"How close can we get to the edge without going over?" I remember this from a sermon by former Calvary youth pastor Scott Paynton some years back. "Why are we even going there? Shouldn't we be seeing how far we can go the other way?"
This is one of the ways I read this line from Jesus' prayer: That we will be led the opposite direction, away from places we shouldn't be, people we shouldn't hang out with, bakery counters we shouldn't be drooling over. As Pastor Paul often says, sin is fun--up to a point. We think we can "handle it", that we can turn back before that point.
We usually think of temptations as significant moral or ethical failures. And this possibility is always with us, but we face a lot of seemingly small stuff every day. The cliff we skirt the edge of might be a biggie, but it can be as small as a toe-stubber.
For example, reading labels is a scary thing. According to the big letters on the front of the package, this product will make you healthy, slim, energetic, whatever you think you need or like. But when you turn it over and read the fine print, as of the Peanuts characters once said, it's full of ingredients. Some of them we know are not good for us--but maybe just a little bit...? I've known people who think real, whole food tastes funny, because they're so used to the fake.
And sometimes it's just stupidity. Yes, of course, God can pick us up, dust us off, and we're ready to go; but there are still consequences that we have to live with; pain that could have been avoided. When I was about 13, I would try to take our five cement back porch steps in two leaps. One night I was coming home from a church youth event, and friends dropped me off on the side nearest the back door. What I didn't see was that Dad had left the hose on the back patio. So where the Supergirl temptation led me to that night was slamming into the steps, and my left wrist has never been the same. Yes, it healed but not straight, and I did learn something, but I still live with it.
God will lead us, but first, we need to ask, and next, we need to follow. When we have our eyes on Him, our backs are to temptation.