Temptation Sermon Illustrations

Temptation Sermon Illustrations

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Mere disinclination is no guarantee against any evil that men have done. The great doers of evil were the men who thought they could never do it. As a youth Napoleon wrote an essay for the Lyons Academy on the dangers of ambition. "Would that this hand had never learned to write!" exclaimed Nero when asked to sign his first death warrant. The same Robespierre who during the Reign of Terror sent thousands to the guillotine resigned his office as a provincial judge because he could not bring himself to pronounce sentence of death upon a man convicted of a capital crime.

The young king David, told that he would live to darken the closing days of his reign with murder and adultery, would have said, "Is thy servant a dog?" (II Kings 8:13). If Solomon had been told, as he knelt that holy night on Gideon's sacred slope to ask God for wisdom to discern between good and evil and to judge his people, that he would forsake his father's God and bend his aged knees to heathen deities and follow after strange women, he would have said it— "Is thy servant a dog?" Peter, told on that last night, as he boasted of his fidelity to Jesus, that before the sacramental wine was dry upon his lips he would have denied his Lord with an oath—surely Peter would have said it.

Clothe yourself with power to discern the secrets of men's hearts and foresee their actions, and tell this man or this woman of the offenses which they will one day commit, and they, too, will rise up to denounce you as an impostor and to exclaim against such a possibility. But in many a life your prophecy may be fulfilled, yea, more than fulfilled. How often the tears of Elisha would be our tears, did we have his power to search men's hearts! "Who can understand his errors?" (Ps. 19:12.)


Standing in one of the great limestone caves of Bermuda, you can hear the flow of an underground stream. Those waters, ceaselessly flowing, have eroded the cavernous depths with their vast resounding chambers and fantastic decorations. The mind reels as it tries to estimate how long that stream has been running.

While empires have risen and fallen, while new continents have been discovered and added to the map of the world, while generation after generation of men have come forth like the leaves of the forest, and like the leaves have fallen and perished, strewing the world with their dust, that stream which swiftly murmurs at your feet has been flowing on and on, never interrupted, never ceasing, never getting through with its work, a symbol of the tireless energy of those forces in the natural world which make and unmake the seas and the continents, extending the first verse of Genesis—"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth"—over all the ages that have been and all that are yet to come.

So temptation flows like a river through the life of man. Old races die out, and new races take their place. New powers are thought out and new devices invented, but through each generation of men there flows this river of temptation. How long temptation has been here! How old it is! How unchanging it is! It is as new as birth and as old as death. It touches the life of the philosopher and the fool, the prince and the pauper, the sage and the savage, Christ and Judas. Wherever man has gone temptation has gone. It is man's shadow, haunting him wherever he goes and wherever he appears. It is the warfare from which there is no discharge.


Men often fall on their strongest side. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Cor. 10:12). Moses was the meekest of men, yet he fell in a moment of angry presumption, when he smote the rock thrice and denounced the people as rebels. Elijah was the prophet of magnificent courage, and yet when Jezebel sought to kill him, Elijah, under the juniper tree, asked God to take away his life. Peter was the aposde of natural and impulsive courage. In the garden of Gethsemane, he drew his sword against the whole mob, and yet the same night he went down before the pointed finger of a serving maid.

The ancient city of Sardis fronted the broad valley of the Hermos River with the Tmolus Mountain at its back. The citadel toward the mountain was regarded as so naturally strong and impregnable that no defense was made on that side, and there it was that the soldiers of Cyrus made their ascent and took Sardis. Abraham, the man of great faith, at two times in his life resorted to miserable and cowardly falsehood.


When Paul shook the viper off his arm he shook it off into the fire. He did not shake it off into the bundle of fagots, or upon the ground, where it might strike him again, or bury its fangs in some other survivor of the shipwreck. He shook it off into the flame. That particular viper would never again menace the life of Paul, or the life of any other man. To resist a temptation half-heartedly, to say No with a certain tone of reservation in our minds, as if we might give it consideration tomorrow, is to make sure that temptation will return, and return stronger than it was before, because we ourselves are weaker. Although Saul tried to kill himself on the bloody field of Gilboa, the finishing blow was given to him by an Amalekite, one of those people whom, contrary to the commandment of God, Saul had spared. You spare your temptation today, shake it off into the bushes, or to the ground, instead of into the fire, into the flames, where it will be reduced to ashes, and it will come back to hiss and to strike and to curse tomorrow.


"Angels came and ministered unto him." (Matt. 4:11.) What unconscious beauty and grandeur in that sentence! Still these angels come to crown and acclaim the soul that has resisted temptation and has said to the tempter, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matt. 16:23).

After his desperate battle with Apollyon, Christian was ministered to by a hand which had in it the leaves of healing. Wounds received in resisting evil can always be healed. There is no poison in them. A hand invisible is reached down with leaves in it from the tree of life, which is for the healing of the soul. The only wounds which cannot be healed are those which you inflict upon yourself.


A man once watched an Indian preparing a snare with which to catch a wild animal. He was surprised to learn that the Indian never sprang the trap or pulled the noose the first time the animal appeared. Instead of that, he would let it come repeatedly and feed where the trap was, and then, when it had become bold and thoroughly familiar with the surroundings, he would set the trap so that the next time it came the animal would be caught in the snare.

That is the way temptation works. It does not drive its shaft into the heart of its victim at first, but deceives it and lures it on; and then the fatal blow is delivered.


Burglars when they rob a house sometimes chloroform those who dwell there so they may rob and loot at their pleasure. It would seem that Satan acts in much the same way when he despoils men of their souls. He casts them into a deep sleep, gives them a false sense of safety, the conviction that while temptation and evil might destroy others, it could never destroy them. It is while men sleep that the devil does his work. It was when Sisera, exhausted after the great Battle of Kishon, lay asleep in the house of Jael, where he had taken refuge, that that patriotic Hebrew took a hammer and drove a tent pin through the temple of the unconscious captain of Canaan. It was when Samson lay asleep on the lap of Delilah that the Philistines sheared him of his locks and stripped him of his great strength, and then put his eyes out and cast him into the dungeon to do the work of a slave.

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