“Tempted and tried we are oft made to wonder, why it should be thus all the day long. While there are others living about us, never molested though in the wrong.” This is the first verse from the song “Farther Along.” Our theme for this year is Hope Starts Here where we are looking at the scriptures for hope during difficult times. In our lesson today we are going to see what the scriptures say about having hope when we are tempted and tried. We need hope during our temptations and trials. There is a reason that this song, written over 100 years, became a church favorite. We connect with the words of the song because there is not a person who seeks to follow the Lord who has not wondered why they are tempted and tried all day long. So what hope does God give us when we are tempted and tried? Open your copies of God’s word to 1 Corinthians 10 and our main text will be verses 12-13.
So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. 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 the way out so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:12–13 CSB)
The words “temptation” and “tempted” are also the same Greek words used for enduring trials. So we will consider this text through the lens of both trials and temptations. Before we can analyze the meaning of this text, we need to go back and consider the context. This is something that we must always do in our studies so that we do not misapply what the writer is saying. This is especially true when the sentence begins with the words “so” or “therefore.” We need to look back at the first 11 verses of this chapter.
When we read the first eleven verses of chapter 10, you will quickly see that this is a warning text. The apostle Paul is warning that, though Israel enjoyed the spiritual blessings of God, God was not pleased with them and they were stuck down in the wilderness (10:1-5). Further, Paul tells us in verse 6 that these events happened as examples for us so that we will not desire evil nor fall into the same traps. In verses 7-10 Paul continues to remind the reader about the sins of the people of Israel while in the wilderness. They were idolators and were judged. They committed sexual immorality and were judged. They complained and were judged. Look at verse 11. Yet again we are told that these things happened as examples as well as to teach us. We are to learn from the failure of Israel. What are we supposed to learn? This brings us to our text that we read a moment ago.
The Warning (10:12)
So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.
Paul begins with our potential problem. When we think we are spiritually successful and spiritually cruising along, there is a higher chance for failure. When you think you are standing strong, temptation will certainly be coming for you soon. If we think about it, we are tempted in numerous ways every day. Let’s just think about this from the perspective of some of the lessons we have done in the last month. Every day we are tempted to be selfish. Every day we are tempted to not be truthful and honest. Every day we are tempted to be angry and express our anger sinfully. Every day we are tempted to say words that do not build up, are not helpful for the moment, nor give grace to the hearer. We need to see that we are surrounded by pitfalls. We can use the context of this passage to see our daily temptations. We are tempted every day to complain. We are tempted to put our desires and comforts ahead of knowing God. We are tempted to sexual immorality and sexual sins. When we think about it, it can feel like every step of the day has all kinds of temptations thrown at us. But if we are going to experience myriads of temptations and we are given the example of Israel who failed in the wilderness, how can we have hope in our temptations and trials? This is where Paul comes to in verse 13.
Hope When Tempted and Tried (10:13)
First, your fight against temptations is common to all people. Everyone goes through the same kinds of temptations as you do. This is not to diminish what you are experiencing, but to help you understand that you are not alone. Sometimes the church can feel like the place where the sin-free gather. We can feel like we are the only ones who are struggling with our faith. We can feel like we are the only ones who are struggling with sins. Sometimes we can come to worship and feel like this all the more because it looks like everyone around us has their lives all put together except me. So here is the truth: we all have the same struggles, same issues, and same fights as everyone else in the room. You are not alone in what you are going through. Perhaps this is when we feel the most hopeless: when we feel alone. Another important reason for our gathering in worship is so that we can see that we are not alone. Everyone here has messed up lives but loves Jesus and are trying to follow him. So we can begin with hope by understanding that we are all in the same boat. We are suffering against temptations. No one here is perfect. No one here is even close. All of us have messed up lives that dealing with regular assaults from the tempter.
Second, God is faithful to you and your fight. No temptation and no trial is impossible. When Paul says that God will not let you be tempted or tried beyond what you are able to bear, I do not believe the point is to say that the trial or temptation won’t crush you. I do not think this is the point nor do I think that this is true. The scriptures, particularly in the Psalms, talk about a life that is weighed down, burdened, and crushed by the trials. The point is not that life is going to be easy. The point is not that you not be slammed hard by the trials and temptations that come to you. The point is that no temptation is irresistible and no trial has to result in failure. You are not doomed to fail at temptations again and again. To put this another way: God has not set you up to fail. You are not destined for failure. You do not have to sin. You do not have to give in to the temptations that come. God is not casting you to the wolves, so to speak, but is faithful to you. While failure is always an option, it is not the only option. God is faithful to you. The temptation or the trial is not beyond your ability to handle.
Third, you do not have to fail again. God’s faithfulness also includes providing a way out of the temptation. Temptation is not irresistible and there is a way to succeed. There is a way of escape given to us. We do not have to fail again. Look for a way out. We do not have to obey our desires. We do not have to give in. But there is always something we can do so that we can get out of the situation. You might remember that we looked at this idea when we looked at David’s failure in our Sunday night series. David happens to be on the rooftop and sees Bathsheba bathing. No one has done anything wrong at this point. But there were so many ways of escape that God provided that David did not take. David could have gone back inside, but kept looking. David could have gone back to what he was doing before he saw her, but instead inquired about who see was. David could have left it at that but then he has his servant bring her to him. Even still, David could have avoided his sin and sent her away, realizing the path he was walking. But he commits sin with her instead. So many chances were given to David to stop. But he did not take them. God is faithful to us and gives us so many chances to stop. Sin does not just happen. We like to paint it that way. We like to say that “one thing led to another” as if it was simply impossible to stop what was going to happen. But God is faithful and it was not impossible to stop and there were plenty of ways to escape. We simply did not want the temptation to stop and commit the sin. We can put down these phones. We can change the channel. We can turn off the computer. We can make ourselves accountable. We can say no. The devil did not make us do it. The point to the context of Israel’s history is that they fell in the wilderness, but they did not have to. This is hope for us. You fell, but you did not have to and you not have to in the future. You can endure what is being thrown at you.
The same faithfulness is seen in a trial. God provides the help we need to get through the trials we face. He does not leave us alone in our struggle. The Greek word translated “way out” or “way of escape” also means successful endurance or end. Even when you are in your darkest moments and in your darkest days, God is there for you. Take another step with him today and who knows what way out may be there for you tomorrow. Look for God’s comfort. Look for God’s help. Look for God’s way through the trial.
Flee Idolatry (10:14)
Look at the conclusion the apostle Paul draws from this in verse 14.
So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
This instruction connects the whole of the paragraph together. Look back at verses 6-7. The issue for Israel was that they desired to do evil things. They had their idols and they gave into those temptations. They fell because they kept their idols and did not trust the rock, which was Christ (10:3-5). So think about what the apostle Paul is asking us to do. He is asking us to identify our idols and run from them. Identify those temptation areas and set yourself up for success, not failure. We need to identify our trouble areas. We need to look at our weakness areas. We just need to be honest about these areas. Do not feel bad about these areas because we were just told that there is no temptation that is not common to all. Other people are struggling with the same struggles as you. You are not alone.
But we cannot leave it there. It is too easy to leave it right there. We can say we are only human and just give in our idols. But God is telling us that we do not have to do this. We can win the battle with God’s help. This is another area where we really need to be honest. Do we really want to stop sinning? Do we really want to overcome? Do we say we want to but really do not want to make the changes necessary to have victory?
Then, we need to prepare our ways of escape. There are things that we can do so that we do not have to fail in the next temptation. A typical temptation takes a God-given desire or need and tells us to fulfill that desire in ways that God does not approve. So think about the last temptation where you failed. Consider what the desire is that the temptation is attacking. Then determine what is God’s way of fulfilling that desire so that we do not sin. Then prepare to use that as the alternative solution for when the temptation arises. God is faithful and has solutions for your struggle. He is providing a way out for you. We must be ready to look for it and take it.
Finally, we need to realize that every temptation is a test of our faith. Every temptation is testing if we believe in God’s promises, if we believe in God’s faithfulness, and if we believe that God’s way is far better than what the temptation offers. Do we believe what God is telling us — that God’s way is the way to true joy and lasting satisfaction? Run from the idols in your heart.
Israel fell in the wilderness, even with all the blessings that they experienced from the Lord. It is possible for us to fall as well as we journey on our way to the promised land. If we think we are going to stand without issue, then watch out unless we fall like them. I have seen so many people fall and it pains my heart just as it pains your heart. Do not be next. Do not let your idols get control of your life so that you fall short of all that God has in store for you. There is hope when you are tempted and tried. You are in a fight. You are not alone in the fight. God is faithful to you in your fight. You do not have to fail again.