Dluxe's World

Thursday, September 7

Under Scrutiny - 1 Corinthians 10:13

If you've been reading Eva's blog, you've learned about Benaiah. The son of family friends, Benaiah was hit by a truck and suffered serious injuries. The road to recovery has been long and arduous for Benaiah, his family, and those that love them. If you're new to all this, you can read more here.

How do you comfort people in the midst of such circumstances? We've all felt that confounding moment where, confronted with someone hurt or grieving, we claw around our brain for words that will somehow mend a wound we cannot see... If you've been in churches long enough, you've heard something like this (which was left as a comment on Benaiah's site):

"Isn't comforting to know that GOD never gives more to us than we can handle but yet provides a way and means in which we CAN handle it?!"

Unlike so many platitudes, this one has its basis rightly in Scripture... In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul makes this bold assertion:
Now these things happened to [our fathers, the Israelites,] as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 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 10:11-13, ESV, emphasis mine)

This verse absolutely is a great comfort. But I've always had a bit of a struggle with how it's thrown about. It would be great news if God would never subject us to more trials and problems than we can handle. But is that really what Paul is saying? I think the answer is both yes and no.

Let's back up a little bit and get some context... Take a gander at the passage beginning in verse 6 of the chapter:
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 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 10:6-13, ESV)

Clearly, Paul is admonishing the Corinthians not to give into the temptations of sin... Going back a couple more verses indicates Paul is particularly targeting idolotry here which makes sense. As John Piper (yes, I quote him often) said once: "Every sin flows from the failure to treasure the glory of God above all things." If we really believed in who God is and put Him in the proper position in our life, our propensity towards sin would be reduced.

So, what is the 'yes' and 'no' of this verse? Here's my take, and then I'll provide an illustration.

Yes, we will never be tempted towards sin without being empowered by God to resist. If we are in Christ, God is not testing us at every turn trying to knock us off the wagon. God is not going to entice us towards anything other than Himself... When we face the temptation to sin, we will either be given (by God's grace) the strength and conviction to resist or some 'escape hatch' which will allow us to flee.

Take the example of Job in the Bible... Job is attacked from all angles - his home, his family, his health. Everything Job could cling to other than God was stripped away. And yet, with a strength that I do not possess, Job was able to endure and even praise God in the midst of 'overwhelming' circumstances. Then, Job's miserable friends arrive on the scene to 'help'. Just when you think Job might crack and "curse God" under the pounding from these friends, God himself steps into the discussion and shows Job where his trust rightly lies.

So, this passage in Corinthians absolutely declares that we will never be tempted to sin beyond what is normal for mankind... And we will be given the means to weather the storm and glorify Christ.

But, there's a flipside.

No. This verse doesn't say that we will never, ever be given more than we can handle if we are in sin. Let me unpack that with an illustration.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a dear friend named Wes. For the past several months, Wes's wife has been plagued by fatigue... There are days that she can barely get out of bed and even the best days leave her almost completely wiped out by early afternoon. When you add three kids under the age of 5 to the picture (including twin 4 year-old boys), you can imagine what a trial this lack of energy really is.

Being the tender-hearted believer he is, Wes made this observation (which I will paraphrase): Sometimes our trials serve to point out areas where we already are sinning. Perhaps we've elevated something higher than it should be, so God will strip that away so we are forced to conform our hearts to Christ and restore the rightful King to the throne of our lives.

And that's the crux of my 'No' point... While God will not allow us to be tempted towards sin without giving us 'an out', I think He absolutely can burn away any and every idol in our lives we use to supplant Him. In AA and other programs, they talk about people needing to hit rock bottom before they're ready to make a change. Similarly, I think God will sometimes send us crashing to the ground in order to refocus our attention on Him.

**Now, I do not mean to imply that the situation with Wes and his family or that of Benaiah is somehow God attacking sin in the life of one of the players. ** I don't think this is an either/or kinda thing... Here comes my personal illustration.

I adore my wife and children. They are the absolute greatest thing that has happened, or ever will, happen to me. And, in typing that very sentence off the top of my head I reveal my own tendency towards sin. I could easily be guilty of elevating my love for Eva, Gannon, and Acadia far above and beyond the amount of love and devotion I give to Jesus Christ. (Worth noting: Given how often I fail to love and honor them as I should, that speaks even louder to my inconsistent glorification of Christ.) In many ways, an impartial observer might assume that my god is my family.

Now, what would happen if I were to lose Eva and the kids? {shivers just thinking about it}

Would that be more than I could handle? Absolutely. Losing them would shatter my idolotrous world and life would suddenly become very dark. Could I join with Job in saying, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord!"? In this case, God isn't tempting me towards anything. God is consuming the things I've elevated above Him in a jealous (and righteous) fire.

We forget that God is jealous for His glory. That very word, "jealous", makes us cringe a little... But when we ascribe that glory to other things, God will act for His name's sake. Check out this chilling and yet glorious passage from Deuteronomy.
Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. (Deuteronomy 4:23-31, ESV, emphasis mine)

We serve a God who loves us. When we are walking with Him, we can take comfort knowing that God will always provide the strength to resist temptation or a route to escape it. What a wonderful promise. However, there's an equally wonderful promise on the other side... When we are in sin and rebelling against God, He reserves the right to do whatever it takes to tear sin out of us and bring us back to Him. That, my friends, is love.

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11, ESV)

Sometimes God's refining fire might be more than we can bear, but it will always be exactly what we need.



  • Great post, Brian. (Just catching up ... August was a lost month for blog reading!)

    Two people I respect recently have recommended Larry Crabbe's "Shattered Dreams" to me. I scanned the first chapter, which is a parable, and it's essentially about this very thing, with a bit of our twist, about our mistaken belief that we earn happiness by being God's children, and about the extent to which he will allow us to suffer and even cause our suffering in an effort to bring us into right relationship with him.

    I've never been a Larry Crabbe fan, but this book seems like a good 'un.

    BTW, I've taken the word verification off my blog, and only VERY rarely do I get any spam. And it's very easily dealt with. FWIW.

    By Blogger PatL, at 9:54 AM, September 19, 2006  

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