Temptation Will Continue—That is Normal
People seem to expect that, after the soul has entered into its rest in God, temptations will cease; and to think that the promised deliverance is not only to be from yielding to temptation, but even also from being tempted.
Consequently, when they find the Canaanite still in the land, and see the cities great and walled up to Heaven, they are utterly discouraged, and think they must have gone wrong in some way, and that this cannot be the true land after all.
Then, next they make the mistake of looking upon temptation as sin, and of blaming themselves for what in reality is the fault of the enemy only. This brings them into condemnation and discouragement; and discouragement, if continued in, always ends at last in actual sin.
The enemy makes an easy prey of a discouraged soul; so that we fall often from the very fear of having fallen.
To meet the first of these difficulties it is only necessary to refer to the Scripture declarations, that the Christian life throughout is to be a warfare….
As a fact, temptations generally increase in strength tenfold after we have entered into the interior life, rather than decrease; and no amount or sort of them must ever for a moment lead us to suppose we have not really found the true abiding place. Strong temptations are generally a sign of great grace, rather than of little grace….
The second mistake is not quite so easy to deal with. It seems hardly worthwhile to say that temptation is not sin, and yet most of the distress about it arises from not understanding this fact. The very suggestion of wrong seems to bring pollution with it, and the evil agency not being recognized, the poor tempted soul begins to feel as if [he or she] must be very bad indeed, and very far off from God to have had such thoughts and suggestions….
It is the enemy’s grand ruse for entrapping us. He comes and whispers suggestions of evil to us, doubts, blasphemies, jealousies, envyings, and pride; and then turns round and says, “Oh, how wicked you must be to think of such things! It is very plain that you are not trusting the Lord; for if you were, it would have been impossible for these things to have entered your heart.”
This reasoning sounds so very plausible that the soul often accepts it as true, and at once comes under condemnation, and is filled with discouragement; then it is easy for it to be led on into actual sin.
One of the most fatal things in the life of faith is discouragement. One of the most helpful is cheerfulness.
A very wise man once said that in overcoming temptations, cheerfulness was the first thing, cheerfulness the second, and cheerfulness the third. We must expect to conquer. That is why the Lord…says to us, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’’ The power of temptation is in the fainting of our own hearts.
The enemy knows this well, and always begins his assaults by discouraging us, if it can in any way be accomplished…. An old writer says, “All discouragement is from the devil”; and I wish every Christian would just take this as a pocket-piece, and never forget it. We must fly from discouragement as we would from sin. But this is impossible if we fail to recognize the true agency in temptation. For if the temptations are our own fault, we cannot help being discouraged. But they are not.
The Bible says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation”; and we are exhorted to “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations.” Temptation, therefore, cannot be sin; and the truth is, it is no more a sin to hear these whispers and suggestions of evil in our souls than it is for us to hear the swearing or wicked talk of bad men as we pass along the street. The sin only comes in either case by our stopping and joining in with them.
This excerpt was taken from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (Christian Witness Company, 1875, pp.149-160).
Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) was a well-known author, evangelist, and advocate of Christian holiness known both in the United States and England.