Victory sounds so … triumphant. And I’m thinking most of us do not feel very triumphant over our temptations, obsessions, downfalls, and addictions.
But I’m also convinced that there are reasons why we fail to be victorious when we could be. In 1 Corinthians 10 Apostle Paul addresses some of the temptations of their day, especially as they related to congregational relationships. He has been pretty plain with them about idolatry, fornication, and grumbling. Then I think he lays out a strategy for dealing with our common problem in temptation… a pathway to victory.
Temptations can trip any Christian. (1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!) Every once in a while, do you get the idea that you’ve whipped your temptation into submission and now no longer have to worry about it? I have a t-shirt from that place. I don’t think temptations are like a child’s shoes that are eventually outgrown. I think they stick around, waiting for an opportune moment to show up. Don’t kid yourself. Only an arrogant person could believe that they are too strong to fall, too smart to fail.
Temptations are common. (1 Corinthians 10:13a No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.) If you’ve ever caught yourself whining, “But you don’t understand how strong this temptation is for me.” It’s time to get real. Do you think you invented that temptation? Think you’re the only one who has discovered this fountain of obsession? This is one reason for the success of support groups for people with common problems … they’re common. One step ahead is to realize that you are not fighting alone.
Temptations are not overwhelming (1 Corinthians 10:13b And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.) I know you want to argue with me about this… I want to argue with me about this. But the truth is that you CAN say ‘No’. We just don’t want to. The very reason something is tempting is because we desire it so. But God has promised that the temptation is not more than we can bear. (Please note that God did not promise here that we would have no burdens heavier than we can bear – a frequently misquoted notion!). God will be with you until you can find your way away from this temptation. “I can’t help myself” is not in your vocabulary. There is no universal law that says you MUST do anything.
Temptations have an escape hatch (1 Corinthians 10:13c But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.) Now there’s a promise worth hanging on to. You know… the way out. Yes, the way out that you previously ignored. But it IS THERE! I’m so certain that it is there that I believe it is a good practice to plan out ahead what you are going to do when you find yourself in a tempting situation. Have a plan. Work the plan. Don’t let the temptation lie to you. Turn your eyes to God.
Temptations Require Running (1 Corinthians 10:14-15 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.) Sometimes the best thing you can do is run. Run away from the situation that is about to overcome you. Run to prayer. Run to a person you can trust. Run to truth. Run to God. If you need to run, there’s no shame in that. We all know where the shame is – when we should have run but didn’t.
Temptations are opportunities for victory. We can use each of these teachings as opportunity for excuse or an opportunity for victory. Haven’t we lived in the shadow of our own defeat for long enough? God wants us to have victory over sin. To do so means to resist and escape temptation. Each time you claim victory over a temptation you become stronger in your power to resist. Never strong enough to relax, but always strong enough to overcome.
In case you think I’m writing this for someone else to read, think again. I need to read this often. I need the reminder that victory really is in Jesus … and He has provided the wisdom and strength I need to live a victorious life. And even if I have faltered and failed today, His mercies are new every morning!
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24
If we follow His will, tomorrow is going to be a powerful and victorious day!
Thanks for reading, John.
Coffee Cup of the Day (I must get one of these!)