“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…” (1 Corinthians 10:13a).
I’ve known this verse since I was a child. My parents helped me memorize it. I’ve always taken the idea in this portion to mean that I’m not the only person in human history that ever wanted to do the bad thing I wanted to do—I guess that could be comforting—but I recently stumbled across a definition of temptation that really took the wheel clamp off this verse for me.
In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers said, “Temptation is a suggested short-cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim—not toward what I understand as evil, but what I understand as good.”
Wow. This makes so much sense!
I don’t think any child of God really wants to do bad things. As the apostle John wrote, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). When children of God sin, it grieves the Holy Spirit within them (Ephesians 4:30); it literally hurts their hearts. This being true, children of God don’t go looking for ways to rebel. That desire dies with the old self the moment our souls are reborn by putting our faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts (2 Corinthians 5:17).
No, I think children of God have trouble resisting temptation mainly because we don’t fully understand what it is we are aiming for or how to get there. This lack of awareness and intentionality leaves us open to the attacks of the Enemy. Because our flesh is weak and our hearts are not fully resolved (Mark 14:38), we are enticed and led astray.
The solution, then, would be to determine what is actually good and aim for that, wouldn’t it? After all, good is what God wants for us. The apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The problem is, God’s idea of good and our idea of good are often two very different things.
Our idea of good tends to skew toward what benefits us and those we care about here and now in obvious ways: health, wealth, power, influence, favor, justice served this side of eternity, etc. Although God is gracious enough to grant us these gifts sometimes, His idea of good is more transcendent. God’s idea of good is His own glory. It is His ultimate purpose in all things.
God creates, saves, and empowers people to demonstrate to the world His nature and character so that He might receive the praise and recognition He deserves for being Who He is and for doing what He has done (Isaiah 43:7, 10-11, 21, 25; Philippians 2:13). This is only right, as He is the One True God (Isaiah 44:6), but what many don’t realize is that God’s good is also the best good of “those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
You see, God’s children stand to inherit His Kingdom someday as coheirs with Jesus Himself (Romans 8:17), and that Kingdom grows every time God is glorified like He wants to be and people put their faith in Jesus’s death for salvation from sin and resurrection for eternal life. What serves God serves us as well because He is our provision now and forever. Even if it didn’t, God still deserves to be glorified, and those who truly know Him rejoice when it happens, whether or not they get anything tangible out of it.
Once we identify the good God has called us to and make God’s glory our purpose in all things, temptation loses its power to a certain degree. The Enemy’s arguments become easier to recognize—any suggestion that serves self or others before God is a sure-fire invitation to err—and how we do something becomes just as important as what we do.
“But God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13b).
When I was a child, I thought the way to escape mentioned in this verse varied with the temptation and situation. Like, if you were tempted to gossip, God might start a fire drill or provide a piece of cake for you to take a bite of or something like that—which He could do, I guess—but now I understand that the way to escape mentioned here is actually a one-size-fits-all solution to every temptation.
All we have to do to resist temptation is obey God’s commands according to His Word, the Bible, with intentionality and consistency. Note: if the advice or urge you want to heed isn’t in the Bible, it’s NOT His command, even if it sounds exciting, effective, or moral. The Enemy is a tricky one, so check everything twice!
God’s commands always serve His glory, so even when you don’t understand what He’s doing or why, you can play an active role in bringing about guaranteed eternal good just by doing what you know He’s told you to do. Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about being thrown off course by the Enemy if you are intentionally focused on and actively walking with God. You won’t always get it right, of course, but God stands ready to forgive when you fall short (1 John 1:9), and the better you know your Bible, the better chance you have of recognizing temptation when it sneaks up on you and resisting it (Psalm 119:105).
Now, it could be that what you want in or out of a particular situation lines up with what God wants. If so, that’s great, but be careful! It is very possible to do the right thing the wrong way and rob God of the glory He could have received if you had chosen to do things His way in His timing by His power. Disobedience is disobedience. Don’t sabotage your own efforts by running ahead and/or coming up with your own work-arounds. Stay the course!
Believe me, I know it’s hard to wait for something that you believe to be God’s will to come about, but if we truly believe that God is Who He says He is and that He will bring His glory about one way or another like He promised (Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 46:11; 48:11) AND if His glory means as much to us as it does to Him, then we will let God be God and keep obeying. We will do so even when our cause seems God-honoring, emotions are running high, what we want to do makes more sense to us than what God’s Word tells us to do, and/or we are aren’t exactly enthusiastic about the long-game approach to resolution God seems to be taking. Our obedience will demonstrate the love we profess for God and others in a very real way (1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 1:5-6), In the end, our faith will defeat the Enemy, who flees from those who resist him, and overcome the world (James 4:7; 1 John 5:4).
Simple, right? Piece of cake.