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Help for Marital Conflict through a Fishing Lesson?

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13-15

I am not much of a fisherman. Don't get me wrong – I love fishing – but crickets, bobbers, and a cane pole was most of what I experienced growing up. However, I have a friend named Bruce who is a professional guide on some local lakes here in Arkansas. He has taken me and one of our sons on some great fishing trips!

Real fishermen, like Bruce, not only know where the fish are in the lake, but also know what they are biting on. Bruce has all kinds of lures to try to attract the fish. And when we are with Bruce, because of his knowledge of fish and bait, we almost always catch fish!

When it comes to conflict in marriage, many of us do not realize what is really going on “underneath the surface” - the things that tempt us from within to engage in conflict. Just as fish are unaware of the boat and fisherman above them, most of us are not aware of the real cause of our temptations, fighting, and conflict. I can't tell you how many times I have thought back on marital conflict and wondered how in the world did that get started?

In chapter 4, the book of James shares that “our passions are at war within us”. James is showing us that the root of our conflict starts with the desires that battle in our hearts – tempting us from within. The heart is the place we need to look for the source of our temptations, conflict, and sin. Here is what author and pastor, Jonathan Holmes, shares on this in the James 1 passage above:

James uses common fishing terminology, something familiar to his readers (and to many of us), to describe the inward process of temptation. This happens in 4 categories:

1) tempted - verses 13-14

2) enticed - verse 14b

3) lured/lured away – verse 14b

4) gives birth to sin - verse 15

Before a sin is ever committed, an inner struggle in the heart has already taken place – that struggle starts with a temptation. After we are tempted, being enticed and lured away describes an inward dynamic where the heart is attracted, entertained, seduced, and ensnared. Like a fish angling toward the bait, an individual clamps down on the temptation only to realize he is now trapped and ensnared, and the temptation gives birth to sin. (1A)

The first three steps, if not interrupted, will always lead us to sin. The temptation first appeals to our heart – our emotions. In the book of Genesis, when Eve was tempted by the serpent, it says that she saw that the fruit was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes”. But the temptation then goes beyond our emotions to appeal to our mind – our thoughts. Again, with Eve, Genesis tells us that “the tree was desirable to make one wise”. Not only are Eve's emotions engaged in the temptation, but now her mind is as well. And once our emotions and mind are working to tell us “You need this”, the will to act is not usually far behind.

So if all this is true of us as husbands and wives, then what do we do? What resources has God given us in our battle to overcome temptations?

God's Resources When We are Tempted

God, in His goodness and grace, has provided a way out of these temptations. As Christ-followers, we have the power to say “NO” to temptation. Here's how Paul says it in Romans 6:

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Romans 6:12-14 NLT

Sin is “no longer your master”. That is a truth you and I need to walk in every day. When we walk in the new life that believing the Gospel imparts to us, we can be confident in our ability to consistently say “NO” to temptation. Here are just five truths from Scripture that can help any Christ-follower when tempted:

  • His Presence: The truth that God is with us and has not left us should be a strong help in temptation. Let His presence brings you confidence to say “No” to the temptation: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5)

  • His Invitation: If you do not know Hebrews 4:15-16 by heart, I highly encourage you to memorize it! It is the Lord's invitation to us to draw near to the throne of grace so that we can receive His help in our time of temptation/need. “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16)

  • His Guidance: In temptation, we need a way of escape. And God promises that way in this passage. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:12-13)

  • His Help: Another great verse to memorize and call to mind is Hebrews 2:17-18. It tells me that Jesus will help me when I am tempted. Thank You, Lord! “Therefore He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:17-18)

  • His Spirit: God has empowered us by His indwelling Spirit to face temptations. But we must walk in and stay in step with the Spirit. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18 (2A)

Husband and wife, you will face temptations in marriage and life - that is no surprise. But we must use the resources God has given us to fight temptation. Let's not end up like a bass caught on a spinner bait because we allowed the temptation to lure us into sin. Let us remember and walk in the truth that sin is no longer our master.

Suggested Prayer:

Lord, thank You for providing a way out of our temptations. Help us to use these five bible references from your Word, as well as other resources You provide, to say NO to sin and YES to walking in the power of Your Spirit! Thank You that sin is no longer my master! In the Name of Jesus.

Application for Husbands and Wives:

Given all that was shared in this article, what is the one step God wants you to take as a result of reading this? We encourage you to write that step down. Then share it with your spouse or a good, Christian friend. Then your spouse or this friend can encourage you and hold you accountable to pursue that step over the days ahead!

For more help on temptation, check out these online posts:


1A: Counsel for Couples by Jonathan Holmes. Page 140-142.

2A: Adapted from: Eagle Christian Church. Sermon Notes – Dec 12, 2012.

Photo by Trophy Technology on Unsplash

Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at for any comments or questions.


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