Let’s start with a children’s story. There’s a book called, Frog And Toad Together, in which Frog and Toad discover the terrible power of temptation.
Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”
Frog ate one of the cookies, “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog. Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”
“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie. There were many cookies left in the bowl. “Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie. “We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.
“Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need willpower.”
“What is willpower?” asked Toad.
“Willpower is trying hard not to do something you really want to do.”
“You mean like trying hard not to eat all these cookies?” asked Toad.
“Right,” said Frog. Frog put the cookies in a box.
“There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”
“But we can open the box,” said Toad.
“That is true,” said Frog. Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”
“But we can cut the string and open the box.” said Toad.
“That is true,” said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”
“But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.
“That is true,” said Frog. Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a large, loud voice. “HEY, BIRDS, HERE ARE COOKIES!” Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.
“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.” “Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of willpower.”
“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.” (Lobel).
All of us can relate to that story, because we all struggle with temptation. Temptation is, as we’ll learn in 1 Corinthians 10:12-14…
OUR COMMON PROBLEM
We Aren’t Much Different From The Israelites
We’ve already seen how Paul described the blessings Israel was given when they wandered in the wilderness: a spiritual baptism, spiritual food and drink, and they were even followed by a spiritual rock—Christ himself. Five times in four verses, Paul emphasized that they all had these blessings.
Yet, they gave into temptation. They gave into the temptation of idolatry, fornication, testing God, and complaining.
These things were written as examples for us to learn from. We are often tempted to look back the Israelites in the Old Testament, laugh at them, and say, “How could they be so stupid to commit a sin like that? Come on, guys, you just saw the Red Sea parted! If I were there, I would have no problem having a great faith in God!”
When we get like that, we need to remember the warning here:
1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Temptation and sin are as dangerous as rattlesnakes. I read on a blog about a woman’s friend, Neil, and a rattlesnake.
Last week our eighty-four year old friend Neil shot a gigantic rattlesnake’s head right off of its body. Thinking, like any of us would, that the snake was dead, Neil set out to kick it out to the other side of the fence around his property. But, when his foot touched the head, that disembodied snake that Neil thought he had killed managed to bite him. Despite the fact that Neil believed with all his heart that that’s snake’s power to poison him was gone forever, when his foot touched the snake he learned that he was very, very wrong (Edgington).
Just as you shouldn’t assume a snake cut in two can’t bite you, so also you shouldn’t assume that temptation can’t bite you either.
18 Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Temptation Is Our Common Problem
Temptation is something that we are all prone to give into. Temptation has terrible power over us. None of us should think that we are above even a temptation that seems so awful to us right now.
For any one of us to say, “I would never do that!” is to miscalculate the sinful nature in all of us. Look at what it says in our verse:
1 Corinthians 10:13a There hath no temptation (πειρασμὸς, NNSM, πειρασμός) taken you but such as is common to man:
Every day of our lives, we face temptation. Temptation is an enticement to sin. Paul is saying that temptation is a common experience to humanity.
Just as the Israelites had struggled with the temptation to commit idolatry or fornication or to complain, so the Corinthian Christians were facing temptation to do the same. And, we today, face those same temptations.
I identify with what Bryan Chapell writes. Listen to what he says:
…[O]ne can hardly be a healthy male in this culture and not be tempted by the sexual images all around us.
No healthy female is above being tempted by the retailing of relational trauma that fuels television, or fills drugstore novels with romantic intrigue that makes her own relationships seem sparkless.
It is impossible to be in business and not be tempted to sacrifice people for profit.
Government workers can be regularly tempted to forfeit integrity for promotions.
A mother of multiple preschoolers will be tempted by this culture’s priorities to think of herself as a victim of her family’s needs. (93)
Those and many other temptations assail even the best of Christians. What can we do about temptation? First, remember…
OUR FAITHFUL GOD
1 Corinthians 10:13b but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted (πειρασθῆναι, VAPN, πειράζω) above that ye are able;
The first step in the battle against temptation is recognizing that our God is a faithful God who is in control of our temptations.
God Controls The Intensity Of Our Temptations
God knows what we can bear and guarantees that the temptation will not exceed it. God will not give you more than he knows that you are able to bear—not what you think that you are able to bear.
If you give into temptation, it’s your fault. You cannot say that it was more than you could handle, because God doesn’t give more than you can handle (by relying on his strength).
God Controls The Purpose Of Our Temptations
Temptation has a purpose, and that purpose is to stretch us and grow us. We might wonder why God even allows us to face temptation. Would it not be simpler if he eliminated all temptations for Christians?
But if he did, how would you ever show your love and loyalty to the Lord? You would be like a robot, going around doing exactly what God wants, but with no sense of doing it for love to him. God would receive no glory.
On the other hand, when we resist temptation, we are glorifying God. We are saying to the temptation that God is more precious to us than the temptation is.
If we never faced temptation, we would never be able to grow in our love for Jesus. We would never know how precious he is to us because we would never have to choose between him and sin.
The same reason is why not everyone is saved. God doesn’t just automatically check all people into Heaven because it would not glorify him. They would be there against their will.
You might say, “But once they were in Heaven, they’d enjoy it.” No, that’s not the case. Remember, Satan was an angel in Heaven once, but we discover in Isaiah 14:12-15 that it wasn’t enough. Satan, then called Lucifer, desired more, he said, “I will be like the most High” (verse 14).
Each person must make the decision to trust and follow Christ themselves. And when they consciously pledge their love and loyalty to God through Christ, they glorify him.
Have you repented of your sins and trusted Christ for your salvation and forgiveness? Have you pledged your love and loyalty to him?
When we face a temptation, we can assume a couple things: first, God must think that we’re able to handle this (by relying on him), or he wouldn’t of allowed it. Second, God has purpose—his glory and our growth.
We have a faithful God who knows how much we can handle, and he also makes for us…
OUR WAY OF ESCAPE
1 Corinthians 10:13c but will with the temptation also make a way to escape (ἔκβασιν, NASF, ἔκβασιν), that ye may be able to bear it (ὑπενεγκεῖν, VAAN, ὑποφέρω).
There’s something very interesting here: God will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but he also makes “a way to escape”? If we can handle it, why do we need “a way to escape”?
The answer is simple, and it humbles us—the way to bear temptations is to rely on God’s strength and his way. Don’t think, don’t ever think, that this verse means that God will only give you what you can handle through your own strength. That’s a wrong misunderstanding.
The point of allowing temptations in your life is so that you will grow more reliant on God to get you through them.
So what is the “way to escape”? It could be flight or fight.
1) Flee From Temptation
I read that the “way to escape” is a military word meaning, “a way out.” To those who spoke the Greek language, it would have brought to mind small platoon surrounded by a much larger enemy. Despite overwhelming odds, they find a narrow way of escape.
Sometimes the “way to escape” given to us by God is simply to remove ourselves from the situation. Paul says in the next verse,
1 Corinthians 10:14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
Three other times in the New Testament, we are told to flee:
From fornication and lusts:
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Timothy 6:10–11)
Flee like Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife. She made advances on him and he said, “See ya!” Bryan Chapell writes:
Getting away from what tempts us may involve putting actual distance between us and the temptation—not driving a certain route home from work, not going near someone’s house, or avoiding a certain store.
We may need to change a subscription, change a job, change schools, change friends, change a channel, honestly admit what an entertainment is doing to us, or throw something away. Each of these measures may seem embarrassing—even humiliating (104).
Don’t be like the little boy who snuck into the pantry one day. His mother noticed the house was suddenly quiet.
She called out to him, “Where are you?”
After a long silence, the boy answered, “In the pantry.”
“What are you doing in the pantry?” the mother asked as she walked in and saw the boy eyeing the cookie jar.
“I am resisting temptation!”
If all possible, we need to flee the temptation, but there are times when we must buckle down and…
2) Fight Temptation
There is an aspect of temptation that you cannot flee from. Temptation occurs in your heart. You can’t flee.
If you can’t “bear” the temptation by fleeing, you must “bear it” by standing firm and enduring it. The word “bear” means to endure.
We can fight and endure temptation when we remember that we have a faithful God working out his purposes through this temptation. In fact, the Bible says that we ought to be rejoicing because of that fact—
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:2–3)
How do we fight? There’s a lot we could say here, of course, but let’s just give two things you should not do.
Don’t Forget To Pray Against Temptations
Jesus taught us to pray, and his model prayer included a petition about temptation: “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
If Jesus includes praying against temptation in his model prayer, should we not be praying against temptation more?
Yet, we often forget. Our prayers focus on our health and that of our friends, and perhaps the salvation of a few others. But we often ignore appealing to God for help in the temptations that we face each day.
Why do we forget? Perhaps it’s because we think that we handle our temptations alone. We tend not to pray about the things that we think we can handle.
Praying about our temptations means that we have to admit that we are weak. We have to be humbled to pray against our temptations.
What temptations do you face that you ought to be praying about more often? I maintain a prayer list with different categories, like Family, Church, and so forth. I’ve added a new category—Temptations.
Don’t forget to pray and…
Don’t Make Provision For Temptations
The Bible commands us to not make provision for temptations.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Romans 13:14)
A great example of this happened in Ephesus, after a number of people believed on Jesus Christ.
18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 19 Many of them also which used curious arts [sorcery, calling on demons to gain power over people] brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:18–20)
These people knew that if they didn’t destroy the books, the next time they faced a problem, they would be tempted to use sorcery to try and fix it.
If you struggle with a temptation then you need to make no provision for the flesh. Here’s some examples:
If you struggle with pornography, in today’s world, that means that you put software to block pornography on your computer and give the password to your wife or to a friend.
It’s humbling—you have to admit you are weak—but it’s what God’s word tells you to do, “make no provision.”
If you struggle with gossiping and complaining, it may mean that you don’t allow yourself to sit down with or even to call certain friends that feed that gossip and complaining. The Bible says:
20 He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: But a companion of fools shall be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)
You may have to leave some friends behind and replace them with friends that will help you instead of hinder you.
Those are a couple examples…here’s some more to think about:
If you struggle with spending too much money, even stealing from the Lord’s portion, what might you do to make no provision for it? What about anger? Or bitterness?
What temptations do you struggle with? How can you stop making provision for the temptation in your life? It may mean destroying something, or blocking it, or minimizing it’s influence somehow.
As I meditated on temptation this week, I came to the question: what is the biggest problem people, even Christians, have with temptation? I propose that the answer is that they don’t want to fight it.
Instead of fighting temptation or fleeing from it, people redefine it.
People today want to be accepted for who they are. It’s the motivation behind the gay rights movement. It’s also found in Christians who want to continue in sins or questionable activities.
They want to stay the way they are. They want acceptance from God. And they want acceptance from other Christians.
Don’t dare challenge them to grow. They will say that you are judging them and that’s an offense to them.
Doesn’t anyone want to become more holy? Doesn’t anyone want to be more like Jesus—the real, ultimate, holy, perfect Jesus, not the one they made up to be their excuse to be the way they are?
If you do, like I do, then resolve to live on the high road. Commit to fight and flee temptation in your life and in your heart.
Chapell, Bryan. Holiness by Grace : Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001.
Edgington, Melissa. “Sin Is The Only Bad Word Left.” http://yourmomhasablog.com/2015/07/28/sin-is-the-only-bad-word-left/ 28 July 2015. Web. 12 August 2015.
Lobel, Arnold. Frog And Toad Together. Harper Collins, 1979.