“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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Temptation is everywhere we look. The Siren song of sin sings sweetly at every corner. Sometimes it feels like all we ever do is drift from one temptation to another. And yet, Paul’s observation here is true and powerful. I think there are several things we can say about our efforts with the Spirit’s help to walk in the righteousness of the Lord based on what Paul says here.
1. Because there aren’t any unique temptations, we never need to face them alone. We never need to feel isolated in our battles with sin. There is somebody else who not only has, but is facing a similar struggle. What’s more, there’s a good chance that somebody we know is facing the same thing. If we are willing to be a bit vulnerable, we just might even find that it’s a good friend sitting in the same place.
What this means is that we always have help available when it comes to walking in the light of Christ. We need to take it. We need to do life in community. Not just the good and easy and socially acceptable parts, but the hard and ugly ones that we’d prefer to keep covered up as well. The Christian community, the church, that is firing on all cylinders, is the one where people are in small community groups together where they can be honest about their struggles and receive the loving accountability they need to stay on the right track.
2. The Greek word translated “temptation” here can also be translated “test.” The question this introduces is how we know something is a test from God designed to draw us closer to Him or a temptation from the enemy intended to drive us away. The answer: It all depends on how we respond to it. James makes clear that the Lord will never tempt us. But, He does allow us to face struggles and trials with the goal in mind of deepening our faith and strengthening our reliance on Him. Job is a rather sterling example of this.
The point here, though, is that God is faithful. His goal is not to drive us away, but to smooth our pathway. He knows our strengths and weaknesses even better than we do. He knows our ability. He knows just where our faith really is. The tests and trials He allows us to face are intended for our growth. That doesn’t mean they’ll be easy or that the growth will be automatic, but with His help, we can overcome them and come out stronger on the other side.
3. No temptation is an inevitable fall into sin. For followers of Jesus, sin is never a foregone conclusion. There is always a way out. Always. The question is whether or not we are willing to take it. The fact is, sometimes we slip into sin because we want to do so. This is a problem with us, not with God, and not with the size of the temptation before us. If we want to stay out of temptation and resist it when it does come, we need to be always on the lookout for the off ramp our heavenly Father will provide for us.
In the verses preceding this one Paul makes it clear that staying on the path of righteousness as followers of Jesus is serious business. The stakes are incredibly high. Temptation is perhaps our single greatest threat to doing so. Thankfully, we have all the help we need from our heavenly Father. We need only receive it and use it well.