Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Avoid temptation by staying strong

IN my younger days there were no more pleasurable activities than going away, walking in the country and climbing mountains, both in this country and abroad. Not, I have to admit, on the end of a rope but always where I could put both feet on the ground and walk with one foot in front of the other.

On fine clear days the rewards of those mountain walks would be tremendous. The views and the silence, except for the birds (and, yes, the wind), could be just such a rewarding experience.

Being in an organised walking group, sometimes with very experienced walkers, the adequacy of our clothing and boots was always drilled into us. It was good advice as you never knew when the weather would change.

I well remember an occasion when walking to a youth hostel from the Swansea Valley over the Black Mountains, a clear day turned into a vicious blizzard when we experienced a whiteout and only a map and compass saw us through. There was no substitute for preparedness; you will frequently read of occasions when the mountain rescue teams have had to go out to rescue walkers who were tempted by clear weather to go out on the mountains unprepared.

Temptation happens - it will happen to us all. We will face temptations, even if we may not always recognise that we are being tempted when it happens.

Temptation always hits us where it hurts. At the beginning of Lent, we heard in our Gospel readings how Jesus was hungry and exposed to temptation.

The tempter knows where we are sensitive and where we are weak. Temptation never comes where we are strong and unconcerned. It always hits where we are vulnerable. We need to learn from Jesus about the best defence against temptation.

If we were to think about going off into the desert for six weeks what, apart from water, is the most important thing we’ll need to take with us?

Well, I would suggest a compass, or a modern electronic version provided you can get a signal. What does a compass do? It helps us to walk in the right direction.

However, what we do need in our everyday lives is a special compass that always points us in God’s direction. The Cross is such a compass. The Palm Cross that will be given to us on Palm Sunday represents for us a compass to guide us; the ash that was imposed on us at services on Ash Wednesday is traditionally made from those crosses of the previous year.

Going through life is rather like finding our way through a landscape and we need maps and a compass to guide us.

Jesus said he was the way, which we can follow and trust. But before he was able to start on his ministry, he had some working out to do himself.

When we confront temptations, we can have no better pattern than that which Jesus provided. He told us to pray every day of our life the words “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.

So, let’s use the strength that God offers us because today, with so many problems in the world around us, we need all the help we can get.

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