The right question isn’t, “Will you struggle?” Instead, the better question to ask is, “How will you deal with the struggle of lust when it happens?”
Choosing a life of purity is the first step. You’ve got to decide that you don’t want to live under the guilt that lust creates, and choose to get serious about defeating it. Scripture will be critical!
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. James 4:7-10 (MSG)
2. PROTECT YOUR MIND’S EYE
The struggle with lust begins in your mind. One way to stop the signals from getting to your mind is to make a commitment with yourself not to look at porn or read magazines, listen to music, or watch any TV show that might send impure thoughts racing through your brain. This takes practice. It takes getting serious. The more you commit to it, the better you get at it.
But let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. Romans 12:2b (CEV)
3. KNOW WHAT YOU CAN’T DO
Different people have different things that flip that “dirty” switch in their minds. Maybe using the Internet late at night while your parents are asleep tempts you to just glance at a website you shouldn’t. Or it could be something a lot simpler, like watching a movie or thinking about someone at school you really like. Or even something that seems sort of dumb when you think about it, like staying in the shower too long. Only you know what gets you going, and only you know where to draw the line. I encourage you to make a list of all the things that tempt you, and then be determined to avoid these things. Keep your list in a place that will continually remind you of the things that trip you up.
4. KNOW YOUR WAY OUT
Have a plan of action that you’ll use when you’re tempted. Again, winning the war with porn and masturbation is all about winning the war in your mind. The key is to get your mind on something else. Look back at your list of temptations from #3. What will be your “way out” if you’re confronted with any of them? A guy I counseled told me about what helped him get his mind off his lustful thoughts:“I used to feel tempted to look at porn at night in my bedroom when I used the Internet. So I started watching TV in my bed at night rather than getting online. TV took my mind off of it and helped me avoid feeling tempted.”
Here are some other escape tactics you might use:
– Turn on the radio to get your mind off what you know you shouldn’t do.
– Wear a bunch of layers of clothes to bed. Yeah, this sounds really silly. But think about it—when tempted, if you have to remove four different layers of boxers, by the time you take them all off, you’ll have had time stop and think about what you’re doing and hopefully talk yourself out of it.
– If you’re in bed thinking some impure thoughts about that girl in algebra class, get out of bed and turn on the lights.
– Go for a run.
– Call a friend.
– Open your Bible and read a chapter or two.
– Bathe the dog. (Hey, if that doesn’t put you completely out of the mood, I don’t know what will.)
Check out Psalm 119:9 (CEV): “Young people can live a clean life by obeying your word. I treasure your word above all else; it keeps me from sinning against you.” Find a Scripture that works for you, memorize it, and repeat it out loud whenever you feel tempted. Write the verse on a notecard and hang it on your mirror or inside your locker. Take a picture of it and make it your screen saver. Get creative about getting into the Word. God’s Word can help you stand up against anything…anything! But, you gotta get into to know it, and apply it!
6. SET A GOAL
Set a realistic goal that you can work toward. For instance, try not to masturbate or look at porn for one week. After reaching the goal, reward yourself with your favorite meal, a movie, or an iTunes purchase. Then go for two weeks, a month, two months. After you make it to your early, shorter goals, the longer ones will seem a little easier to reach.
Christ gives me the strength to face anything. Philippians 4:13 (CEV)
7. STRIVE FOR PURITY
If you want to become more in tune with God, you can’t do it if you’re consistently focusing on an impure thought. Whether it’s masturbation, lying, or cheating, you should want to strive to be a person of purity that honors God in every area of his life. Here’s another great verse: …but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 (NIV)
Pray that God will give you the desire to become a person of purity, not just on the outside, but in your heart and mind too. When you do fail, ask God to give you strength to move forward rather than looking back.
8. HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. Job 31:1 (NIV)
If you’ve got a problem with lust, you probably feel guilty, embarrassed, and maybe even helpless. But remember, you’re not alone. Almost everyone will fight against lust of one form or another. Rather than making excuses like a lot of people do, choose to take action. One way to do this is to find a friend or adult you can talk to openly about your feelings, frustrations, temptations, and setbacks.
One teen recently wrote me to tell me that she had put this step to practice. She said, “I found an accountability partner, just like you suggested during your message. At first I was nervous about sharing my personal stuff with someone. But it felt so good just to come clean with a friend who understands what I’m going through. We really have become close through it all and now hold each other to the fire when it comes to guys and all the physical temptation.”
You can do this too. As you strive to make a commitment like the one in Job 31, share it with someone you trust who’ll hold you accountable by asking you the tough questions about your private life. Commit to check-in with this person consistently. Also, spend time praying together.
9. DON’T GIVE UP
So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. Hebrews 12:1-2 (CEV)
If you’re struggling with lust, the problem didn’t just appear overnight, and you most likely won’t get rid of it overnight either. Work hard every day to do these steps I’ve given you. But don’t kick yourself when you give in to temptation. Remember, the race you’re running isn’t a 100-yard dash—it’s a marathon. There’ll be times when you fail. But don’t use this as an excuse to give up. Rather, use it as a reminder that you’ve got to rely on God to help you overcome this or any other problem you have.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably given in to your temptations a lot and then prayed to ask God to forgive you only to find yourself several days, or maybe even several hours, later repeating the same mistakes. Don’t give up. God hasn’t given up on you. So don’t give up on yourself.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
If you’re struggling with lust, or any issue, confess and give this problem to God.
- Ask for forgiveness from God.
- Ask God to give you courage to apply the steps in this chapter.
- Write out a contract with yourself that says you’ll stop doing what you’re doing.
- Keep the contract in a place where it’ll remind you of your commitment.
- Commit this contract to God.