I’ve noticed that I sometimes encounter similar trials or temptations throughout life. But I’m encouraged when I see progress, where I’m able to handle a particular situation much more easily than I would have in previous years. When I see this I believe it is a mark that the Holy Spirit has been working in me to strengthen me over time. For example, some things that used to make me get very angry, I’m able to brush off easier. Or some things that used to disturb me and make me anxious don’t affect me like they did before, etc. It encourages me to know that He is working in me, and even though my ‘outer man is decaying, my inner man is being renewed day by day.’ My earthly body is going downhill, but by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit my inner man is moving to higher levels.
The Holy Spirit is marked by power (Acts 1:8). Power means strength - strength to handle sins, temptations and the problems of life that come our way. Physically a person has to have physical strength and energy to handle the physical demands of life. But spiritually, a person has to have the Holy Spirit to meet the spiritual demands.
When a person increases in strength it means they can handle a particular weight with more ease than they could before.
A man who just starts exercising may find it extremely difficult to exercise with 50 pounds even once. But after some years of dedication in working out and sticking to it, he may find that he can easily exercise with 100 pounds multiple times. And 50 pounds now feels so light to him, that he lifts it up with little effort. This is because he has become stronger.
So greater strength doesn't mean that the weight is removed, it just means that the weight is much easier to handle than it was before. So in a sense, it has the same effect for a person as removing weight would!
This is what God does for us by the power of His Holy Spirit. He doesn’t remove all our problems; He does something better: He strengthens us in different ways in order to help us be able to overcome every temptation to sin, and to be able to endure and praise God in every trial.
It is not that He removes all temptations and difficulties in life to make our lives easier. As we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, what used to be a strain on us and weigh us down (50 pounds worth of trials), is something we now easily handle. And so He is able to push us further and give us new weights to push. Now He can allow us to have 100 pounds worth of trials and temptations to make us even stronger.
What was the strength of grace that Jesus had? Jesus was able to have a woman wash his feet with her hair, and not be disturbed by any temptation. How do we know He was not tempted? Because if He would have been tempted He would have fled that situation and removed Himself, since God's desire for us is to 'flee temptation' (2 Tim 2:22-24), like Joseph did in Genesis 39:12.
Jesus was so strong inwardly by the Spirit that He as a single, unmarried man could have a woman right at His feet wiping them with her long hair, and not be struggling with sexual thoughts. He could easily get through that with no sexual thoughts, because He had the Holy Spirit's power in Him, strengthening Him in many ways. Maybe some of that strength was His hatred for sin being so strong. Maybe some of that strength was His pure love for this woman being so strong. Maybe some of that strength was His fear of God being so strong. I’m sure all of these contributed to the fact that the Spirit’s strength inside of Him made Him an overcomer.
And if we have the Holy Spirit in us, we will find that He increasingly gives us more strength too. He will enable us to easily get through some situations that would have been so much more of a struggle for us before, because we didn’t have His strength yet. And He gives us this strength as we seek to obey, and to lean on Him to overcome, and to be filled with His Spirit.
1 Peter 5:9-10 says regarding the devil's temptation and persecution:
9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
I used to read this verse and paraphrase it like this: 'after you have suffered for a little while, God will remove the temptation/trial - it is just for a season.' But I realized that that's not what the verse says. It does not say 'after a little while God will remove your suffering'. It says that “after some time of that suffering, God will strengthen me in it.” It's not a promise that the temptation or trial will go away. It's a promise that whatever the temptation or trial is, after some time God will give me more strength so I can exercise with heavier weights without straining myself so much anymore. Isn't this a better promise than removing the situation altogether?!
How could we apply this to our personal lives? Would you rather have your children live with an average salary but be strong in their inner contentment and joy? Or would you rather help them become rich, while not having strength over discouragement and bad moods? Any sane person would say they would prefer that their children had joy and contentment with less money, rather than being rich and miserable. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He transforms us inwardly to overcome the outward struggles, rather than remove all of the outward problems while remaining a spiritual wimp.
To me, this is a great comfort for me when I see a trial or temptation persisting for a long time. He wants me strong and is making me strong. So as I fully submit to God and depend on Him, then I can trust that over time, my current issues will become easier over time by the power (strength) of His Holy Spirit. Maybe they'll still be there, but there will be more of His strength in me, and that will get me through victoriously. Praise God!