Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (ESV)
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. (NIV)
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. (NLT)
The Grapple With Temptation
When Jesus becomes Lord, everything changes. Life as we once knew it isn’t the same. We begin to hate the things we once loved and love the things we once hated. We have a transformation of the heart because of the Spirit's work in us. This is incredible. A true miracle takes place because of the work of the cross, and it is one we shouldn’t take lightly. But what happens when you have been following Jesus for a while and you find yourself still tempted by your old desires? It can be disheartening to have a deep desire to obey the Lord when you are faced with a world that is filled with temptation everywhere you look. You might ask God, “Why do I have to grapple with sin? Why is it such a struggle?” You may even feel like you're at war in a strange foreign land.
This is where our verse of the week comes in, it says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” If anyone could relate to this battle, that we read about in 1 Peter 2:11, it was Joseph. His story, found in Genesis 37-50, it is one filled with betrayal, temptation, and injustice, but ultimately faithfulness. Out of deep-rooted envy, Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brothers. He is exiled from his family and home and is brought to a foreign land. After some time, he ends up in the house of Potiphar, an elite Egyptian man. He begins to earn his trust, faithfully doing everything he asks, eventually being promoted to being in charge of his entire household. But it all takes a turn for the worst when Potiphar’s wife begins to take an interest in Joseph.
Day by Day
We are told that day after day, she attempts to seduce Joseph to come to bed with her, but time after time, he refuses and stands firm in his faithfulness to Potiphar and, ultimately, to God. Joseph wouldn’t bend, but Potiphar's wife continuously tempts him day by day. Like all of us, Joseph didn’t just have to resist temptation once, but repeatedly. Over and over, he refused to go to bed with her or be with her. He remains faithful to God and to his earthly master avoiding sin at all costs. He didn’t leave anything up to chance but kept his eyes fixed on the Lord. Even though he was faithful, one day, Potiphar's wife, out of embarrassment and anger, accuses him of adultery anyway. He is thrown in prison, which seems like the worst possible outcome, but ends up being the very thing that leads him to interpret Pharoahs' dreams and help save the entire nation from famine. An important reminder that faithfulness should not be determined by our present outcome, but by our future hope. I’d encourage you to read the whole story in Genesis 37–50 this week!
Do you find yourself in a similar situation? With temptation all around you? It is easy to feel overcome by it all and be discouraged and wonder how the Lord could actually turn all of it for good.
The lesson of Joseph is this… God doesn’t promise to take the temptations of this world from us, but he gives us the ability to stand firm in battle by clinging to him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) And He will never leave us nor forsake us, ultimately granting us victory and glory in the end!
Joseph remained close to God while being a “foreigner” away from the comfort of his home. He found himself sold into slavery, away from everything he knew, in a stranger's house, being faced with strong temptation day by day. Although it would have been incredibly easy for him to try and justify momentary pleasure in the midst of his pain and abandonment, he instead stood the test of time and remained faithful to God. He held tight to what He knew to be true about how good God is. He experienced the blessing of God’s presence because of his faithfulness to him and even saw an entire pagan nation bring glory to God!
In a similar way, we will go through seasons in the wilderness. Seasons where temptation is all around, and sin feels stronger than ever. In these times, we must remember that we are exiles in a foreign land, but there is a future home that waits for us. This is not our home, and we long for the day when we are no longer foreigners in this world, together again with Christ, but until then, we must draw near to the Lord and abstain from the passions of the flesh.
A Life of Faithfulness
Just like how we see in Joseph’s story, at the end of it all, a life of faithfulness is made up of day-by-day choices.
We all look up to and admire our brothers and sisters in Christ who lived a long life and finished well (2 Timothy 4:7), but we often forget that a life like that doesn’t come easy. In fact, it is a life lived intentionally marked by a love for God and crucifying the flesh. In order to gain our lives, we must lose them. (Matthew 16:25)
Do you think it’s worth it?
This is the question the enemy tempts us not to believe, but he only wants to take. The Lord seeks to give. As a temporary resident in this world, a war will be waged against your soul, but abstain from temptation so that you are able to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
Written by Ben Hesch and Blake Stanley