When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10.13
It’s a fact: all sin starts with temptation. We don’t harm others and ourselves without reason. We may insist otherwise, but we know very well why we do what we do. Each specific act of disobedience springs from a specific desire. We want to get even. We want to feel loved. We want to be rich. We want to belong. The list goes on and on, and there’s a plethora of tempting propositions to feed our every desire. So it seems most sensible to stop focusing on how to avoid sin and start learning to escape temptation.
It’s not wrong to be tempted. Guilty thoughts and urges are intrinsic to human nature. Indeed, many responses come pre-wired. Sexual attraction, hunger, and other reflexes are given for our survival and comfort. When temptation targets them, there’s no cause for shame. Even when it zeroes in on learned behaviors—success drives, social habits, etc.—we needn’t feel condemned. Temptation is universal. Paul opened today’s verse saying, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” Everybody deals with it. The tipping point rests on how each of us manages impulses we all feel.
1 John 2.16 identifies three strains of temptation: craving, lust, and pride. Craving comes from dissatisfaction, wanting more than we’ve got or need. Lust is the opposite; it runs on desire for what we don’t have, possibly can’t have, and probably don’t need. Pride is the lovechild of craving and lust. It either boasts in what we possess or vaunts our ability to acquire anything we please. Knowing these types explains how we control temptation. Why, for instance, are we tempted to seduce a stranger? To get more love and sex? Because we can't have him/her? To prove how appealing and adept we are? If we pinpoint where temptation comes from, we more effectively can address its symptoms and prevent the sinful damage it causes.
Habitual temptation builds up resistance to our defenses. It strikes at our weaknesses and insecurities. Things aren’t so clear now. What we think we need eclipses what we need to think. Yet despite this, we’re still aware of being tempted and that’s enough to activate an escape strategy. Paul told the Corinthians, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” The minute we introduce God’s presence to our situation, temptation loses its grip. What seemed impossible to overcome becomes manageable. Exits we couldn’t discern through desire’s fog open. God provides our way out because it’s in His best interests. Why? Temptation leads to sin. Sin divides us from God. He wants us close to Him. His escape strategy makes that happen.
God always provides a way out of temptation to keep us close to Him.
(Tomorrow: The Garden Party)