Temptation (4): Never Too Much
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.”
The Christian life is filled with paradoxes. One of those is the discovery that, once we have found true Peace by resting in Jesus, we have also joined Heaven’s Resistance Movement in a Great War. Like the underground organizations resisting Nazi occupation in WW II, the Body of Christ is called to be a resistance movement against the Enemy’s occupation of Planet Earth. In essence, each local church is meant to function as an organized and committed cell carrying out strategic actions to sabotage the enemy, free captives, and equip them to join the resistance. It’s called spiritual warfare and you won’t last long on active duty without coming to understand the nature of the battle and the power of the Full Armor of God – how it fits and how it operates (Eph. 6:10-18).
There are three fronts in this battle: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and they all come together in the battle with temptation. By Flesh, we mean our natural, sinful nature with it’s predisposition towards sin. It’s also called the ‘old man’. When we come to Jesus, we find that the ‘old man’, was crucified with Him on the Cross. From that point on, in Heaven’s eyes, our old sinful self is seen as dead. Through our trusting union with Jesus, we become new creations and the old is gone (2 Cor. 5:17).
It doesn’t take long, however, before we realize that our ‘old man’ apparently died with a death-grip firmly in place. Our flesh is still firmly attached and works hard to use it’s dead-weight against us. All of this moves the battle from somewhere ‘out there’ into the realm of our next thought or glance or word. Again we find the paradox that, when we’re born into spiritual Life, the conflict between the Spirit and the Flesh becomes more noticeable – more pronounced. This is exactly what Paul told the Galatians: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:16-17). Our response to the Flesh comes down to two things: 1) Walking in the fulness of the Spirit, and 2) Reckoning the old man dead (Rom. 6:5-11).
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
Have you ever watched a piano being tuned in the classic manner? The Tuner, who is a true craftsman, strikes his tuning fork with a mallet, sending the correct vibration through the air to the piano strings. When the vibration comes in contact with the strings, it produces a ‘sympathetic vibration’ in the appropriate string and it comes to life with a corresponding, resonating sound. That’s wonderful. But it’s a different thing when it’s the Devil who is striking the tuning fork of the World (which reflects his nature) and we find our Flesh responding with it’s own resonating sin. That’s temptation, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming.
That’s where the promise of 1 Cor. 10:13 comes in. We have it on the authority of God Himself that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to handle. That’s the promise. That’s the truth. That’s a rock every child of God can confidently stand on.
The problem, of course, is when the trial or temptation we’re facing feels overwhelming. When that’s the case, we find ourselves facing an added temptation – the temptation to believe that this particular trial is more than we can handle. Going down that road means ignoring God’s promise and accepting the lie that some temptations are exceptions to the ‘common to man’ rule. It also implies believing that God either a) hadn’t thought of this particular situation when He made the promise, or b) He wasn’t watching when it slipped past His Hands, or c) He isn’t really that concerned. All lies. False, but effective (if we buy into them).
So, what do we do? We give ourselves a spiritual ‘pep talk’. We remember the promises of God, we recall His faithfulness to us, we call the devil the Liar he is, and we stand. We stand on the promises of God. That’s what faith is about. As the old hymn puts it:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.