“No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Nobody’s going to know. It’ll just be this one time. Just this and then that’s it. There’s no other way to get through this. I’m all alone in this. There isn’t anyone who can help. This is just more than I can handle. Which line have you used or had used on you before in a moment of temptation? There are all kinds of lines designed to drag you into sin, but all of them are rooted in lies. Paul identifies three particularly common lines for us here. Let’s take a look at these.
Line one: I’m the only one dealing with this. In a moment of temptation one of the tricks the enemy often uses to get us to give in is to make us feel alone. The more isolated we are, the more likely it is that we’ll do something we wouldn’t do if other people were around. There are two ways to be isolated, though. One, of course, is to not have any people around. The other is to feel like we are psychologically alone, that is, that there isn’t anybody around us feeling or experiencing what we are.
This second type of isolation can be really effective in a moment of temptation. We feel like we are the only one dealing with whatever it is. Because of that, there’s no one we can turn to for help. And, since we can’t turn to anyone for help, we are on our own facing it. That’s the trap. On our own, we’ll give into temptation way more often than we will in community. That’s the whole idea behind support groups of various kinds. We’re stronger together than we are separately.
Paul tells us the truth here: We don’t face any unique temptations. There is no temptation we ever face that isn’t something that has already been faced and in fact is already being faced by other people. Better yet, it is likely being faced by someone close to us. There is someone you know, love, and respect who is dealing with a temptation similar in nature if not in kind to the temptation you are facing. There are no unique temptations.
One of the challenges the church must face is creating community groups where a culture of sharing these kinds of struggles in a context of loving accountability pervades. This is a tall order because of the shame sin naturally causes and the desire to hide that brings with it, but it could really make a difference in combating this first line.
Line 2: This temptation is more than I can handle. Now, a few days ago we talked about the fact that God allows us to face situations that are beyond our ability to handle them all the time so that we learn to lean wholly on Him. While that idea is absolutely true when it comes to life in general, it is not true when it comes to the matter of temptation. God is okay with us being overwhelmed by life because He’ll help us with it; He does not want us overwhelmed by temptation because He does not want us to sin.
There’s a fine line here to walk, so let me walk it carefully. Paul’s assumption here, I would argue, is that His audience is relying on the Holy Spirit already. In other words, they are already leaning wholly on God for their strength and help. From this starting point, we aren’t going to face a temptation that’s more than we can handle. When we face it on our own, the great likelihood is that we are going to fall before whatever temptation we are facing. With His help, there is no temptation we can’t resist and flee. This just leads us to line three.
Line 3: There’s no way to avoid giving in to this temptation. This is perhaps the line that catches the most people. If the enemy can convince us we don’t have any other choice but to give in, he’ll keep us tripping up.
Here’s the truth: There’s always a way out. There is always a way out. Any time our God allows us to be tested with a situation in which we will have the choice to mimic His character or walk a path of sin—a situation we might call temptation—we will always have the choice to pursue the character of God in whatever the situation is. Giving in to temptation is never a foregone conclusion.
Temptation is messy stuff. In the moment it often feels like a battle. There’s a reason Paul also told us to flee from it. If we go in knowing the truth about it, we’ll be a whole lot more prepared to stand firm when it comes our way. Hold fast. Your God won’t ever leave you to fall. Life is always an option.