Article: TEMPTATION AND BEING PREPARED TO RESIST IT | Jacob Varghese
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to a small church in the city of Corinth a few letters, and in his first letter, he reminded them that all people are tempted and often choose to do the wrong thing. Paul’s warning is tied to the reality of temptation and sin that meets us every day. With his warning he also gave a promise. He wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”. This is the verse that is so often misquoted. With regard to temptation and sin, Paul pointed out that we always have a choice: engage in sin or run from it. The promise is that God will always provide a way for us to run from it. Let us be clear: Paul was talking about temptation, not suffering. With temptation, we have a choice, but with suffering we often don’t have a choice.
What is temptation? The dictionary meaning says “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise”. If I try to define temptation, temptation is an urge or desire to do something, especially something you should not, or it refers to a wrong or forbidden pleasure that is inviting. For example: when you feel a strong urge to eat cake, when you are on a diet that is temptation. It stands different from trial: trial tests us, seeks to discover the man’s moral qualities or character; but temptation persuades us to evil, deceives, misleads and it will ruin. Trial comes to apprise, temptation comes to deceive. Trial aims at the man’s good, making him conscious of his true moral self; but the temptation aims at his evil, leading him more or less unconsciously into sin. God tries; Satan tempts. John Piper says that sin (for example lust) “gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be happier if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier.” Charles Spurgeon once said like this “Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.” Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time.
I remember the story of a father and a son. One day the father called his Son and said like this, “Son, don’t swim in that canal.” “OK, Dad,” he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening. “Where have you been?” asked the father. “Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy. “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” asked the father. “Yes, Dad,” answered the boy. “Why did you then?” he asked. “Well, Dad,” he explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” “Why did you take your bathing suit with you?” father questioned. “I would be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted,” he replied. Too many of us expect to sin and excite sin. The remedy for such dangerous action is found in Romans Chapter 13 verse 14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh”.
Paul gave this message to the Corinthians during a time when there were a lot of morally corrupt people kind of like today. This message was a message of encouragement to them and even though it may not sound encouraging, but it was if you really look at it. It is easy for someone to think that they are the only ones going through a particular temptation. Paul is saying that nobody is immune to temptation. The first thing that Paul tells them is that no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind, telling them wrong desires and temptations happen to everyone. So don’t feel singled out. If you are being tempted, it has happened generations before and it is happening even today. Another thing that Paul wanted to tell them was others have resisted temptations and so we also can. There is a battle going on inside all of us. It is a battle between fleshly desires and what our soul desires and in this battle, you are fighting against what the flesh wants which would be lust, may be it is drinking, smoking, drugs or whatever it might be? May be your temptations come when no one else is around. You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. But what we have to remember about this battle is we are not alone, Christ is with us and because He is with us we are not fighting this battle alone. We are fighting it with Him so that puts two against one. When we are walking with Christ, we can do all things, remember that the God we serve is faithful and just and He is not going to let you suffer to be tempted above that you are able. He knows what you can handle, and He is going to help you get through it
The context of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 is temptation and being prepared to resist it. Keep reading to discover the real promise found in verse 13. At the end of chapter 9, Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to practice strict spiritual discipline like he did. Take note that Paul wanted them to be self-disciplined because he did not want them to follow the bad example of Israel in the wilderness who gave into temptation and disobeyed God. Because of their disobedience that generation died in the desert and never entered the Promised Land. Their story was recorded as a warning for the Corinthians and for us. Then in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul elaborates on what we should do instead of giving into temptation and falling into sin. Here are three truth points for us from this passage:
1 Thinking we are too strong to fall into sin makes us vulnerable. We must keep up our guard.
2 No temptation will come our way that has not already been part of the human experience. We won’t be tempted with something “new” or “unusual.”
3 God is faithful. He will not allow any temptation to come our way that is too great for us to resist. He will always provide a way for us to say no and the strength to bear up under the pull of sin.
This is the real promise of verse 13. God will never allow us to be tempted to sin beyond what we can resist. So what about this question: “Does God ever give us more hardship than we can handle?” The short answer is “yes.” But let us turn to another one of Paul’s letters for a more in-depth explanation. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote about hardships he experienced in Asia. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 say “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” The same biblical author who wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13 also wrote 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul knew that God would allow him to experience more hardship than he could bear. He had lived it. He had pressure in Asia that was far beyond his ability to endure. Why? Why did God allow Paul and why does God allow us to experience trials and difficulties, grief and pain, more than we can bear? One reason is found right in this passage – so that we will rely on God and not on our own strength and power.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:10 that He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. When we are unable to deliver ourselves, God is able. When we are unable to stand up under the pressure, it will be God’s strength in us which will help us to stand against the pressure. God does not promise that He will never give us more than we can handle. Instead, He holds out His hand and tells us to lean on Him. Paul had been dealing with several problems that were going on in the church in Corinth. One of those problems had been the way that some of the Christians were enjoying and using their ‘freedoms’ and ‘liberties’ in Christ to harm other fellow Christians. They were partaking of things and participating in practices that perhaps not wrong in and of themselves but were harming the tender consciences of other brothers and sisters within the church family. One of those practices was that of eating meat that had been served to an idol in a pagan temple. The meat itself was fine; since it really had not been offered to anything at all. But eating it carelessly and thoughtlessly was not only hurting the consciences of other brothers and sisters; but it was also even leading some of the ‘eaters’ dangerously close to the edge of sin themselves.
The read verse falls in the middle of that discussion. And I believe it helps to see it in the context of what came before it and what comes after it. Before it, in verses 1-12, Paul had warned his brothers and sisters of the danger of using their liberties in Christ in such a way as to fiddle too close to the edges of sin. He told them about how the ancient people of Israel had great spiritual advantages; but they, nevertheless, fell into sin and suffered great loss. In verse 12, Paul summed it up by saying, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” And we, dear brothers and sisters, need very much to take that warning to heart; don’t we?
And after this verse, in verses 14 and onward, it seems to me that Paul went on to take a very direct approach. He urged these people to run away from idolatry a dangerous sin that—one toward which they were drawing dangerously close. Because they were entering into the pagan temples and eating the sacrificial meat in the temple courts and they were actually beginning to participate in the temple structure and pagan worship of false gods. And so, Paul told them, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” There are certain sins that demand a very drastic action from us; and this is one of them. We are not to try to ‘resist’ idolatry, but we must run from it. “Flee from idolatry!” And our read verse stands in the middle of these two other sections—one that warns us that we who think we are strong in the faith must take heed, lest we fall; and the other that urges us to ‘flee’ decisively from idolatry. Verse 13, then, gives us important information that we need to have in order to do as Paul tells us in the larger context of this chapter. I would say that this verse is not meant to be a harsh rebuke to us. Rather, it is meant to be a comfort and a consolation to us. It is meant to be an encouragement to us in those times when we struggle and wrestle with temptations to sin. No matter what the temptation may be that comes in our lives, there are certain principles that are always true. And knowing these principles will help us to overcome that temptation with victory in Jesus. What a comfort those words are! What an encouragement they give us! This verse affirms to us that whenever temptation comes, there is a way of escape, a way out. And before we go any further, it is important that we understand the nature of that escape. When Paul says ‘way of escape’ for many people, many different things come to mind. Some people might confuse the sort of ‘escape’ that Paul talks about with a kind of ‘escapist’ behavior. For many, sadly, the particular ‘escapist’ behavior turns into a harmful addiction. Other people may confuse the ‘escape’ mentioned in this verse, with a ‘metaphorical’ kind of escape—like simply taking a ‘vacation’ ‘escape’ or a ‘get-away’ from our troubles. That becomes a matter of simply removing one’s self from the trying situation, or of going away from the place where the trials are. There is no real help in that. That is not the kind of escape Paul is talking about. The kind of escape that Paul is talking about is one that results in being able to ‘bear-up’ or ‘endure’ in them. Look at what Paul says at the end of verse 13; that it is a “way of escape” that God Himself makes for us “that you may be able to bear it”. If we see it not so much as an escape ‘from’ something as an escape ‘to’ Someone. God’s way of ‘escape’ is always an escape to the Person of Jesus Himself—that is, to cast ourselves upon Him for His help and strength in every trial and temptation. Any ‘escape’ other than to Jesus Christ is not a true escape at all.
We can do nothing apart from Him. He even gave us this wonderful invitation. Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So; let us remember ‘the way of escape’ that Paul is talking about means nothing less than running to Jesus Himself and seeking our help in Him in a time of testing and trial.