From John MacArthur’s sermon, “Man of Sorrows – Part 1”. (Matthew 26:36-46)
“Verse 41 is the principal, he said it to the disciples, he says it to us, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” What was Jesus doing up there when he was battling temptation? He was prostrate doing what? Praying. Alert, awake, understanding what was going on and praying with all the passion of his great heart. How do we deal with temptation? In his first temptation in Matthew 4 [Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13] when Satan was with him in the wilderness Jesus answered every temptation with a quote from the book of Deuteronomy and what he tells us there is that it is essential in temptation to know the word of God, right? “Thy word that I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee”. (Psalm 119:11) We must be armed with the word and here he teaches us the other necessary ingredient to battle temptation. One, you need the word, two, you need the power of God and that calls to prayer.
In the first temptation he turned to the word, in the second greater temptation he turns to God in prayer. You want to be victorious? You want to be triumphant in your Christian life? The Lord has let you in on this great lesson. In the private intimate moments of his own struggle with Satan in the wilderness he showed you need the word of God in your life because you will have those principals engrained in you which lead you toward righteousness.
Secondly, even though you have good intentions, your flesh may, your spirit may be willing, but your flesh is miserably weak. You cannot stand on good intentions. You cannot stand on your own self of confidence. Confidence, you throw yourself prostrate before God and cry out for deliverance from the strength of temptation. Intentions aren’t enough. The flesh is too weak. We’re not Jesus Christ. His flesh, of course, his humanness, strengthened in its perfection by the fact that he was God. We are not.
We see it in the disciples. They wanted to do what was right. They didn’t have the strength. That’s how it is with us. You want triumph in temptation, engrain the word of God into your life, keep your eyes open and pray without ceasing. That’s the path. Not complex, but very clear. The Lord in his suffering not only provided redemption, but in his suffering provided a path of triumph which we can walk. The word, watchfulness, prayerfulness. That’s it. No magic. That’s how you deal with sin. Pour the word in. Stay alert. Understand what’s going on around you by way of temptation. Be discerning and fall prostrate before God and cry out for his power. That’s the path to triumph. Then you can rise and walk to face the foe as he did.”