Golden Retrievers are amazing dogs. At dog shows they usually outshine other dogs in obedience competitions. While watching one of these competitions, I learned something about resisting temptation in my own life.
The competition I was watching was the one where the dog has to run down the runaway straight to his master, without getting distracted by temptations along the runway. What are the competing objects placed parallel on the runway about a metre apart? Only the most alluring toys and treats a dog could hope to find: squeaky toys, savory meats, fuzzy balls, dried bones, etc. Such treats as would appeal to the canine nature of any dog.
But not this Golden Retriever. His body poised, his ears perked, he bolted from the starting line straight to his master when the whistle blew, keeping his eyes fixed on his master the whole length of the runway. Past the savory meats, past the toys, and past the balls and bones, he ran straight into his master’s arms, straight into the loving reception and hearty approval of his kind master who beckoned at the end of the runway.
Secrets to avoiding temptation
How was our canine friend able to avoid such tantalizing temptations? What is the secret of his dogged obedience?
I suggest there are three things needed to avoid whatever lustful, prideful and fearful temptations surround you in this life (each spread out only a few metres apart on the “runway” of our lives):
- We need to maintain a close and healthy relationship with our master. That Golden Retriever knew his master well. They had spent time walking together, spending time together and training together. It was the strength of their relationship that made the temptations seem so weak. Conversely, when our relationship with the Lord is weak, it is then that temptations seem so strong.
- We need to keep our eyes fixed upon our master. In one sense, that Golden Retriever did not even see the temptations that lined the runway. If he did, he certainly did not look at them. Because his eyes were so fixed on his master, he did not care to look at anything else. It is when we take our eyes off pleasing our master that we start to look around for something else to please us, thrill us, or entertain us.
- We need to esteem the praise of our master more than the fleeting pleasures of this world. To those who remain faithful throughout their lives, serving the Lord with what He has entrusted to them, the Lord promised to give this approval: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). No wealth, no pleasure, and no forbidden relationship could ever compare to hearing such approving words from the Lord Jesus Christ. To please Him is the absolute essence of real pleasure and true satisfaction.
It was kind of comical, yet kind of pathetic, to see so many of the dogs in the competition abandon the runway to slobber over every tantalizing temptation that called to them. It must have been extremely embarrassing to the owners to watch their dogs ditch them for doggie treats, while the eyes of the world watched.
Don’t just say “no”, say “yes”!
When it comes to overcoming temptation, it will take more than just saying “no.” It will take saying “yes” to building a strong relationship with God. It will take saying “yes” to fixing our eyes on the beauty and pleasure of the Lord’ and it will take saying “yes” to hungering and thirsting after those eternally joyous words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”