The Last Dance, a recent ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan, has been captivating the quarantined in recent weeks. Following the story of Jordan’s superhuman drive to success, we have been reminded why every kid on a court since 1984 has wanted to “be like Mike.” While our enchantment with champions...
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41)
We understand why Jesus told us to “pray,” but why did he tell us to “watch”? Because there are particular times and seasons when we’re especially vulnerable to temptation. You need to find out what they are.
When are you tempted? Is there a pattern to the times when you fall? You are in a battle. And this is really important intelligence you need to have in order to effectively fight this type of warfare. From the story of Joseph in Genesis, here are seven seasons when we are especially vulnerable to temptation:
1. When you are young and single
At this point of the story, Joseph would have been 27 or 28 years old. He is young, fit, and strong. He would have experienced all the tensions in his body and all the longings in his soul that come with the desire for intimacy that God has placed within us all.
These tensions and longings are surely not exclusive to the young, but they are at their most intense when we are young. And Joseph was right at the point of life where temptation would have had its greatest power. So this is a story that speaks very powerfully to all of the students and young adults here today.
We live in a culture that assumes that being sexually active is an essential part of a normal life. And if you believe that God has placed this gift within the bounds of a life-long commitment of marriage between a man and a woman, you are going to find yourself under all kinds of pressure.
My prayer is that this story will bring strength and hope for all, (whether single or married) who find themselves tempted because of pressures and frustrations in this area of life.
2. When you are good looking
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. (Genesis 39:6)
Joseph was a really good looking fellow! I enjoyed the comment made to me by a member of our congregation, who I highly esteem, some years ago. He was cautious and genuinely concerned about the use of video in our services, and so he said to me, “Colin, I want you to know that you sound better than you look!” I did not dispute with him.
I guess most of us would like to look better than we do. Some have been given greater gifts in this area than others, and if God has given you the gift of being handsome or beautiful in form and appearance, you need to know that there are pressures and temptations that will come with it.
George Lawson, a nineteenth-century writer, says in the language of the day, “Hast thou beauty? Trust not in it, but be modest and cautious. Dost thou want beauty? Be content, and thankful that you are free from those snares which often attend it.” 
3. When you have worked hard and been successful
Joseph worked hard. He gained multiple promotions, and God gave him success in all that he did. Temptation, in its many forms, is especially powerful when you have been working hard. Your energies are drained. You are tired, depleted, and your heart says, “You have been working hard and you deserve a reward.”
4. When you have opportunity
Joseph didn’t go looking for temptation; temptation came looking for him. Sometimes a person may have desire but not opportunity. Other times you can have opportunity but not desire. But when desire and opportunity come together, temptation is at the height of its power. It’s a lethal mix.
5. When you are away from home
Many of you know the pressure of this in your working life. Your work means that you must travel, so you spend a lot of nights in a hotel.
You know the routine: You check into a hotel, and there you are in a strange, anonymous place. And you are lonely. There’s something disorienting about travel. You can get the feeling, when you are in a different place, that the normal rules do not apply. You’re on your own, away from your wife, with time on your hands, and you’re vulnerable to temptation.
6. When you have no one to hold you accountable
Many have found great help in the battle with temptation through the support of an accountability partner. But Joseph had nobody to share his struggle with. Put yourself in his shoes: He had no external support whatsoever. He was alone and anonymous in Egypt, and that could only have heightened the power of temptation in his soul.
7. When temptation continues over a long period of time
[Potiphar’s wife] spoke to Joseph day after day. (Genesis 39:10)
This was not a passing temptation. This was a relentless campaign! It is not too hard to resist a fleeting temptation. But when it grinds on day after day, always at you, always in your face, it wears you down. You just get tired of the battle.
That may be where you are right now, “How did God know that I’m tired of the battle?”
He is speaking to you right now from this story. You face a particular temptation, and you have been battling it for a long time. You have fought, and now you are tired of fighting.
Put all of this together and you will see the cumulative pressure that Joseph was facing: He was young, and single, and good looking. He had worked hard and been successful. He had opportunity, and he was away from home with no one to hold him accountable. And he had been fighting the temptation for a long period of time.
That looks like a recipe for disaster. He’s got to fall! And yet, to our astonishment, Joseph stood strong when he was vulnerable to temptation. He did so by having clear commitments, clear communication, and clear boundaries. This is possible for you too in Jesus Christ!