The disciples experienced a similar struggle—their mind telling them to do one thing but their flesh wanting another. On the night Jesus was betrayed, while in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked His disciples to pray for Him as He prepared for the cross. They loved Him dearly and would have done anything they could to defend Him. But in that moment, they couldn’t even keep their eyes open long enough to stay on the lookout. What was Jesus’ response? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Because He recognized the frailty of the human condition, Jesus commanded His disciples (and by extension, all believers) to prayerfully depend on God’s strength for victory over temptation.

In Hebrews 4, some of the most encouraging words in all of Scripture are written for those struggling to flee temptation. Speaking of Christ, the author of Hebrews explained, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (verse 15). How comforting it is to know that Christ Himself understands what it is like to endure temptation and gain victory over it! Being wholly God, He could never sin. Yet being wholly man, He felt the full weight of temptation pressing against Him. When Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, Jesus had gone without food for 40 days. He was famished and physically weak. Yet even in that depleted condition, He prevailed over the devil’s false promises. His victory over temptation would continue all the way to the cross, where He finally conquered sin once for all.

Having endured the most severe temptations imaginable, Jesus is sympathetic to the ways in which we are weak at the moment of testing. Our right response, when facing temptation, is to turn to Him for help. The author of Hebrews made this very point: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (verse 16). If we are to find victory over temptation, we must depend on the Lord for strength and grace.

Timothy understood the need to ask God for help in the fight against temptation. As one of Paul’s missionary companions, he had seen his mentor kneel in prayer many times. On one occasion Paul requested prayer from the Ephesians, just in case he might be tempted by cowardice (Ephesians 6:19-20). Timothy too was susceptible to the sin of cowardice (2 Timothy 1:7-8). So Paul instructed him to pray—specifically for those whom he might be tempted to fear, such as government officials (1 Timothy 2:1-8). As persecution against the church mounted, Timothy surely remembered Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Having been well taught by his mentor, Timothy knew that the only right way to respond to his fears was to pray.

Even at the end of Paul’s life, when everyone had deserted him, the apostle continued to encourage Timothy with the fact that “the Lord stood with [him] and strengthened [him]” (2 Timothy 4:17). The message for Timothy was clear: No matter what hardships he faced, he could depend on Christ. That lesson proved invaluable to the young pastor. When Timothy was later sent to prison, he resisted his fears and remained faithful to the Lord (cf. Hebrews 13:23).

Article excerpted from Nathan Busenitz's book Men of the Word (Harvest House Publishers, 2011. Copyright (c) 2011 by Nathan  Busenitz. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Nathan Busenitz serves on the pastoral staff alongside John McArthur at Grace Community Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary. He has MDiv and ThM degrees from the seminary and is currently pursuing his ThD. He is he associate editor of the book Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong and is the managing editor of Pulpit magazine.