Temptation (3): I Am Not Alone
1 Corinthians 10:13 – “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.”
There is no such thing as a truly unique temptation. Every temptation we face is “common to man”. To be sure, some temptations are extremely creative. But after you peel off the fresh paint, they’re still the same ol’, same ol’. Understanding that is essential for avoiding the Devil’s attempts at disarming us. If he can get us to believe that the temptation we face is unique in some way, then he can persuade us that the promises of God don’t apply in our situation. Or, if he can get us to believe that our situation is somehow unique, he’ll suggest that the normal rules don’t apply to us. Once we buy into that, we’re soon justifying our latest sin while rationalizing the ones to come. It doesn’t take much encouragement. I know I can rationalize anything if I want to. It’s amazing how brilliantly stupid we can be when justifying our sin. We’re all by nature card-carrying members of the Sinners’ Anonymous Mensa Society.
The truth that temptation, no matter how creatively dressed, always comes in ‘standard sizes’, is actually a great encouragement (as all Truth ultimately is). Realizing that the things I wrestle with are the same things others are facing means I am not alone in the battle. We’re all in this together. And, the more we walk together, the greater the victories we share. It’s just one of the many reasons believers are meant to do their pilgrimage together in the circles of their local church tribe. It’s there, in the environment of genuine fellowship that we find a place where we can tell our stories, show our scars, share our lessons and lift each other up in prayer. As the Preacher of Ecclesiates put it, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. …” (Ecc. 4:12a).
Knowing that I’m not the only one facing temptation also means I’m not the first. Others have gone before me. There are veterans in the Body of Christ who’ve fought the good fight and whose scars have been transformed into medals. They’re there to give us hope – we can make it. They’re there as examples for us to follow. They’re there so we can hear the story behind their medals and the keys to their victories. It’s always the true heroes who humbly refuse the label. But, if we listen and learn, we’ll find our own scars beginning to look a little more like bronze. We’ll also hear them inevitably talking about the Great General Who pinned those medals on. When they do, they’re simply echoing the words of Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
When we consider the fact that all temptations are “common to man”, that we all battle the same demons, and there is truly “nothing new under the sun”, we will eventually be led to the Only One Who faced temptation without a single failure – Jesus. We could go to the Gospels and follow Him through the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. But instead we need to listen to Hebrews: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are –yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).
Can we trust Jesus to understand what we’re going through? Yes! He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin”. Among other things, this tells me that it’s not a sin to be tempted, it only becomes sin when we give in to the temptation. It also reminds me that my Savior was and is absolutely victorious over sin – and temptation.
Can we really find help in Him? Absolutely! In Jesus, we may “approach the throne of grace with confidence”.
What kind of help can we expect to receive? Mercy and Grace! Because of Jesus, “we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. In the midst of life’s battles, as I call out to The Throne, I receive Mercy for my failures and find the Grace to get back up and do better.
“Lord, as You taught me, I ask You to ‘lead me not into temptation’. But as I inevitably find myself facing temptations (as You know so well), I also pray that You would ‘deliver me from evil’. Thank You that I can come to You knowing that ‘Yours is the Kingdom, and the Glory, and the Power Forever.’ Amen.”