Winning the War WithinWinning the War Within
Charles F. Stanley
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In Winning the War Within, Dr. Charles Stanley talks about temptation, the enticements that trip us up, the protections God provides to help us stay clear of Satan's traps, and the escape route God makes available if we go too far. Winning the War Within is a Bible-based examination of relevant questions: What's the problem? Who's to blame? How can we defend ourselves? How can we escape? What happens if we fail? Clarifying the distinction between a test or trial---which may come from God---and a temptation---which never comes from God, Dr. Stanley explains God's solutions for coping with trials, triumphing over temptations, and recognizing the difference.
     

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One
The Problem at Hand

The term temptation brings to mind different things for each of us. For some, this word conjures up a delicious hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and nuts dripping off the sides. For others, it's the man or woman who has become the focus of secret fantasies at the office. For the businessman who works under unrelenting pressure, it may be the corner bar. For the woman who long ago lost her zeal for being a wife and mother, it may be the corner drugstore where she knows she can get that prescription filled one more time. For the traveling salesman, temptation may mean the R-rated cable movies so readily available in hotels and motels today.
For the teenager, the term temptation may bring to mind a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes or a member of the opposite sex who has been declared off-limits by parents. It may be the uncontrollable urge to rid oneself of a meal by forced vomiting, thereby controlling calorie intake. Maybe temptation has something to do with the magazine rack at the local convenience store or the video rental library down the street.
Think for just a moment. When you hear the term temptation, what flashes into your mind? What pictures and emotions does it conjure up in your thinking? This is an important question as we begin our study together. In a sense, whatever comes to mind is what this book is all about. It is about you and your particular temptation(s). For some, this book is about drug addiction. For others, this book will seem to speak almost exclusively to the area of sexual temptation. What area of temptation would you like to find covered in this book? What is your greatest temptation?
I want you to choose one temptation or one area of temptation to which you can apply the principles of this book throughout our discussion. As you begin to see God giving you victory in one area, you will be motivated to apply these principles to every area in which you find yourself tempted. But for the purpose of measuring your progress, choose just one area for now.

"I've Tried That!"
The prospects of overcoming your greatest temptation may seem rather slim to you right now. "I've tried and failed so many times before," you might say. "Why frustrate myself all over again?"
There are several reasons why you must take up the struggle once again. First of all, a defeating habit in your life will rob you of your confidence in the power of God to give people victory over sin. Consequently, you will be hesitant to offer Christ as the answer to others who are controlled by sin. A sinful habit in your life will destroy your incentive to share your faith. You will feel like a hypocrite. And on those occasions when you do muster enough conviction to say something, you will not have the confidence you could have if you were free.
One of the immediate results of being set free from a controlling habit is the desire to share with others the power of God that has been experienced. Satan loves to keep us in bondage to sin because it greatly diminishes our potential for the kingdom of God. It diminishes our potential because we feel like hypocrites and we may also look like hypocrites if others know about our sin.
I've known several Christians who were never seriously motivated to quit smoking until they committed themselves to making an impact on their world for the Lord. One fellow commented: "Nobody will take me seriously as long as I smoke. People look at me as if to say, 'If God is so powerful, why doesn't He help you quit smoking?'" That's a valid question.
Another reason you must once again take seriously those areas of your life you have allowed to slip is that choosing not to deal with sin ultimately leads to what Scripture calls a hard heart. A hard heart develops when people hear the truth, believe the truth, but refuse to apply the truth. Developing a hard heart is a process that takes time. But each time Christians recognize sin in their lives, feel convicted, and yet do nothing about it, they become less and less sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Finally, they reach the point where they feel no conviction at all over particular sins. They become callous, and they quench the Spirit in their lives (1 Thess. 5:19), which is a dangerous thing to do.
The Bible warns that if this process is allowed to continue, God will eventually turn people over to their sin. That is, He will in a sense say, "You want to live your way? Fine, do so, and without any interference from Me." At that point believers lose all moral and ethical direction insofar as the Holy Spirit is concerned. They are on their own. I believe this is what happened to the man described in 1 Corinthians 5 who was carrying on an incestuous relationship with seemingly no remorse whatsoever. I think the man failed to heed the instruction of the Holy Spirit, and Paul said he had been turned over to Satan. Such is the risk one runs if sin is not dealt with.

One Thing Leads to Another
Along these same lines, a third reason you must once again take up the battle against the sinful elements of your lifestyle is that one sin always leads to another. Sin is like a cancer in that it spreads. One undealt-with area opens up other areas as well. Once you become accustomed to a particular sin, once it becomes entrenched in your lifestyle, it is only a matter of time until other areas become problems. It seems like most of the counseling sessions I am involved in begin with a story about some small sin that was allowed to go undealt with. This one area opened the door for other things that soon blossomed into major problems.
I know of a teenage girl whose involvement with soap operas developed an inordinate amount of sexual curiosity in her. After numerous one-night stands and a short marriage that ended in catastrope, she found her way to our church and told one of our pastors her story. It was unthinkable that someone with her background could ever live the way she found herself living; she was a model teenager at home, church, and school. Yet by her own admission, the afternoon soaps led her into sin that she never imagined possible.
A fine Christian man began stopping at a local bar after work to spend some time with his buddies. He had never had any desire to drink, but he figured one beer wouldn't hurt anything. He even convinced himself that by drinking one beer he would be able to relate to his friends better and maybe get an opportunity to share Christ with them. Before long, one beer became two, then three. Soon he was going home drunk, and eventually he lost his wife and kids. As he told his story to me, he said, "In my heart I knew it was wrong, but I figured every man has his vice." Did he wish he could go back and deal with his drinking problem when it was just one beer every once in while? You bet he did. But it was too late; the damage had been done.

 
    Excerpted from Winning the War Within by Charles Stanley.
    Thomas Nelson, 2002
    All rights reserved