A while back, I was waiting for some people at an airport in coastal North Carolina, I picked up a book about Lewis & Clark’s “Corps of Discovery Expedition.” The book included excerpts from the original journal entries of the explorers, and I found the following entry to be particularly interesting.
14th of May Tuesday 1805, Meriweather Lewis
Some fog on the river this morning, which is a very rare occurrence; the country much as it was yesterday with this difference that the bottoms are somewhat wider; passed some high black bluffs… Capt Clark walked on shore and killed a very fine buffalo cow. I felt an inclination to eat some veal and walked on shore and killed a very fine buffalo calf and a large wolf, much the whitest I had seen, it was quite as white as the wool of the common sheep… In the evening the men in two of the rear canoes discovered a large brown bear lying in the open grounds about 300 paces from the river, and six of them went out to attack him, all good hunters; they took the advantage of a small eminence which concealed them and got within 40 paces of him unperceived, two of them reserved their fires as had been previously concerted, the four others fired nearly at the same time and put each his bullet through him, two of the balls passed through the bulk of both lobes of his lungs, in an instant this monster ran at them with open mouth, the two who had reserved their fires discharged their pieces at him as he came towards them, both of them struck him, one only slightly and the other fortunately broke his shoulder, this however only retarded his motion for a moment only, the men unable to reload their guns took to flight, the bear pursued and had very nearly overtaken them before they reached the river; two of the party betook themselves to a canoe and the others separated and concealed themselves among the willows, reloaded their pieces, each discharged his piece at him as they had an opportunity they struck him several times again but the guns served only to direct the bear to them, in this manner he pursued two of them separately so close that they were obliged to throw aside their guns and pouches and throw themselves into the river although the bank was nearly twenty feet perpendicular; so enraged was this animal that he plunged into the river only a few feet behind the second man he had compelled take refuge in the water, when one of those who still remained on shore shot him through the head and finally killed him; they then took him on shore and butchered him when they found eight balls had passed through him in different directions…
Meriweather Clark, William Lewis, and their whole expedition party were expert outdoorsmen, people to be admired for their wilderness skills. Yet, when they came across this bear, they almost made a fatal decision. After the first set of shots, the bear came within inches of killing some of their expedition party.
We can easily make this same type of error. We see the things that tempt us, and they look so good that we just can’t help but getting close to them, not realizing the danger that is there. Our ‘bear’ might be a physical temptation like alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling, or it may be an easier concealed sin such as anger, lying, greed, or jealousy. Whatever the temptation is, the result is the same if we give in to it.
God wants us to live a life that is pure and holy. Holy simply means set apart or different from what is normal for people who don’t believe in or follow God.
Philippians 4:8 says:
…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
The interesting thing, is that these temptations usually fall into the ‘grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ category. Once the person has given into it, suddenly it looses its appeal, and they are left wondering why they did it.
The same thing happened to the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, for later on in the journal entry, the following is recorded:
…the bear being old the flesh was indifferent, they therefore only took the skin and fleece…
After getting so close to death, the bear’s meat was so tough that they couldn’t even use it.
That’s the way temptation is. It looks good, drawing you in until you are trapped in sin and compromise. The good news is that God is there, ready to forgive and purify us.
I John 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sinsand purify us from all unrighteousness.
Remember, the ‘bear’ will always be there, just waiting for us to get a little to close, to compromise what we know to be right. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves at a safe distance.