“There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL who will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted above that you are able to bear, but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape that you may be able to bear (carry)it. ” I Corinthians 10:13
One thing I’ve noticed about the Apostle Paul: He wasn’t much for short sentences. Wow! Some of them are almost as long as the chapters in James Patterson’s novels! This isn’t the only place he does it. You see it in many places, and every word falls like a hammer blow. I’ve seen him write no single word or express any idea that is superficial or “flighty.” He stacks words on top of one another, piling up adjectives, presenting profound ideas that have challenged and changed the lives of many who take time to consider what he says. And what it means. And how they can apply the truths to their own lives.
I noticed in this sentence that he could have stopped in several places and it would have been a complete idea. He could have just written: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” That’s a complete sentence. What if he’d said that and just stopped? There would be no “dangling prepositions,”* but you and I surely would be left dangling. Blowing in the wind. With all our brothers and sisters of all time who ever spent any time on this sphere hung in space! Helpless. A lot of company, to be sure, but left at the mercy of every breeze which blew us in any direction.
I won’t belabor the point here, but will call attention briefly to what was called elsewhere, “A LARGE LITTLE WORD.”* BUT, is what I’ve been calling an “interruptive conjunction.” In our language it serves to connect two ideas, each of which is going in the opposite direction from the other. If Paul had ended his sentence as I mentioned above and simply left it there, we’d be in a “mess” we’d never be able to clean up, correct, or escape!
“God is Faithful.” Now, what does that have to do with my having to deal daily with temptations that are “common to all men?” What does His faithfulness have to do with my temptation and tendency toward sin?
EVERYTHING. ABSOLUTELY EVERY THING! We can no more live a successful Christian life without faith than we can breathe without oxygen, or live without water.
Paul said: “The just shall live by faith.” They become and remain “just” in the sight of God through faith in the Redemptive work of His Son. And we REMAIN just through that same faith. The Bible is very, very clear on this point. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” But we can only love Him because he takes the initiative and loves us first. Our being in right relationship with God has nothing to do with our anemic efforts to please Him. I believe we are only able to love Him, or anyone for that matter, as we respond correctly to His love. In making redeeming grace available to us through Faith, God has done something for us which we could NEVER DO FOR OUR SELVES. Not in this lifetime or a thousand others.
The point I’m attempting to make is that our being in right relationship to God is not based upon what we’ve done. Man’s history has not been his searching for God. On the contrary, Scripture tells the story of God searching for man. From the moment He first asked: “Adam, where art thou” to this very moment,** Our Father in Heaven has been searching for us. For me. And for you.
God is FAITHFUL to us in His quest for us and in His commitment to us. He always has been. He always will be. And it is through our response to His faithfulness to Him that He enables us to become faithful sons, daughters, and servants.
So, how can we cope with temptation? Dig in with grim, dogged determination? Flex our muscles, “huff and puff” and engage an enemy we can never defeat? Toughen up. Be faithful? How have you done so far if you chose that route? Can you name a solitary individual who has ever consistently and successfully resisted temptation? Can you call to your mind anyone who tried vainly to do battle with the Evil One and can show you a trophy case to prove he won the contest?! You know the answer to my question. And I knew you did when I asked.
The critical issue here isn’t our faithfulness to God. I can not consistently keep the promises you make to Him. My dealing with temptation successfully is completely tied to God’s faithfulness. Not my feeble faithlessness. It is His faithfulness to us that creates any chance of response of faithfulness to Him on my part. As incredible as it may sound and seem, Scripture teaches this is true. Whether or not we understand it, we are not left alone to grapple with sin.
If we were in a worship service this would be a good time to break out singing: “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father!”