to be jealous or proud.
These are just a few examples of how learning bible verses will allow the Holy Spirit to bring it into our minds and enable us to respond like Jesus in our moments of temptation. This is one escape route against temptation that God has provided for us. The question for us this morning is, “What steps am I taking to familiarise myself with the bible so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to my mind?”
Prayer for others
Lord we pray for many situations of temptation that people face particularly at this time.
We think especially of those who are tempted to give up on life because they see no hope in the future. Lord deliver them from this lie and enable them to find all the help and encouragement they need.
We pray for all of us who are tempted to break the rules of restriction or wearing our face coverings or keeping our distance. Help us to persevere and reward us for our efforts by seeing the infection rates reducing.
We pray for people who are tempted to take drugs to escape the difficulties of life.
We pray for women who are tempted to sell themselves because they see no other way of providing for themselves or their children.
We pray for people who are tempted to steal because they are finding it difficult to find employment.
We pray for people who are tempted to work too hard and who are near the point of physical and emotional burnout.
We pray for people who are tempted to give up their faith in you because of a particularly painful experience or difficult circumstances.
We pray for people who are tempted to give up on their marriages rather than seek professional support.
We pray for people who are tempted to stay in abusive situations rather than having the courage to seek help and refuge.
Lord with these prayers we also remember those who are sick and those who continue to grieve.
Lord, show us how we can be supportive to anyone facing any of these situations and give wisdom to our government so that they will do all they can to provide the necessary services to bring help and hope to everyone who is tempted to despair or to make bad choices because they see no other way.
Finally we take a few moments to pray for ourselves and for our own particular temptations….
Lord help us to admit our weaknesses and to be careful that we don’t allow our strengths to cause us to fall. Lord give us the strength to resist temptations that would cause us harm, or bring hurt to others. Give us courage to face our trials and give us the faith to keep on trusting you even at times when it is hard to believe.
We offer all these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next couple of days and ask yourself, what are my greatest trials and temptations?”
Once you’ve become aware of what these are, spend some time talking to God about them and asking Him for strength to resist temptation and the courage to carry on.
This Sunday we will have a focus on the United Appeal which is our denominations main way of supporting outreach in various forms throughout Ireland and in other parts of the world. We are so grateful to God that over the past 20 years the United Appeal has allowed us to have Philip and Susan and Amy here as part of our church family. So on Sunday I want us to spend some time reflecting back over the years of some of wonderful outreach work they have enabled us to do and all the lives that have been touched by the love that they have shown people.
Thanks to everyone who has taken time to package a Babushka Shoe Box and thank you to Erika for delivering them to Dublin on our behalf.
Don’t forget you can still give a Shoe Box to a needy Child through the Team Hope Shoe Box Appeal which is online this year.
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer and the challenges of Covid continue I’m conscious that this is a very difficult time for us all. If you are feeling particularly low, then please do reach out and let me know. I’ll be more than happy to meet and pray with you in a safe and socially distanced way.
And let’s keep a special eye out for each other whether that means just picking up the phones and seeing how someone is.
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak …And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.