“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: 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.”
As young people, you face temptations every day, and every day you respond differently to those temptations. Sometimes we can be proud and think that we are not affected by a certain temptation nearly as much as other people are. We show this pride by focusing on the sins of others and praising ourselves for our piety. God has a word for us in verse 12: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
In other instances we know our weakness and we don’t know how we can be faithful, so we reason: “Why try to resist the temptation? We will just give in to the temptation and we’ll ask for forgiveness later. Even the Israelites, who had special miracles and wonders from God, could not stand. So, how can I?” At yet other times our response is that of despair. We become overwhelmed with all that is going on in our life and we conclude that the only resort is to take our life by suicide. That can be a real and frightening response to the trials and temptations of life. We need to get help immediately when we experience such feelings, and we need to take seriously those who tell us that they feel that the pressures of life are just too great and are tempted to commit suicide.
I Corinthians 10:13 gives us comfort and hope in the face of temptation. Paul assures us that our confidence is not in our strength but in God’s faithfulness. God is faithful! He will uphold all His children in their temptations. That is our confidence with regard to all the situations of life. God will never cause you to be tempted above that you are able! God will always give you a way out of temptation. This way out is by means of faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is your confidence and hope in the midst of temptation.
The word that is translated temptation can refer to either a temptation or a trial. There are important differences between trials and temptations. First, there is a difference with regard to their origins. Temptations come from Satan, according to James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” Trials come from God, as I Peter 4:12, 13 teach. Second, the motivation is different. Temptations are motivated by hatred for God, while trials are motivated by God’s great love for His people. Third, the content differs between trials and temptations. Temptations contain the lie, whereas trials consist of the truth. Fourth, the purpose and goal of trials and temptations are the opposite of one another. Temptations are aimed to destroy, while trials are designed to build up and to strengthen. Finally, temptations come upon all men, but trials come only on God’s children.
Even though there is such a striking difference between the two, there is an important relationship between trials and temptations. For God’s people, the same situation that is a trial is also a temptation. You can be tempted by the devil to cheat on a paper, but that temptation is also a test or trial that God is leading you through. Will you be faithful or not? You might have something bad happen to you or someone you love through a trial in which God is testing you, but that same situation the devil uses as a temptation to reject God’s goodness and faithfulness, even to deny God.
God is sovereign over both the trials and the temptations. God gives Satan the power to tempt, and God dictates the limits of the temptation. The case of Job demonstrates this, as God gave to Satan authority to tempt Job; but Satan was not allowed at first to do anything to Job. Later God allowed Satan to touch Job, but not to take his life. This is a great comfort to us personally, as it shows us that God sovereignly uses all trials and temptations to accomplish His holy end of glorifying His name and preparing us for heaven.
Here in I Corinthians 10:13 the passage uses the word temptation to refer to what we described above as temptation. The devil tempts us to sin, making use of the wicked world and our sinful flesh. Satan comes against us with all his hatred for God and those who represent God. He comes to the saints as a roaring lion, knowing that his days are numbered on earth. The peer pressure, psychology, philosophy, gambling, movies, entertainment, and lusts of this world are all enlisted against us. Our personal sins, which daily plague us, are used against us.
In the midst of these powerful temptations, we need comfort. We do not rise up in pride above one another. Each of us has fallen into serious sins that would shame us if they were exposed before our friends and family. You know that you are weak. You know how hard you try to fight sin, and then find yourself going right back to it. You cannot rely on your own strength! In the face of temptation there is one comfort—God is faithful!
What does it mean to you that God is faithful? God’s faithfulness points to the fact that God is unchangeable within Himself. His names testify to this. He is the “I am that I am.” He is the one who claims in Malachi 3:6, “I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” God is faithful to us even when we sin. We are fickle and sinful, as were the Israelites whom the apostle talks about in the first verses of I Corinthians 10. Daily we deny our faithful God. We murmur against God who feeds us, clothes us, and blesses us with all that we have. Just as He continued to love and show compassion to His remnant in Israel even as they proved themselves over and over to be unworthy, He shows His faithfulness to us as members of His covenant people even though we are covenant breakers.
As young people we think that the temptations we face are unique and that no one else is able to understand us. Our parents do not understand us; our teachers don’t; nor do our pastors. No one can imagine how difficult our situation is. When God sends us through difficult ways we are inclined to pity ourselves and to crawl into our own shells, rejecting all offers of assistance from others. God corrects us here with His powerful Word: All are common to man! That is, none is unique. Every temptation that you have ever faced has been faced by others. Your parents and teachers and pastors experienced these same temptations when they were younger. But, even in the case of a unique situation, where no parent or teacher or pastor can directly relate, you have Someone who can—Jesus Christ. He was tempted in every respect like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). God knows how you feel. God knows your situation. God is with you and will preserve you.
Even stronger, God promises that He “will not suffer you to be tempted more than you are able.” God knows exactly what each of us is able to bear. He knows that you can carry nothing on your own. He knows that only a small temptation or trial will cause you to fall. All your trials are carefully crafted by God and tailored to match the strength of your faith. In this way, each of us is individually prepared for his place in God’s kingdom. God requires more out of some, but He also gives them more grace to bear it. At times we may feel as though that which God requires of us is far more than we are able to bear, but God assures us that He will not give us too much. God is not a liar! You can never say that the temptation was too great, it required too much of you, therefore you gave in to the sin. Never may you blame God for your falling into sin. When you fall, it is your fault because you did not look to God for strength!
That God can give us this assurance proves that God is sovereign over all temptation. God has Satan, the wicked world, and our flesh under His control. God ordains that all temptation is for the salvation of His church and His glory. God purifies His children by fire. We see the tremendous power of sin and are brought to abhor it more and more. God brings us to a humble reliance on Him. Psalm 37:24states: “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” The third article of the fifth head of the Canons of Dordt encourages us:
By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and the temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a state of grace, if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms, and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.
God gives us a gracious assurance here that He will be faithful to us in our need. “God will provide an escape.” The Word of God is the only escape from temptation. Knowing the Word of God and applying it to our individual needs and situations is required. This is what you are learning now at home, in school, and in catechism. You need to learn how to apply the Word of God to your life. It is of highest importance that you apply yourself to these studies for God’s sake.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the one through whom we experience the way of escape. He was tempted by the devil with powerful temptations according to His human nature. Christ overcame the temptations by means of the Scriptures, as recorded in Matthew 4. Each time He quoted from the book of Deuteronomy, which set before Israel the need to live as a separate people. And now, we are in Christ. That means that Christ overcomes temptation now through His children. He gives us strength. When we are victorious it is because Christ is victorious. When we fall into sin, it is because we did not look to God. We did not turn to His Word. We tried to stand in our own strength and we stumbled and fell, as will always happen.
The purpose of this way of escape is so that “we will be able to bear it.” God gives us a burden to carry that is too heavy for us. He knows that we can’t carry it by ourselves. The only way we can carry it is by the power of Jesus Christ. You will be able to bear it! Through times of despair and depression and darkness, God provides a light of hope. Abraham offered up Isaac. Joseph overcame the temptation to fornicate, by the strength God gave him. Daniel and his three friends were faithful and did not bow the knee to idolatry. God will also give each of us the strength we need to resist temptation.
There will be times when we do fall into temptation. We will be burned by our sins. God will give us grace to bear the consequences of our fall. And God will use your failures to humble your sinful pride and to teach you that you cannot walk without Him. Cling to Him and His Word!