Standing Strong?

By Ricky Chelette, Executive Director

One of the great joys of ministry is walking with people on the journey of faith and watching them mature in Christ. I enjoy seeing people learn to take their eyes off constant introspection and fix their gaze determinedly on Jesus. I love it when peoples’ lives begin to see more victories than defeats. I get excited when I hear of people purposefully serving others, being actively involved in a community, and seeking to pour out what they have learned into the hearts and lives of others.

But I have also learned that spiritual growth doesn’t exempt us from temptation and, in some ways, can set us up for failure. You see, difficulty develops dependence while success develops independence.  As much as we all hate the statement, it is particularly true in the realm of spirituality.

It is difficult to be dependent on God when things are going well. We tend to relax our disciplines, think we know the Word of God well enough, and lower our awareness of sin’s pull. Let’s face it. When things are going well, it is easy to think, “Thanks, God!  I got this.”

Paul understood this human tendency to pull away from discipline and toward self-sufficiency.  He recognized it in his own journey of faith. (Remember his thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming too proud (2 Cor 12:7)?) But Paul also knew the history of the children of Israel as he writes in 1 Corinthians 10.  There Paul tells of Israel’s great deliverance from the oppression of Egypt. God moved and provided for Israel in mighty ways: from the parting of the sea and being “baptized into Moses in the cloud,” to drinking from the “spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”  The children of Israel were people who should have been deeply devoted to God. Yet in the midst of God’s provision and deliverance, they took up idol worship and left the God they loved.

Paul warns that though we live on the other side of Jesus’ incarnation, cross, and resurrection, we too have similar inclinations for becoming complacent in our relationship and devotion to God.  He puts it bluntly: “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

No one is exempt from sin. I am one decision away from disaster every day!  The devil is my adversary, and the fallen world is his playground. He is crouching at the door, at every turn, ready to pounce on me just when I think I am doing well (1 Pet 5:8). And the devil is after you too!

But there is good news for the church in Corinth and for us. Even in our moments of greatest temptation, our God will provide a way of escape. “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 Cor 10:13).

This is a rich verse, pregnant with meaning, but note the last line: “able to endure it.” Most of us would like to vanquish all temptation. Sometimes God’s solution is not to remove temptation, but to strengthen us in the midst of it so we can endure. Through that endurance, we are better able to run the race set before us and finish strong. Nothing is proven until it is tested and there is no victory in the test without perseverance.

Are you feeling confident in your relationship with the Lord? I pray you are, but don’t allow that confidence to be posited on your ability rather than your dependence upon the One who is able to keep you from falling. He alone can provide. He alone makes an escape possible. Be vigilant and stand strong!