Genesis 39 provides what has always been an incredible story of victory over sexual temptation to me. Potiphar’s wife grabs Joseph and demands that he has sex with her; without hesitation, he bolts out of the room. This act of integrity costs him; enraged, Potiphar’s wife lies to her husband and accuses Joseph of a crime he didn’t commit, and Joseph ends up in prison for two years.
If I would I have been in Joseph’s shoes when I was knee-deep in bondage to lust, I would have probably lingered… and considered Potiphar’s wife’s offer… she would have seen this as an opening… “just one kiss, and then I’m out of here” I would have reasoned… and it would have been over.
The key to Joseph’s victory was that he took action, immediately; he didn’t play games with lust. He apparently understood that he wouldn’t have been strong enough to resist the fires of Potiphar’s wife’s sexual advances, so he took drastic action.
I have a Christian friend who’s in his 60’s. He acts out with porn every one to two weeks, mostly with his smartphone (I don’t get why anyone would want to squint at a 3” screen to view porn). My friend isn’t strong enough to resist the temptation to view porn on his phone, and he knows it. I’ve confronted him on this (as have others), and have pointed out how God commands us in Matthew 5:29-30 to cut off the stumbling blocks of temptation. His responses have varied from “I’ll pray about it” to “I can’t live without it.”
My friend doesn’t need to get rid of his smartphone, just trade it in for a model that doesn’t require internet access to function. He goes to counseling and is “working the steps” at a support group… but he’s stuck. My guess is that, apart from the mercy of God, he may end up as a 70 year old porn addict if he isn’t willing to give his phone the “Matthew 5 treatment.”
In the battle for freedom from sexual sin we must make a firm commitment as to which direction we’ll take. Either we fight lust by taking whatever action necessary to keep from getting entangled by it, or we’ll cooperate with it and flounder. Treating lust like a puppy dog doesn’t work.
My weakness is channel-surfing for the wrong content. In our home we don’t have incoming TV or cable channels. We have streaming Netflix, which is password-protected, and provides us with a measure of control over what can be watched. Purity comes at a cost: I’m a Laker fan and enjoy watching other sports so I miss out on the games. The other members of my family of six also don’t get to watch shows they would like. Every once in a while someone will ask me if I watched a certain show; when I tell them we don’t have incoming TV Channels there’s a pause… as if we’re freaks for not having it.
But the benefits far out way the cost. Neither I nor my kids are exposed to all the moral sewage that’s piped into most homes today. Every once in a while my kids go to their grandparents house and watch TV there; we notice a difference in their attitude if they watch too much of that stuff. We had cable access in the 90’s; even though the porn channels were turned off, every once in a while a porn movie would “mysteriously” pop up and override a show we were watching. No more of that.
Joseph probably looked like a freak when he ran away from Potiphar’s wife. I imagine there were people who wondered why a guy would turn down easy sex. Joseph must have made a decision ahead of time that he was going to live a life of integrity in obedience to God, no matter what. Once a firm commitment has been made, the rest is simple (though not always easy.)
If you’re struggling with sexual sin, the first step is to make a decision to follow God no matter the cost. Then, evaluate what is taking you down that you’re not strong enough to overcome. Your “Potiphar’s wife” will come with temptation again, so the only strategy for success is to anticipate the battle and plan how you will “flee,” either by preventing her access to you, or your access to her. This could mean trading in your smartphone for a “dumb” one, doing whatever it takes to block any porn from access to your home, cutting off an inappropriate relationship, or even changing jobs, if it comes to it.
One piece of advice: if changes are needed at your home, discuss them with your wife in a kind, gentle manner. Decisions to cut off TV service should be made together, not unilaterally. You want your wife on your side in the battle; fight with her, not against her. Be honest about your weakness and explain your desire to live a Godly life. You don’t want to say something to her like “You watch heathen TV shows and we’re going to put a stop to it now!” It won’t be your best day.
Like my friend, a lot of guys don’t break free from lust because they’re not willing to take action; in the end this just means they don’t want to give up their sin. Life is too short to waste it on sexual sin. Don’t be one of those men who wakes up and discovers they’re a sixty year old porn addict.
Mike Genung struggled with sexual addiction for 20 years before God set him free in 1999. He is the founder of Blazing Grace, and the author of The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction, available at www.roadtograce.net.