In 1896, Charles “Kid” McCoy, the welterweight boxing champion, found out that his opponent was deaf.
Using this knowledge to his advantage, nearing the end of the third round McCoy stepped back and pointed to his opponent’s corner, falsely indicating that the bell had rung.
When the deaf fighter turned his head, McCoy unloaded a powerful blow and knocked him out. It wasn’t fair, but it was certainly effective.
And so when it comes to the battle of the Christian life, neither does Satan play fair. If you’re not careful, he will deliver the knockout blow when you least expect it.
Out of all the men and women in the Bible, Joseph gives us one of the best examples of how to avoid the devil’s knockout blow when we face temptation.
Let’s look at four important actions Joseph used to defeat temptation that we need to apply in our lives as well.
1. Focus on What You Have, Not on What You Lack
Potiphar’s wife probably assumed that she could easily seduce Joseph, being a very attractive Egyptian woman.
One day she caught him and bluntly commanded, “Lie with me” (v. 7).
This was it. Joseph had the opportunity, the motive, and someone with whom he could do something he had never done before.
As a slave, Joseph had no lover or wife, and possibly no real friends. It would have been easy for him to justify this sin.
Many of us look at sin in this way, something in which we deserve indulging. We try to excuse the sin by blaming our circumstances.
But notice Joseph’s response: “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
Joseph’s answer was one of common sense. He stated the fact that his master had given him everything except his wife and trusted him with all of those things.
Here is the key when it comes to the mindset needed to overcome temptation: focus on what you have been given instead of what you lack.
“Mrs. Potiphar, I have been given responsibility over all these things. I have been given trust and friendship. I cannot give those up in order to indulge in this sin with you.”
Satan wanted Joseph to focus on what he lacked, what he didn’t have – companionship, love, and physical intimacy. That is how temptation works.
The devil works in the mind of the believer to make him discontent — he wants you to think about those worldly pleasures that you lack. He is so deceitful. “Christian, look at what you are missing. They are having so much fun.”
But the pleasure of sin is fleeting and impermanent, only lasting for a season if that.
Instead of focusing on what you lack, focus on what you have.
And what do you have? You have a relationship with Jesus Christ, a home in heaven, the perfect Word of God, a Bible-believing church you attend (I hope), the promises of God, the blessings of God, and the list goes on.
Perhaps He has even blessed you beyond these things with a career, a marriage, and children. Look at all the things you already have and be content. “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Tim. 6:6).
We gain the most when we are content with what we have. We are spiritually rich in Christ. Let’s be like Joseph and have a little common sense.
2. Bring God into Your Battle with Temptation
Let’s notice the second part of Joseph’s response to Mrs. Potiphar. “…how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
What an amazing thing to say! After stating his logical reasoning, Joseph moves on to include God in his reasoning. To indulge in this act would be a great wickedness in the sight of God.
As Christians, we tend to downplay our sins. It’s not that big of a deal, or who will ever find out? Other people are doing it, even celebrating it, so why can’t I?
But the culture and the people in our lives are not to whom we are ultimately accountable.
Even if society says it’s ok, even if no one ever finds out, we’ve sinned against God.
And the Bible is clear that God hates all sin; in His eyes, all sin is “great wickedness.” We too need to see it as such.
Those sins you enjoy, the ones you pull out every now and then to embrace, are abominations to a holy God.
Open your spiritual eyes to see sin as God sees it. Once you do, you will have a powerful weapon in your battle against temptation.
In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, a couple in the Early Church, decided to lie about the price of land they were giving to the church. They stated that they were giving all of the money when in actuality they were withholding part of it.
They were lying to the church. But notice what Peter tells Ananias: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
Ananias was indeed lying to the church, but Peter stated that he was lying to God! Upon hearing this, Ananias falls down dead. The same thing happens later to his wife.
This is true not only of lying, but also with every other sin we commit.
Each sin is against God Himself. You may sin with someone or against someone, but ultimately, your sin is against a righteous God. In the midst of temptation, stop and consider that this sin is against God, and He takes it personally.
3. Avoid the Temptation
Potiphar’s wife was stubborn. She would not take no for an answer with Joseph. Almost every day she talked to him and tried to persuade him. “And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.”
Satan, like Potiphar’s wife, doesn’t give up easy. He will continue to lay snares and set up temptation along your path to try and lure you to sin.
We must remember that these snares will always be there and must avoid them at all costs. The more distance you can put between you and the snare, the better.
When you see the temptation coming, go the other way. When the opportunity arises to fall into the temptation, shut down the opportunity. Plan ahead and take precautions to avoid even having the opportunity to sin.
Solomon gave his son wise counsel in Proverbs concerning this truth: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” (Pro. 4:14-15)
Solomon is saying that we must do everything we can to avoid the evil path. Don’t even go near it!
This truth is also clearly presented in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul tells us, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).
Don’t create opportunities to fall into sin; rather, do everything you can to avoid the temptation.
For example, it would not be wise for a man who used to be an alcoholic to walk down the beer isle at the grocery store or go to a social event at a bar. He needs to avoid even looking at the beer so as not to risk falling into this old sin.
A porn addict should not have unfettered access to a computer while alone, lest he succumb to the temptation and look at pornography. He should install accountability software that monitors his behavior and is checked by someone he loves and trusts.
If procrastination is your problem, you need to make a list of duties to do for each day and stick to that list no matter what. Avoid any distractions that might take away your focus from the task at hand.
You know your greatest weaknesses. What sin do you struggle with? It is your responsibility to take action to avoid that sin and be careful not to make provision by which you might fall. Stay as far away as you can.
When it comes to sin, you can never be too careful.
4. If All Else Fails, Run
The entire incident blows up when Joseph is forced to flee from the room due to Potiphar’s wife continued insistence.
Running is the best thing you can do when you’re tempted. All throughout the Bible we read of men and women alike who fell to temptation, but Joseph is the prime example of one who fled from temptation.
Fleeing is the best thing you can do, which is reiterated for us in the New Testament.
“Flee fornication” (I Cor. 6:18).
“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (I Cor. 10:14).
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things…” (I Tim. 6:11).
“Flee also youthful lusts…” (II Tim. 2:22).
When all else fails, run.
When the safeguards you have set up are destroyed and that temptation makes its way into your life, run.
Do not stay and fight it (you will lose). Do not try to reason with it (you cannot reason with sin). Run away just as Joseph did.
Right now, pray and ask the Lord to give you the strength and fortitude that Joseph had in order to overcome temptation.
God has promised there will always be a way to escape (see I Cor. 10:13), so be ready when that temptation comes.