Book Reviews: Every Young Man's Battle; Every Young Woman's Battle


The classic book Every Man's Battle, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey, has as its subtitle Every Man's Guide to Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time.

Since it was published in 1953, the phenomenal response from readers has led to the writing and publication of a series of Every Man books! Countless readers have written to express their gratitude for the dramatic benefit one of these books has been to them, to their personal relationships and to their relationship with God.

The series focuses primarily on heterosexual temptations, but at least two of the books have a chapter on SSA—same-sex attraction. These are Every Young Man's Battle—Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation, and Every Young Woman's Battle—Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World. The latter book is coauthored by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn. Both are published by Waterbrook Press.

You may feel that the temptations of SSA deserve much more space than a single chapter. Part of the answer is that the authors intended to focus primarily on heterosexual temptations. But another part of the answer is that much of what is said about dealing with heterosexual temptations applies to homosexual temptations. Reading any of these books should be helpful no matter what one's sexual orientation is.

The authors gently but firmly write with the biblical perspective. The first book blazed a new trail in addressing not only the morality of actions and words, but also one's innermost thoughts. Thoughts are important because they lead to actions, actions lead to habits, and habits form our character. But thoughts are also important in and of themselves.

The Bible has much to say about the human heart, a word that can be synonymous with mind, but which emphasizes the functions of thought, attitude, emotion, personality and character. In the King James Version of the Bible, the word heart appears 833 times! After all, one's primary identity is his or her character and personality—what is in his or her "heart." That defines who you are.

God reads our minds and judges us largely by what is taking place in our hearts. "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

We can pray what King David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). All of us need God's continual help. "Ask, and it will be given to you" (Matthew 7:7).

The most important scripture regarding sexual lust is Matthew 5:27-28, in which Jesus Christ said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Did Jesus mean that a woman cannot lust for a man or that a person cannot lust for someone of the same sex? No, not at all. For the sake of brevity, the Bible usually states a law or admonition in only one way, expecting us to apply the principle in all possible ways. It is a statement of the rule for the more frequent case.

A person is not sinning when a tempting thought enters his mind, but it becomes a sin when he dwells on it and does not try to replace it with wholesome thoughts. James 1:14-15 describes the process of tempting thoughts leading to sin: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

We must do our best to nip wrong thoughts in the bud. We must not fantasize or daydream in ways that God would not approve. This is for our own good, for now and for the future.

Flee temptations!

The Bible consistently warns everyone not to try to prove how strong is his resistance to sin by remaining in tempting circumstances. "Flee from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18, New International Version). "Flee also youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22). Get away from the temptation or get the temptation away from you!

This principle of "fleeing" is dramatically amplified by what Jesus said immediately after His warning about not lusting. "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29). Jesus emphasized this principle by restating it with a similar example in the next verse.

It should be obvious that Jesus did not literally mean one's eye or hand could be the source of temptation. He meant that no matter how desirable something is, you should not stay with it when it is tempting you to sin.

Each of us knows what has tempted us in the past, so we must face up to how we are vulnerable and avoid similar situations. You must decide to no longer be in places and circumstances that have contributed to past temptations.

Control your eyes and ears

Likewise, don't look at real or virtual images that create temptations. Don't listen to entertainment, music or talk that light fires of lust. You will think about what you are looking at and listening to. You cannot control your thoughts unless you are willing to control what you look at and listen to.

We must train our roving eyes not to fixate on tempting sights. These books emphasize the necessity of immediately "bouncing" your eyes away from anything or anyone who has an erotic or seductive effect on you. This can require almost constant wariness and effort in this sex-saturated culture!

King David prayed, "Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way" (Psalm 119:37). The patriarch Job said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl" (Job 31:1, NIV). Each of us must decide to not look lustfully at anyone, regardless of gender.

Hope for those with SSA

In both of these books, the authors are sympathetic to those who struggle with SSA. Their views are compatible with Scripture. They discuss various factors that commonly contribute to SSA. They emphasize that change is possible and point out that many people with SSA have dramatically changed their orientation as well as their lifestyles.

Their message of hope is very encouraging. They of course recommend seeking help from counselors with a biblical perspective. The organization they recommend is Exodus International (www.exodus-international.com).

We are all different and all alike

We humans tend to feel sorry for ourselves. Each person, regardless of sexual orientation, tends to think his problems and temptations are unique, overwhelming and unbearable. However, consider what Paul said, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Paul is partly saying that we have much in common. We all have human nature that exerts a constant downward pull toward decadence. And no matter what the temptation or trial, there probably have been millions of people with similar temptations and trials. Realizing this can help us out of self-condemnation. And it can encourage us to learn from the experience of others rather than our learning the hard way by ourselves.

We also have the same Creator who knows each one of us inside and out. And He is the Healer who knows how to repair us no matter how broken we are. No temptation will overwhelm us if we will quit trying to do battle by ourselves—if we will persist in crying out to God for help.

Consider what God said through the prophet Jeremiah: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).




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