Summary: A sermon expounding upon the Good News in Temptations.
When I first returned to the Church I found a reading schedule which allowed me to read through the Bible in one year. I had never read through the Bible so I decided to challenge myself to complete this task. While involved in this pursuit I would make notes of certain verses or thoughts I had while reading. When I read 1 Corinthians 10:13 I stopped, reread it two or three times, and was thoroughly astounded at how much it applied to me in my life at that precise time. I chose that particular verse of scripture to be my verse. I even carefully wrote it out on a piece of paper and taped it to the inside cover of a notebook I carried with me to work.
Over the years I have gone back to that verse on many occasions and allowed God to once again work within me. You see, we are all subject to temptations or testing. Satan tempts us continually to bow before him and to seek his way of living. God does not tempt us, but He will test us through trials in our lives. We can tell a temptation from a test by considering the end results. Temptation is always evil and from Satan. If we submit to these temptations, they will without doubt lead us down the road of destruction. However, God will allow us to be tested. These tests will always lead to a growth experience.
For example, let us say our spouse or a very dear friend dies suddenly; it does not matter if from disease or in an accident. The tragedy is the loss of that person dear to us. Often persons in such situations will question God’s motives or even blame God for the death. At this time, when we are the most vulnerable, Satan will do his evil best to tempt us to turn our backs upon God. Following the destruction of Job’s family and wealth his wife said, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die.” Scripture tells of the pain and suffering of Job, but let us remember these were also the children of his wife, and the fortune lost was her livelihood too. So, she had reason to be angry with God, to want to blame someone for these great losses. The temptation is to blame God, ignore Him, and live our lives destructively. However, if we look at this same circumstance from God’s viewpoint, it is a perfect time for Him to test our faithfulness. Are we willing to accept this tragedy as part of the living process, glorify God because we were able to share time in our life with that person, and then continue on with our faith in a loving, omniscient God? How did Job respond to his wife’s outburst? “You speak as a foolish woman speaks, should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Job’s wife was being tempted by Satan and sought the path of destruction; Job was being tested by God and experienced growth from his ordeal. God will use trials and temptations to test our faithfulness.
Let us now take this particular verse apart and examine it. First Paul tells us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.” Since we are human we will be subjected to constant temptations. Therefore, neither of us should feel as if the temptations we are subjected to are any different than those of our neighbors, friends, or even our pastors. Being Christian does not remove us from temptations. Just because we have accepted Jesus into our lives in no way insures us against the vices of temptation. We may assume that since we partake of the LORD’s Supper, somehow we become immune to the evils of temptation, selfishness, and fleshly desires. Jesus was God’s Son and even He was tempted; so we should not be disheartened when we face temptation. Here Paul is calling us to reflect soberly upon our baptism and participation in the LORD’s Supper and not to develop a false sense of security. The temptations are there; the consequence is how we react to them.
Now here is some good news. “God is faithful.” Well, there is nothing really earth-shattering about that. We know God is faithful. Listen to the rest of this phrase, “…and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” We may find ourselves elbow deep in temptations and shake our heads in bewilderment, wondering how we are going to get out. One noteworthy feature of this phrase, as well as the other parts of this, is that the “you” used is a plural form in the original Greek. In this sense Paul is telling us the experience of the temptations and our efforts at handling it are never presumed to be borne by an individual alone. His assumption is that any temptations are never experienced in isolation. After all what did he say just prior to this? “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.” From this we are to assume we will not be tempted beyond what we are able to bear together. This is only one of the benefits of being a member of the body of Christ. We are never alone. When a temptation arises, we can be sure someone else has also experienced it and several have overcome it. We must depend upon each other to help work through the temptations of the world. However, our tendency is to privatize these experiences, to try to keep them to ourselves and handle them in our own way.