The first intimation I had that something was wrong was when my wife came down to the barn where I was working and announced calmly, “Something weird is going on with the electricity.”
I ran up to the house. Something weird certainly was happening. Some of the lights were glowing extraordinarily brightly, and others had burned out. Some appliances had stopped working, and others were working and running at double speed. We shut down everything electrical and called the power company.
It turned out that a passing truck had snagged a low-hanging telephone line, which had recoiled and dislodged the power cable that ran from the transformer to our home. This shorted itself out, and put a surge of 220 volts through our system, blowing some circuits and causing others to operate at double power.
It didn’t take long to fix. A few appliances were damaged and needed to be replaced, but we are insured for that. My main concern was that our computers — including the one I use to produce this magazine — might not work. Had they been zapped into oblivion?
No, they had not. The vital components containing the data had been protected because the surge protectors had done their job.
God provides us with the ultimate urge protection when temptation suddenly surges into our lives.
As you probably know (you do have one, don’t you?), a surge protector is a device that you connect between a power outlet and electronic equipment.
Although most of the time electricity flows at a steady even rate, it is subject to occasional surges and spikes. Like floodwater, electricity has to go somewhere, which is why our homes are equipped with circuit breakers or fuse boxes. But a power surge usually lasts just a few billionths of a second, faster than most breakers can react. If not checked, it will rip through delicate electronic circuits like a tsunami. Those few billionths of a second can cause hundreds of hours of lost work and thousands of dollars of expense.
The surge protector provides an alternate path for the current surge. It destroys itself in the process, but better that, than an expensive apparatus and priceless data going up in smoke. If you don’t have a surge protector, may I suggest you get one?
And while we are on the subject, what about urge protection?
Surges and spikes of life
Like computers, we human beings prefer to operate in calm and predictable conditions. But life is not always like that. It has a way of putting us in situations where our equilibrium is suddenly and unpredictably thrown off balance. We are driving along minding our own business when someone cuts in front, setting us up for a possible flash of anger and perhaps a deletable expletive. Or a lie offers the opportunity for an escape route from an awkward situation. Sometimes surfing the internet or channel hopping with the TV remote, we may be unexpectedly confronted with some gratuitous pornography. You don’t have to go looking for these temptation - creating situations — life is full of unexpected situation-induced urges to cheat, to steal, to covet, to lust — let’s call them what they are — urges to sin.
The Bible calls this temptation, but the temptation, of itself, is not sin. The letter of James makes that clear: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:13-14).
The temptations we face in life stem from the fact that our nature is hard-wired to provide a ready path for sin. James continues: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Paul, a man who took his spiritual health very seriously, was forced to admit that he was “sold as a slave to sin” (Romans 7:14). “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:18-20).
Yes, sin may do it, but it is still our doing because it is we who are doing the sinful deeds. Thankfully, we are protected from the ultimate consequences of sin. Jesus took care of that. But there are the secondary consequences to the sudden urges to sin.
“A man reaps what he sows,” Paul wrote in Galatians 5:7. Proverbs 6:27 puts it like this: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?” That flash of anger, the moment of lust, a sudden outbreak of envy or pride—these can produce effects that last a lifetime, and even beyond.
“I tell you the truth,” said Jesus, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever” (John 8:34-36). As brothers and sisters of Jesus, we belong to God’s family. And we are not alone. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…. The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:18, 26).
Through the Holy Spirit, God provides us with the ultimate urge protection when temptation suddenly surges into our lives. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). A heart guided by the Holy Spirit is insulated by the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each of these offer protection, providing a safe alternative path to potentially destructive waves of temptation. But the Spirit guides — he does not demand or insist, any more than a surge protector will plug itself in. Whether to listen to his prompting, whether to follow his lead, is your decision. We are free to simply let temptation have its way with us, and sadly, we often give in.
I don’t know exactly how long a person has, to either nip temptation in the bud or let it blossom into sin. Scientists who have studied our brain’s neural networks tell us that the speed of thought is less than that of electricity. So we may have a bit more than a few billionths of a second. Whatever it is, it is long enough for us to be able to hear God remind us, “That is not the way we do things in this family.” And to let those urge protectors do their job.