By Samuel Parrish, Campus Director, LH Charleston, SC
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 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 10:12-13 ESV)
When the enemy has beaten you down with the same sin strongholds for decades, when the flesh will not relent from offering a seemingly unending fountain of desires, when the world continually offers up unending opportunities to choose something other than God’s best, Paul’s teaching that indicates God will always “provide the way of escape” from temptation can sound more like a fairy tale than the gift of the Holy Spirit. For those of us who have been walking with Jesus with regularity, these verses can even become so cliché that they actually serve to help us discount the dangers of sin and temptation rather than keep us from falling. Within the context of his letter, we see that Paul intends to do more than share a great word of comfort to those burdened by sin. Instead, he calls the complacent to not merely walk in the protection and blessing of the Holy Spirit, but to overcome sin by the power of the cross.
To drive home this point, Paul begins this section of the letter by reminding the Corinthian church of the journey Israel took from captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. Beginning with the account of Moses parting the Red Sea so that Israel could escape through the waters on dry land, Paul reminds his readers of how God repeatedly provided for both the physical and spiritual needs of His people, feeding them with manna—or “bread from heaven”—and twice bringing water forth from a rock. Additionally, God physically joined them on this journey, allowing His children to rest securely in the shadow of the pillar of fire at night while simultaneously receiving direction by following the cloud during the day.
And yet, there were those who experienced these blessings, but did not follow Him as Lord. They turned to sexual immorality when Moses spoke with God on the mountain. They turned to grumbling when God’s sustaining grace became mundane. They turned to disbelief when they saw the “power” and “strength” of the people inhabiting the land God promised them. Because of their choice of fear over faith, the Lord judged the entire generation, prolonging their time in the desert forty years.
Paul’s text says plainly that his words were recorded for our instruction. We, as those who live on this side of God’s work on the cross, stand to make the same kind of mistakes as the people of Israel. Paul warns that these errors can be just as costly for us as they were for God’s people thousands of years ago. We are cautioned to take care and search for the “way of escape” God provides whenever tempatations come our way. Thus, we are not passive in the process of our sanctification. Instead, as God grants us the faith to believe in him, and the grace to obey him, we have the responsibility to follow His commands.
Paul continues in the chapter with a command for us to “flee from idolatry.” His verb choice in this command—φεύγω, or a legal term meaning to run in order to save one’s life—reveals that our sin is not simply a bad habit we hope to grow out of. Rather, it is an enemy to flee, albeit a defeated enemy. Because of Christ’s work on the cross and resurrection from the dead, we can stand confidently as long as we stand on the truths of who we are in Him. We do not have to fear sin and temptation because we know He will never leave us or forsake us.
As you pray this week, ask the Lord to show you where your confidence stands. Are you resting merely on His blessings, or on an identity named and shaped by God? When has He sustained you in a way you never expected? What two specific aspects of that experience can you use to remember his goodness in the future?