Sentinel of the Soul (6)
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory. Psalm 73.23, 24
Shelter in the Lord
Now well on his way through the way of escape from temptation, Asaph takes the most crucial step of all. He has already reminded himself that any sin he commits will be a betrayal of the Lord’s people. And he has remembered that sin is a slippery slope, along which, at some point, we can expect to meet up with the discipline of God.
Now Asaph flees to the Lord, for he knows this to be the surest way to escape temptation and secure his proper footing.
Jesus taught that apart from Him, we can do nothing. We may well start down the path of resisting the devil and following the Lord, but unless we take shelter in the Lord, and remain there, we will not be able to continue in the direction our conscience has indicated. We need the Lord’s Presence, counsel, and power to keep us growing through temptation to greater wisdom and sanctification.
With us always
I want us to observe three facets of Asaph’s turn to the Lord. Each of them is important in helping us to engage our conscience for the virtue of self-control.
The first is recalling and resting in the Presence of the Lord. Asaph recalls, “I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.” Even if our sins never affected anyone else – but they always do – they would affect the Lord. Whenever we sin it is in the Presence of the Lord. He has promised to be with us always, and that means He is with us as we set our feet on the path of rebellion, corruption, and sin.
As if it weren’t enough that our prior sins helped to put Jesus on the cross, now we’re going to drive more nails into His torn hands and feet, and He is right there with us as we do?
I wonder how many of us have the sense of Jesus’ Presence with us such that we can envision Him holding our hand as we walk through our daily activities in life. Jesus is with us as we’re facing temptations, and we can draw on His Presence to help us resist whatever within us wants to break free of His hand and disobey.
But not only is Jesus with us where we are; according to the apostle Paul, we are also with Him, where He is, seated at the right hand of God (Eph. 2.6). If we can envision ourselves facing our temptations from within the throne room of God, from a place at the very right hand of the Father, it might prove to be a needed help along the path of resisting temptation and growing in the Lord.
Second, Asaph turned to prayer. He was already engaged in prayer by verse 18, when he was talking with the Lord about the slippery slope of sin and how he did not want to come under the discipline of God. The rest of this psalm continues Asaph’s prayer to the Lord. Having come to recognize the temptation he was considering, Asaph drew on the Presence of the Lord and opened a conversation with Him.
Prayer can be a strong source of spiritual energy for resisting temptation and growing in the Lord – even praying a psalm like Psalm 73, to remind us how to stay on the Lord’s path. The more we practice the discipline of prayer throughout the day, the greater will be the likelihood that prayer will be there to help us find the way of escape from sin when we need it.
It will be more difficult to give in to temptation and fall through it into sin if you, like Asaph, sustain a vital conversation with the Lord.
The counsel of the Lord
Finally, Asaph sought the counsel of the Lord. He looked to the Lord to guide him concerning how he ought to deal with this situation.
At the very least, Asaph must have recalled the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet.” Perhaps his mind also ranged to reflect on those Scriptures which instruct believers to hate sin (Ps. 97.10), to fear the Lord and serve Him (Deut. 10.12), and to seek Him while He may be found (Ps. 3.6). Wherever his mind may have wandered throughout the whole counsel of God, Asaph would have found guidance and strength by turning to the Word of God, a sure lamp unto our feet when the darkness is threatening all around (Ps. 119.105).
As you seek the way of escape through temptation, remember that the Lord Jesus is with you always, and His Spirit dwells within your soul. Draw near to the Lord in prayer, resting in His Presence, and reflecting on His Word. This is a sure and strong step in responding to your conscience and practicing the self-control we need to keep us from falling through temptation into sin.
1. What comes to mind as you think about fleeing to the Lord? How can you practice this throughout the day?
2. How do you experience the Presence of the Lord? How can drawing into the Presence of the Lord help in resisting temptation?
3. How can remembering that the Lord is always with us, and that He sees us at all times, help us in dealing with temptation? How can we keep this in mind?
Next steps – Preparation: Make a list of a few Scriptures you might turn to when faced with temptation. Write them down and carry them with you until you have them memorized. Use them faithfully to flee to the Lord when you are confronted with temptation.
T. M. Moore
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.