Environment is Stronger Than Willpower

Environment is Stronger Than Willpower

January 6, 2017

“For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (NIV)

Devotion Graphic

For my mom’s birthday one year, a creative friend made her a poster board plastered with chocolate bars. Each chocolate bar was part of a sentence like, “Your friendship is worth $100 Grand.” To my surprise, she didn’t eat the candy. Every time I went into her home office, I had to look at those chocolate bars. For months I was tempted to “enjoy” my mom’s birthday gift for myself!

Finally, I asked my mom if I could cut open the wrappers and throw away the chocolates. That candy-laden environment was winning against my willpower. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I came to a breaking point: Either eat the candy, or change the environment.

Environment is stronger than willpower. We may have all the willpower in the world, but when we’re constantly surrounded by chocolate (or another favorite treat), we will eventually give in.

Today’s key verse warns believers about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Those chocolate bar decorations certainly represented the lust of the flesh, a physical temptation, for me. Whether your goal is to eat healthier or to pray more, it’s crucial to create the right environment to reduce temptation.

If my temptation is food, I must make my home a safe place to eat. I can’t buy junk food in the grocery store or stock my cupboards with it and expect to resist the temptation for a late-night snack. Instead I’ll do better to fill my kitchen with fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to create a better environment. It’s not always easy, but I find when I make the decision beforehand to walk past the breakroom and the box of donuts waiting on the countertop — over time — it becomes easier to resist.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his first attempt was with food. The devil said, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3b, NIV). But Jesus answered, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4: 4b, NIV).

Notice Jesus didn’t say people don’t need food. He said that man doesn’t live by food alone. We can lean on the promises of God’s Word when we’re tempted to indulge the lust of the flesh.

Maybe you don’t have a problem with food. Maybe your struggle is prayer. I understand. Sometimes I want to pray, but my flesh says, “I’m too tired” or “I don’t need to pray; I’ve got this handled.” Just as I can create a healthier environment by eating whole foods and attending an exercise class, I can also create a prayerful environment.

What’s been helpful for me is to begin each day by praising God for who He is. I place my Bible right next to my bed so it’s the first thing I reach for. I’ve also developed new habits like not checking social media until I check in with God in prayer. When I first started this new routine, I would even put a sticky note over my phone to remind me.

A positive environment can inspire you to make the choices you want to make. Don’t count on willpower to defeat the lust of the flesh. Rely on the Holy Spirit and wisely build an environment for positive change and accountability.

And if you ever receive a bunch of candy bars for your birthday, here’s my advice: Share them with others and get them out of your house as soon as possible!

Dear God, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Help me take care of my physical body and my soul. Show me how to turn away from the lust of the flesh. Reign over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (KJV)

Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (NIV)

Need help beginning the day on the right note? You can use the First 5 app to prompt you to prayer and connect your heart to God first thing in the morning.

Visit Arlene Pellicane’s blog today to enter to win her book, 31 Days to a Younger You, which will help you get healthier this year.

Take stock of the current environment for your body and soul. What are some potential hazards in your house? It could be food, social media, television, relationships, etc.

What will be your plan to escape temptation and walk in freedom?

© 2017 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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  1. Katrina Presnell says:

    What a wonderful resource to use to start a new year

  2. Beth Hurst says:

    Thanks for the great devotion this morning Arlene! I needed this encouragement today!

    • I’m so glad Beth!

      • Pls pray for me as I know I need to make some healthier choices to finally say no to sugary sweets like coffee and tea, and cookies and chocolate. I know this may seem rediculous but I need help. I am going through a very stressful time, divorce, having to live with my father whom I most.of the time don’t like, and raise an 11 yr old girl who is now also more challenging than ever. All while working a lot. I’m a you g mother and I do know I have been blessed with beauty, but with all theses changes and stress I feel out of health and out of touxh. Its time I change, and I need the Lord’s help to do so. Thank you for your letter. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my temptation.

        • Chrystal Maxwell says:

          Prayers lifted up for you..Know that Jesus is close to the brokenhearted..I have found inviting Jesus into my mess opens the door to change..Just finalized our divorce a few weeks ago and raising my beautiful teen daughter while living with friends..I understand..You are so loved Domenca..Praying for you to be strong, to feel encouraged and for all of your needs to be met..

  3. Carol McCloud says:

    It is amazing how God knows exactly what we need to hear and when. Thank you for being obedient to Him and for sharing this encouragement with us.

  4. Carmen Selnick says:

    What an awesome Blog. ..Thank you so very much for this positive ..Godly wisdom! It’s priceless and my soul is leaping with much joy! ! Thank you. ..Thank you. ..Thank you

  5. I have become painfully aware of the truth that environment is stronger than willpower. I am in the process of changing my work environment to address a temptation i have not resisted.

  6. This is just what I needed to hear today. Thank you. Jesus directed me this morning to your email, thank you Jesus fill me with your Holy Spirit.

  7. My temptation looks very different. It was a group of friends I had developed a friendship with. They were all fun and funny and were always planning these amazing outings, gatherings and parties. The problem was almost every activity centered around drinking…and I’m not talking about a few casual cocktails, I’m talking fall down belligerent drinking. And I’m talking about ladies ranging in age from late twenties all the way through their early forties, most married with families. I got myself into trouble and made some epic mistakes that could have easily changed the course of my life and that of my families. It was through prayer, and drawing nearer to God that I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to leave this lifestyle behind. It has been hard because these ladies themselves are good people, it’s just an environment that’s too tempting for me.
    Sometimes it’s hard to remove ourselves from temptation. Satan is crafty…he makes it look so glamourous, feel so comfortable, taste so good. But God is the only good I care to know these days, and living in His presence and walking with him daily is the very best friendship anyone could ask for!

    • “God is the only good I care to know these days”. The Holy Spirit nudged my spirit when I read this line. I think I’ll be meditating on it all day today.

    • So true Amanda! Like Amber, I felt the warmth of the Spirit in your words “God is the only good I care to know these days.” That’s because only God alone is truly good! The world offers us temporary pleasure that quickly fades and leaves us empty and broken. Only Jesus can satisfy our longing hearts and be everything that we need. How awesome is He!

    • Proverbs 23: 19-21
      Ive been down that path too, and into serious trouble. I made the decision to stop-stand up- confront-be honest which has changed my life course. Keep strong, say Gods promises over yourself constantly.

    • Proverbs 23: 19-21
      Ive been down that path too, and into serious trouble. I made the decision to stop-stand up- confront-be honest which has changed my life course. Keep strong, say Gods promises over yourself constantly.

    • Amanda – so true! Many of us have gotten caught in that trap of trying to ‘fill a void’ by engaging in activities, that on the surface, appear to be fun and exciting. But these are fleeting and after a while drain us of our energy and do nothing but push us farther and farther away from that true source of contentment – our loving FATHER who wants nothing more than to commune with us! How WONDERFUL and EXCITING is that!!! Thank you for sharing and reminding us that GOD in the only good I want.

  8. Pray for me to stop smoking and to lose weight. I ask for His help and for Him to remove the desires daily but when I hear His voice saying do not do this, I most often ignore the thoughts. Pray for me.

    • Godonlyknows says:

      Dear Lord, As of this day we declare your child Debra a deliver of the lusts that hinder her. Let her be renewed in the temple (body) you have designed for her. Let her be renewed in your abundant love. Let her be strengthened by you OH! LORD. Bine the Devil. Give a Blessing above all Blessing to Debra! In Your Precious Name! AMEN

      Debra, find out why you feel you need to pick up a cigarette or the problem if you are over eating. Then sever the root of the cause. Every time you feel tempted. Don’t pick up the cigarette or the extra food. Read the word of the Lord aka the BIBLE. Walk away from the temptation. Learn a better way to cope with if it stress for the root cause. Learn to count the blessing then the stress. I have been a deliver of cigarettes for over 30 years. I was introduced by a family member as a small child. It was social for at first. Then as I grew, I learned it was the stress and pressures of life. Then one day I laid the last cigarette down and never picked one up again.
      Be blessed Debra. Be free! Then be renewed in Jesus Love and Peace! With abundant Blessings!

    • Debra, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!!! Dear Heavenly Father I pray that you will give Debra everything she needs to win this battle. I pray in Jesus Christ name that you will take away her desire for cigarettes and help her to eat healthy and exercise. Help her to truly know that you have good things in store for her future!! Thank you that you’re a Good, Good Father!! Amen!

    • Jenny Barber says:

      I was a smoker for nearly 25 years and while I knew I needed to quit, I didn’t want to quit. When I felt the Holy Spirit tell me it was time to quit, I freaked out! I tried to quit by reducing how much I smoked, but I was in such a panic about it that I wouldn’t listen – couldn’t hear Him tell me that I didn’t have to do it alone. I failed to quit that week, and woke up one morning the next week to a First 5 devotional that talked about Abraham trusting God’s promise but not His PROCESS. It was then that I heard The Holy Spirit plainly say “You’ve smoked your last cigarette.” And I had- all the physical cravings left me, the ones that make you so irritable and twitchy- the emotional cravings were still there -the desire to smoke when stressed, etc, – but I feel the Lord left those to teach me to lean on Him. That was a year and 4 months ago and not once have I smoked. We try to encourage people by saying “You can do it! ” but I am learning every day that God is so good to us, He wants to take care of us if we let Him. You might not be able to kick a smoking or food or drinking addiction, BUT GOD CAN!! I’m praying for you Debra, You can do ANYTHING with Christ!!

      • The Lord has been working on me to give up my tobacco habit. I gave up cigarettes 6 years ago but haven’t been able to break the replacement therapy habit. Just wanted to know that the Lord used your comment to convince me that today is the day. No waiting until I run out or taper off but I have to trust that He will carry me through. Thank you for putting it out there.

      • Thank you for this. Praise the Lord. And amen! I want to give up chocolate, fattening sweets, and cookies . I think I eat too much sugar. Pls pray this emotional craving leave me as well. When I was a baby, I was left with my sister, and each time I would cry too much, she’d put gum in my mouth! Who knows. But I feel the Lord wanting me to take care of myself with all the knowledge he’s given me to finally USE it doe myself. Pls pray. Thank you.

    • Lord please hear her cry. Lord your word says you do not give us the spirit of fear but of power love and self discipline. We have the willpower through you the risen Christ who lives in us. Meet us where we fail to resist. Lord resist for us. Help us choose to walk away. In Jesus name amen

  9. Brittany Foster says:

    So encouraged by this and how it really makes me think about my environment and how that has an effect on my Walk. Thank you for allowing God to use you this morning to all us who read!!!

  10. I want to be healthy. Really, I do. I’m so weak. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even care anymore. I’ve tried every diet, I’ve done Made to Crave, and I do well for a while but the scale doesn’t show any loss so after a few weeks I quit. I’d never thought about the fact that the first time the devil tempted Jesus it was with food. Please pray for me and for all those women who struggle. Our lives are bombarded with thin beautiful women everywhere we look. It’s very depressing.

    • Godonlyknows says:

      Dear Lord, As of this day we declare your child Heather a deliver of the lusts that hinder her. Let her be renewed in the temple (body) you have designed for her. Let her be renewed in your abundant love. Let her be strengthened by you OH! LORD. Bine the Devil. Give a Blessing above all Blessing to Heather! In Your Precious Name! AMEN
      Heather, don’t be depressed. Learn to Count your blessings! Daily!!! Have you ever read in the book of Daniel, the Daniel Fast. It is not a permanent diet for ones body. But it is a GREAT WAY!! To start focusing on the Lord, to Pray, Fast, and eat right. Then to start having other foods introduced to the body to be able to receive the proper diet needed for every ones body.

      • Godonlyknows, pls pray for me. My health. My family relationships. To resist the old ways and cling to Christ. To be new, again. To love myself to care for myself.

        • Godonlyknows says:

          Dear Lord hold your child Domenica. Wrap Your Loving Arms around her and cradle her with your basking unconditional love. Give her a peace beyond her expectations. Let her be able to know you are near. What ever the enemy is trying to destroy let there be NO MORE! The Lord is the Warrior of all Warriors to bless Domenica. Let their be a fresh anointing on her and her family. In Your Precious Name! Amen.

          Domenica don’t let the enemy take a second or a minute on the circumstances that bind you. Stand renewed in the Lord. Read, Pray, Fast. Stay steadfast in the Word. Walk away from temptation. Place your mind, body, and soul with the Lord. Put on your armor for battle, the breastplate of rigtheousness, the head piece of Salvation, the girdle of truth, the sword of the spirit, and the shield of faith. You can find what I am talking about in Ephesians 6. First you have to be saved, and have a steadfast relationship with the Lord. Tell the Devil to flee by the Power of the BLOOD of Jesus. Stand on the word of the Lord daily, minute by minute. Learn to be strong, to resist temptation.
          Matthew 19:26, Philippians 4:13, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27, Matthew 17:20, Romans 8:31, Luke 18:27
          Dig deep in the Word aka the Bible Domenica. The Bible is the Book in Believing the Lord in Everything in life. Be blessed in all circumstances. Let the Love of Jesus flow down. Be again Blessed!

    • Heather,

      Don’t give up! If you don’t mind some advice…focus on changing your eating habits. Stop weighing yourself, and throw out the fad diets. You can do this slowly or cold turkey. For example, if you drink three diet Cokes a day, cut back to two, then one, then none. Replacing them with water. You can ad sugar free flavors to water.

      Google healthy meal plans. Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to eating unhealthy meal or snack. Refocus, and eat healthy the next meal or snack.

      I don’t know how much weight you want to loose, but it will take time. Besides if you lose weight by fad dieting, then go back to eating unhealthy, you will gain it all back. 🙁

      Changing your eating habits is the way to go. You can still indulge, but not as often.

      Walking is a great exercise!

      Lastly…pray! I enjoy working out, and sometimes I don’t want to finish a set, but when I ask Jesus to help he always does!

      I hope this helps! If you need someone to cheer you on, I will help you! Let me know.


    • Heather toss out that scale! It is a liar! Choose another weight loss plan. I love Isabel De Los Rio, google her. She has a great plan for you to leave the sugar and white breads alone. Ok, then measure around your arms, around your waist, your bust, your thighs. Give it two weeks. If you can stay with clean eating you will see results! Pray for strength and courage and perseverance. Thank Jesus that you have a new plan for a healthier thinner you. You go girl!!

  11. Thank you! Enjoy your day!

  12. Thank you for this perfectly timed message! I overslept and didn’t make time for God’s word first thing this morning. Your message serves as encouragement to do better.

  13. Sherri Anthony says:

    Thank you so much for this Word….this positive and encouraging inspiration! I loved reading it this morning. I could relate with you about improving my prayer life and eating healthy. God bless you for sharing this. I am now ready to make a positive change by changing my environment.

    Love, Sherri

  14. Some of the hazards in my house at this time of my walk are relationships. I adore my family, but there are times where they do things I don’t always agree with or they live by a way I don’t want to grow influenced by. In the past I have tried over and over again to fix the situation, solve the problems, and bring peace to my heart. In reality I was becoming distracted by the issues instead of looking to the Lord. I had to come to a point where I have to let go and let God. I am not going to be able to fix people and it is not my responsibility to bring peace, only God can. This taught me to really humble myself and fill my soul with more of Him and less of me. The true freedom was brought to me the more I grew my relationship with my King and let Him take control.

    In order to continue to be free from this hazard of the environment I’m surrounded by, I need to continually be in God’s presence and in prayer. Being a daughter and sister to those I love, but creating an environment in my own space that will influence me to keep steering in the right direction. Thank you God for the love to bring me there! I know He’s waiting on the other side for you and for me.

    • Godonlyknows says:

      Here is what I do. I get up early in the morning before anyone else does. Then I make a cup of coffee, and curl up in my comfortable spot on the couch. Then I read Proverbs 31. Then I read a few Bible Scriptures. This is how I start my day. When LIFE IS EXTREMELY busy, and I miss doing this, I can tell.
      One has to set their priorities on whether they want the enemy to steal their day of time with the Lord. Or whether one can be feed Spiritually.
      Even now I am sitting here early under a blanket with 8 degrees outside trying to creep inside this room. But I am being blessed and renewed by reading and mediating by digesting the word.
      One has to also find time to Pray. To lay what is on their mind, body, and soul needing laid at the feet of Jesus.
      Be blessed! Don’t let the things of the day stress You. To help you is to find the time in the word of the Lord. The Bible has many answers to even many things we deal with in life.
      Don’t let the enemy take your time. But let your time be with Jesus filling your mind, body, and spirit. God Bless!

  15. Belinda Greer says:

    I downloaded your app and tried to set it up but it kept saying my email is wrong. Please help me

  16. I feel terrible that I don’t spend enough time with The One who loves me most. I have attempted to read through my Bible in a year, several times and I just feel like I go into auto-pilot mode and lose focus – reading but not absorbing. Any new strategies would be welcomed. Mornings are too rushed, but I wish I could start my day off totally & completely focused on God.

    • Well, that’s odd. I actually posted on yesterday’so topic, but it’s showing up here. Sorry!

    • Christina says:

      Have you heard of The Bible Project? There is an app for your phone where it actually sections the bible out into readings for each day with the intention of finishing it in one year. The app (and website) also have videos before each book explaining the mains points of the book and linking it to the story as a whole. They teach with the intention that the bible is one united story pointing to Jesus. If you have not checked it out, it is well worth it. I had never been able to read the bible for any length of time, but with this have been fairly consistent since June! http://www.thebibleproject.com I hope it helps! They just started reading this year and will email you updates and reading plans.

    • Try biblestudytools.com


  17. This was just what I needed. Thank you for the perspective.

  18. This is exactly why I threw out the rest of the Christmas candy and treats no one else but me was dipping into.

    And our pastor has preached before commenting, “You’re struggling with _________? Well, what are you listening to or watching every day? Don’t you see the connection?”

    Such truth. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Leah,

      Thank you for sharing your pastor’s message. I know that to be so very true from personal experience. I am a veteran who has continuously struggled with anxiety and PTSD. Although I was a child of God and have been for over 20 years, I had been drawn away from truly following him and seeking Him daily because of my shame, fear and pride associated my struggles. A little over a year ago I had reached my earthly limit and at a ladies bible study with people I met only once or twice, I broke down. God reassured me that the shame and fear I was feeling was not from Him and that if I let him he would take it away. Through that time God showed me how what I feed my mind, will feed my thoughts and actions. It resulted in a HUGE change from what I allowed into my mind….from what I read, to what I watch and even the close friendships that I keep. Some days I still struggle, I am not going to lie, but I truly feel like I have been set free and that I have the ability to overcome when I call out to Jesus.

  19. Can’t throw the kids out!

  20. Great advice. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Elizabeth says:

    It’s amazing! Thank you so much for wonderful devotion!

  22. Linda Smith says:

    Arlene is so right… The Word of God is SO RIGHT! Why do we look for reasons to ‘avoid’ what God has told us to do? Thank you for this very timely article. It is time to stop looking everywhere for excuses to do what we need to do, and avoid what we need to avoid. It’s 2017… and time to start NOW…

  23. Tonya Boykins says:

    Thank you. Wonderful and encouraging devotion.

  24. Excellent and encouraging! Thank you Arlene!

  25. Thanks for these great ideas to help us all make better choices…for our bodies and for our souls.
    Praise God He is always there to give us wisdom and strength to battle our enemy.
    Blessings to you!

  26. Carol Penland says:

    Exactly what I needed to hear this AM! my battlefield is my mind.thanks for the reminder that The Word is ‘a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

  27. Michelle L says:

    Arlene, your words ring true. As a teacher, I see how environment affects my students. As a mom, I see how it affects my kids. I’ve only begun to notice how some things in my environment are affecting me. Thank you for your advice.

  28. Godonlyknows, pls pray for me. My health. My family relationships. To resist the old ways and cling to Christ. To be new, again. To love myself to care for myself. – See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/environment-is-stronger-than-willpower/#sthash.4ctJuyQe.dpuf

  29. Your post today spoke to exactly where I’m at right now, thank you!
    In this new year I’m hearing the Lord say, “Come, and recooperate so that I can recalibrate your heart and mind in order for you to better withstand the temptation from the enemy of your soul. That you may succeed in your efforts to correct bad habits.”
    Our church began a 21 day fast this past Sunday, and I’m finding that I’m having to give myself some grace about not going hard core or all in with the suggested types of fasts due to physical issues right now. So I’m just taking it one day at time and daily stopping in to recooperate at God “repair/recalibration shop”, in order to better withstand temptation. And ironically it is my feet that I’m having trouble with. So standing and walking for more than a few hours is a challenge for me, and this has been the case for 6 months now. I’m working on losing 45-50 pounds with just diet, but it is very slow. I am a stay at home mom/small business owner with an 8 year old and a husband that travels a lot for his work. Prayers would be greatly appreciated. Bless you!!

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