By Pastor Josh Kirk
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 Corinthians 10:13
5 things we need to learn about temptation
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. The trials and temptations that you are currently facing, the very things that may have brought you into the counseling room, the Bible says they are common to man. That is not to say other have experienced the exact same particulars as you, but the temptations themselves are common. Everyone struggles with fear of man. Everyone struggles to love undeserving people, to repay good for evil, to give a soft answer instead of a harsh one. These are common struggles. Even God himself, in the person of Christ Jesus, faced these types of temptations. “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.”
This is hugely significant because it means you’re not alone. One of the great lies we can believe in the midst of suffering or temptation is that nobody knows or understands what we’re experiencing. But Scripture says that is plainly not true. Even if nobody around you can relate and sympathize, Christ can. He knows the force of temptation even better than we do and he sympathizes with us, standing ready to help.
God is faithful. Faithful means pertaining to being worthy of belief or trust, trustworthy, dependable, inspiring trust/faith. God keeps his promises. Not one of them falls to the ground unfulfilled. He has promised to be a very present help in times of trouble (Ps 46:1), to forgive our sin and remove it as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:11-14; Is 1:18), to be near to the broken hearted (Ps 34:18), and to hear our cries for help (Ex 2:24-25, Ps 145:18; Jn 9:31). “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it (Num 23:19)?” Therefore, the author of Hebrews can say with confidence “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23).” The following promises given in this verse are based on an unchangeable character quality of God: his faithfulness. He can no more renege on his promises to you than he can stop being himself. Just as water is wet or the sky is blue, God is faithful.
He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. Paul tells us in this phrase that God is active in our trials. He’s not passively sitting back, watching what we’re doing and hoping we’ll make the right decision. He’s actively engaged in our struggle, giving us the resources to resist temptation and ensuring that every temptation and trial that comes to us is never so big that there is no way to resist. As with Job, every trial must pass through the gracious, loving hands of our Father before it ever gets to us.
But with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape. The original language evokes imagery of an army trapped in hostile country that escapes at the last minute through a mountain pass. God’s has promised never to leave us stuck between a rock and a hard place, where the only option for moving forward is sin. God is active in our trial to form, mitigate, and direct it so that it will never overwhelm or put us in a no-win situation. There will always be a way of escape from temptation.
That you may be able to endure it. Notice the goals here. It’s not feeling good, or peace, or relief from the situation. This is not a promised that everything is going to feel good, that you will experience peace and prosperity, or even emotional stability. The goal is endurance. In the context, Paul is addressing the temptation of idolatry and apostasy, but the paradigm holds true for all temptations. In Luke 22:44, Jesus is praying the Lord would let this cup pass from him. He knows what in store in the coming hours and would rather not go through that if there is another way. Yet, he actively subjects his own desires to the will of his Father. The point here is that it wasn’t easy or fun for Jesus. He was sweating drops of blood as he prayed, but he was still modeling for us what faithfulness and endurance look like. Many of us can be tempted to believe that if our hearts are in the right place, everything will be fine, and we’ll feel good. But this simply isn’t true, and our text reminds us this isn’t the goal. The goal is endurance; holding fast to the confession handed down to us and living righteously.
This text simultaneously encourages us and gives us hope, and corrects us when we make excuses for our sin. There is no such thing as irresistible temptation. God always gives us a way out. Instead of giving in, we are to look to God’s faithfulness, finding the way out he has provided. As you go through your week, meeting trials and tests of various kinds, look for the ways out. Look for signs of God’s faithfulness to you. If you can’t find them, call a friend. God is faithful to you in your temptation and will always provide a righteous path forward. All we have to do is look for it.