1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 66
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|All sin is idolatry. Idolatry is simply a choice not to obey God and to obey our flesh. Remember in Matthew 6 Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters.”|
1 Corinthians 10:13
Comfort in the Midst of Temptation
When you study Scripture, don’t just grab a verse, but you stay in the context. How many times we memorize Scripture, and that is good, but we never memorize Scripture in the context from which it comes. Therefore, we grow up with verses but also with a misunderstanding of how those verses fit the lifestyle that God has given to us.
So the context began in chapter 8 as Paul was dealing with the spiritual ones in the sense of they had experienced God, they understood grace. They are not the weak ones, they are the strong ones. He addresses them and has been addressing them ever since.
Now we are going to focus on 1 Corinthians 10:13 and the fact that all sin is idolatry. Now that is tough, isn’t it? All sin is idolatry. Idolatry is simply a choice not to obey God and to obey our flesh. Remember in Matthew 6 Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters.” There are only two choices. Now one of them that he mentions there is mammon, of course, mammon being money. But we know that money is not the problem. We know that the love of money is. It takes it back to flesh, to self. And so man has a choice: either serve God, surrendered to Him, or the worship his flesh, which is the epitome of idolatry. All of us are going to be tempted toward idolatry. We are going to be tempted to crave evil things as Israel did, the things that the flesh desires. We will be tempted to adulterate our faith. That is what happens. When you are not surrendered to Christ, then you have adulterated your faith. You’ve gone apart from Him, you have trusted in something other than Him. We are all tempted to attach ourselves to someone or something other than Jesus Christ. Every one of us is tempted that way.
How do you know somebody is doing this? It will be seen in their attitude toward their circumstances, specifically by the murmuring that someone does toward what is going on in their life. You see, that means they are not trusting God. If you are trusting God, you know God is in charge of the circumstance. So whatever comes your way, you can just get up under Him and know that He not only created all things, He sustains all things. But if a person is living in idolatry, he is worshiping in his flesh instead of worshiping God, instead of surrendering to Him. It is going to surface and it will surface in the way life deals its circumstances to him.
And in our text, 10:10, Paul speaks of Israel in the same manner, but the murmuring is not just against their circumstances. Their circumstances led them to murmur against the leaders God had placed over them, against the authority that God had placed over them. Isn’t that interesting how that person murmurs and grumbles about his circumstances? That even is seen in an intensified way of murmuring against the leadership God has placed over him. If you are not trusting God, obviously it is up to you to figure out your circumstances, it is up to you for your opinions towards the leadership God has given to you.
Well, by doing this, we tempt God. Now that is what tempting God is. The word “tempt” means we erode His character to people around us. If I am going to live worshiping my flesh, if I am going to live doing what my flesh wants, then it is going to surface in my life. And when it begins to surface in my life, by what I say, my murmuring, my complaining, my distrust of authority that God has placed over me, what happens to the people around me who aren’t Christians is, it erodes in their mind the view that I was supposed to be giving to them. They say, “You know, that person talks a good game, but I listen to him, I hear him and I realize that person is not trusting God. That person gripes, complains and murmurs about everything, even the leadership that God has placed over him.” So we have no more witness to anybody that is around us. Just like Israel, just exactly like Israel.
You know, when you study Israel you learn a lot about yourself. I learned a lot about myself. Israel is the vine of flesh in the Old Testament. You see, they experienced the power of God, as we studied earlier in chapter 10. They experienced the privilege and the provision of God. And yet when it came down to the difficult circumstances, they took the matter into their own hands. And that’s when it began to surface that they had made a choice. They had made a choice not to go on obeying God. They made a choice to obey their own flesh and, as the last few verses of chapter 9 said, they disqualified themselves. They benched themselves. They missed out on everything that God had for them. So the whole key for us is not to sin, not to bow before the flesh, but to bow before God, to surrender to Him.
As we have seen, Paul uses Israel in chapter 10 to warn the Corinthian believers against idolatry. That is what was going on in Corinth. He says, “Listen, let me just get off of your case for a minute and let me show you Israel and let me show you how Israel relates to you, Corinthians. I want to show you where you failed, they have also failed.” In verse 11 he again points to the fact that what happened to Israel is for all of our benefit. He says in verse 11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
The word for “instruction” there is a word that is a little more intense than just simple instruction. It is the word that means warning. It is a warning. It has the root idea of encouraging somebody to the point of changing their behavior. So Paul says, “The reason I am bringing up the things that happened to Israel is I want you to change your behavior. I don’t want you to continue to miss out on what God has for you. Just like Israel, you have chosen to become idolatrous. You have craved evil things of the flesh and therefore, you are upside down. Now quit doing that. Change your behavior.”
Paul speaks of himself and the Corinthian believers in verse 11 as those upon whom the ends of the ages have come. That is an important phrase to understand. Telos means the accomplishment of something, when something finally comes to an end. You know, you run a race and you have an end to that race, as Paul talked about in chapter 9. That is telos. It is the word that means “I started and now I have come to the finish line.” He is saying the ages have come to an end. We are living in the ends of the ages.
“Have come” is the word katantao. It means to arrive somewhere. In other words, you have arrived. The ends of the ages have arrived, and you are here in it. Paul says to those of us “upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” Isn’t that interesting? Paul put himself into that way back yonder. Where does that put us today? In the ends of the ages.
The last days, of course, are when Jesus came to this earth. Did you know that? Look in Hebrews 1:2. When did the last days start? They started when Jesus came to this earth. Remember, this world has been around for a while. So the apostle Paul could easily say to those people in Corinth, “To those of us whom the ends of the ages have come.” All of the ages now are coming to their consummation. There is a finish line beginning to come more and more in sight.
Hebrews 1:2, speaking of God the Father, says, “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” “In these last days,” he said. The word for “last” is the word eschatos, which means the extreme or the remote end of something. So here we are thinking the last days are coming, but the last days began when Jesus came.
It is amazing how we sing, “The King Is Coming,” and none of us really believe the urgency of that. We need to cling to that understanding. That is why John says in his epistle, “If you have this hope in you, you will purify yourself because you really do believe that we are living in the ends of the ages.” That alone should be warning enough to attach ourselves to Christ.
I don’t know what it is going to take in my life, I don’t know what it is going to take in your life, but isn’t it amazing how much we can know this truth, how quickly our flesh will respond, how quickly we will give into the idolatrous whims of the flesh? Paul’s whole context has been, “Don’t miss out on what God has for you. Don’t attach yourself to the flesh. It is not worth it. Look at Israel. Only two of them made it into Canaan. Don’t do that. There are things that God wants to bless you with now. Hey, we are not talking about your salvation. You have that in Christ Jesus, but attach the way you received Him, walk ye in Him, so that you won’t miss out on what God has for your life.”
Are we all listening? We can’t play around with this thing called Christianity. This is no game. Choices are there every day of our life. We are constantly put on the line to make a choice, either to serve Christ or serve your flesh. Paul says, “Don’t fall into the trap that Israel fell into.” Corinth had already fallen into it, and he is trying to get them out of it because it is going to be so costly in the long run. Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to stray, remember that? Keep you longer than you ever intended to stay and cost you more than you ever dreamed you would pay. That’s the direction of idolatry. When a person chooses not to surrender to Christ, he disqualifies himself from the blessings that were his already in Christ Jesus.
Well, Paul says in verse 12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” How many times we think because of our knowledge we must be standing. Not necessarily. The Corinthians had knowledge, but they weren’t standing. They were upside down.
Verse 13 is our key verse. He says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” You may be going through a trial. You may be going through something that you feel like nobody could understand. The main tool of the devil is to isolate you to where you think that you are by yourself. Nobody else knows what you are going through. Well, I want you to know from this verse, you need to think again, because you are not going through anything that is not common to all men. There are different degrees and different times, and not every person faces every single temptation, but all men face the same kinds of temptations.
The apostle Paul is going to give us a word of comfort in the midst of temptation. There are three things I want us to look at. Let’s begin there in verse 13. First of all, there are no exceptions when it comes to facing temptation. There are no exceptions. Some people say, “Oh, man, if you just quote this verse and pray this prayer, you won’t have to deal with temptation.” Yes, you will deal with temptation. There are no exceptions.
Verse 13 reads again, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” That is the common denominator that draws every one of us together. Other than Jesus there is another common denominator, and that is temptation which is common to every one of us. Every man and woman alive struggles and falls to the same kinds of temptation. The word for “common” is the word anthropinos, which means that which belongs to man, that which all mankind can relate to.
So, whatever it is you are dealing with, there is somebody else already dealing with the very same thing. You are not alone. It is not as if you have been singled out. All of us deal with the same kinds of temptation.
The word for “temptation” is a difficult word. It is the word peirasmos. Now that is an interesting word. The context will rule as to whether it is a negative connotation to the word or whether it is a positive connotation to the word. Let me explain that.
In James 1:2 it says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” The word “trials” there is the word peirasmos. Very obviously these trials are for our good. If a person will respond by faith, we know in verse 3 it is just a testing of our faith. That’s all it is. God will prove not only Himself, but He will prove the believer in the midst of whatever it is he has to face.
But then drop down in James 1:13 and he says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” The word for “tempt” is the same word for “trial” in verse 2. So you have a positive connotation and a negative connotation. You know that being tempted to do evil, to crave evil things, to be idolatrous, is not from God. But we also know that in the midst of the temptation, there is something else that is going on that is good. You see, in my view, temptation is a neutral experience. In the midst of it, God is using that difficult situation, that circumstance in your life, first of all to test you, to prove you, to build your faith, if you will properly respond to it. But at the very same time, the flesh is craving the evil way, it is craving the way of the world. There is a head locking contest going on here. And the fact of which one it turns out in your life is the way you respond.
So when you talk about the temptation here, remember, at the same time the temptation is going on, there is also a testing going on. God is simply saying, “Obey Me. Bow, surrender.” But on the other side the flesh is saying, “I don’t want to. I don’t deserve this. I want to go my own way.” That is the conflict that goes on in the midst of these trials that we all have to go through, all of us have to go through.
Well, in the context of 1 Corinthians we realize that Paul’s emphasis here at the first part of the verse is on the negative end of that temptation. He speaks of that bait that is out there that somehow is luring us to crave after evil things, whatever that bait is. Whatever baits, in the midst of a difficult circumstance, that pulls his flesh into doing and craving evil things, that is the same bait every one of us have to deal with. There is nothing new under the sun. All of us have the same kinds of temptations.
Verse 13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” Now the word “overtaken” to me gives us a clue as to what he is talking about here. The word in the King James Version is simply “taken you.” We see “overtaken” in the New American Standard and I think that is more of the sense of what he is saying. The word is lambano.
The form of this word is only found in one other place in all of scripture. It is found in Revelation 8:5. It says, “And the angel took the censor [that is the exact same word] and he filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth.” In other words, the angel took the censor in his hand. He grasped it and held it in his hand. It was his possession. The angel took the censor.
Here it says the temptation has taken you. Now there is a sense of the way you have to deal with temptation, but there is also the sense that when the temptation has now overtaken you, it has you in its grasp. Paul is saying, “Listen, you Corinthians have failed. But I have just shown you that Israel also failed. I am trying to show you that there is comfort in the midst of this failure. Everybody around you has failed in some kind of temptation very similar to what you fell into.”
We know the situation at Corinth. Some are of Apollos, some are of Paul, some are of Cephas. They failed. They have chosen to obey their flesh. Like babies, they won’t grow up. So the apostle Paul is saying, “Hey, concerning this temptation that has overtaken you, it has you in its grasp, you have yielded the wrong way, you have gone the negative route, you’ve allowed your flesh to respond to it.” To me he is about to give some comfort to those who have failed as a result of all of that. He comforts them by letting them know that every believer has failed similarly in different situations in their life. “There is no temptation that has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”
You know, folks, I honestly believe that term discipleship, what we have done over the years, could have been the most detrimental thing we have ever done in our life, because we have led people to think that there is an arrival point. And friend, I want to tell you something, Christianity is not an arrival, it is a pursuit. The same things you thought you learned 20 years ago are the very things giving you trouble today. It is not a matter of fact that we possess truth. It is that truth must possess us and be honest about it. Every one of us has failed when it comes to temptations.
There is hope when we face temptations
So Paul says to the Corinthians, “Listen, concerning the temptation which has overtaken you.” That is important for us to see. Every one of us can fit into that scenario. Well, not only is there something that we have in common as we face temptations, but secondly, there is always hope when we face temptation. Paul is trying to pull them out of the understanding of their failures. He is trying to put them in a position to where they can understand where their victory comes from. How can I be in the midst of all the things that I have to deal with and how can I come out right on the other side? He is going to show you.
He says in verse 13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” Then he mentions the first thing that you have to anchor to. He says, “and God is faithful.” Now, folks, let’s not go any farther. That is where you start. Is God faithful or is He not? The person who chooses not to submit to God announces to the world that he believes God is not faithful. That is his announcement; that is what erodes the very character of God. But that doesn’t change anything. God is faithful, no matter how we are living to present an image that He is faithful. He is faithful regardless. That is who He is. That is His character.
“And God is faithful.” There is no verb there. When the Greek construction says something like that and leaves the verb out of it, that just raises it up and elevates it even more. It is like it puts it in concrete and it announces to the world there has never been a time when God was not faithful. There is not a time now and never will be a time when God is not faithful. He is faithful.
Now what does the word “faithful,” pistos, mean? Faithful means worthy of putting our trust, worthy of our belief, worthy of me putting all my confidence into Him. Sin is when I put my confidence in my flesh. But when I obey I put my confidence into Him. God is always faithful. He is worthy, Paul is saying to me, “In the midst of your temptations when you cannot figure out what is going, He is always worthy. Anchor to Him. He will never let you down.”
That is the whole point. We’ve got to start there. Do we believe God is faithful? We are all going to have the same common temptations and we all are going to fail in those temptations and many times have victory. It doesn’t mean constant failure, but we are all going to have to deal with that. Accompanied with those temptations is the fact that God is worthy of our confidence. That is two truths that you have got to put side by side. In the midst of the fact that we are all going to suffer the same type of temptations, accompanied with that is that God is faithful.
Paul, early in the letter to the church at Corinth, had already addressed this, back in 1:9. This is not something new. He is just going back and rehearsing what he has already said. And as he talks about what the Christian ought to be, how to live right side up, he announces, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” If you ever want to look at the faithfulness of God, go back to the fact and see that He was so faithful that He called you into fellowship with His Son, Christ Jesus. If He wasn’t faithful, you wouldn’t be here today. He is faithful to His character, to what His purposes are. He is faithful.
In a very similar passage, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. Look over in 2 Thessalonians 3:3. I want you to see this, because continually through the New Testament you find this phrase, God is faithful. You’ve got to lock that down before we can go any further. In the midst of temptation, whatever it is you are going through, stop isolating yourself and saying nobody understands me. Everybody around you understands to some degree because we all have to face the same type of thing. That is a cop out. That is a fleshly way out. Instead, come to the basis of truth. God is faithful.
Second Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful.” Now look at what He will do, “and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” It is almost identical to what he is dealing with there in Corinthians.
Over in 2 Timothy 2:13 he is reminding Timothy, his son in the faith who is ministering there in Ephesus, of something. He says, “If we are faithless.” I love that. This is a beautiful contrast here. God’s faithfulness has nothing to do with my faithlessness. He says, “He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” So even when I don’t believe Him, even when I don’t trust Him and even when I am turning towards my flesh, God is still faithful. He cannot deny who He is. He is faithful to chasten and discipline and scourge those who are His own. He is faithful. He never stops being who He is, even though we are the faithless ones.
Look over at what the author of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 10:23. These passages would be good to mark in your Bible just to keep because these are pillars that everything rests upon. When you are going through difficult times and you can’t reason it out and you can’t figure it out and you are failing half the time by giving into your whims of your flesh, turn to them. The author of Hebrews exhorts the people that he is writing to. He says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Our hope is not only in the presence of Christ but the coming of Christ, the presence of Christ in me and the hope and the certainty of that. He says, “Let us hold fast to that confession.” No matter what you are going through, hold fast. He says, “for He who promised is faithful.”
I tell you what, friend, that is an anchor there. When you are going through difficult times and your flesh is pulling you to respond and become idolatrous, adulterate your faith, to prostitute your walk with God by latching on to what it wants to do rather than what God wants you to do, at that time, you throw that anchor on the fact that He that promised is faithful. And I know what is coming. I know He has already sent His Spirit to live in me and I am going to stand on that. I am going to cling to Him.
Look at 1 Peter 4:19. Peter was exhorting those persecuted believers in Asia Minor. And they were suffering. This was the worst time of suffering that you can find anywhere in the New Testament. It is very, very imperative that we understand the heat of the moment. And when you think you are being tempted and you are in a situation that nobody else can understand, I want to tell you something, He will put you right beside the people of Asia Minor during the time of this writing. Nero had burned Rome and blamed the Christians for it and now he is burning Christians. He put them on posts and doused them in oil and burned them for torches while they had their orgies. He put them in animal skins and put them in arenas and people would come to watch the animals eat them alive. This was a tough day. And yet the Christians would walk out into those arenas, knowing what was going to happen, singing the great choruses and the hymns of faith. And the people marveled, “How could they do that?” Because they were locked on to something.
Look here in 1 Peter 4:19. “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” I tell you what, that knocks a blow to the people who say we are not supposed to suffer if we know the Lord Jesus Christ. Because He is faithful; His character is impeccable.
Look at Revelation 19:11. I tell you what, this doesn’t mean anything until you are at the end of yourself, until you are in a situation that you cannot understand, you can’t comprehend, and your flesh is telling you all kinds of things. But God, as a pillar in your life, is saying, “Are you trusting Me or are you trusting your flesh?” This is when it begins to help you. I love this. “And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” Boy, He is faithful all the way through. He is impeccable.
Now why in the world would a person become idolatrous? Why did Corinth become idolatrous? Why would they not grow up in their faith? Why would they not anchor themselves to Christ and His Word? Why did Israel do that? Listen, all of us have to face the same temptations and the pull of the flesh doesn’t get any better. Thank God, the Spirit of God is never changing. He is never changing. God is faithful. You’ve got to anchor that down or you will not go any further in the verse.
The first thing he wants you to know is there are no exceptions when it comes to temptations, but then he wants you to know that when you face these temptations, there is something you really need to latch on to, our God is faithful. Now Paul goes on to describe what God is faithful to do for us when we are tempted, when the heat is turned up and we are tempted.
Verse 13 goes on to say, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful.” Now watch. There are two things he mentions. First of all, God can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. He says, “and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” Now, He is worthy of our total confidence, and we can be confident of this very thing. He can be trusted never to let us go through something we are not able to endure. Have you ever been going through a trial and you got to a point and said, “I cannot take any more”? Yes, we have all been there. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.
The word for “allow,” now this is important, is the word eao. It means to permit or to allow. But now wait a minute. Let’s take it another step. The other step is, somebody is in authority and that authority chooses not to allow something to take place because he has the authority to do that. Now that is what is exactly here. God is in control of whatever is going on in my life. He is in control. He is an authority and He chooses not to allow anything to come into my life beyond what I am able to endure.
The word “not” is ou. It means not in any way, shape or form. God is in charge of all that takes place. He will not in any way, shape or form let anything come into my life that I cannot endure.
“[A]nd God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond.” The word “beyond” is a good translation of the word huper. It means above or beyond, outside the realm of. The verse goes on, “what you are able.” And the word “able” refers to my power and my ability.
Careful, careful, because you are going to have to hinge this whole verse together or you will miss it. The first truth is, God is faithful. Now He is faithful to do what? You can always trust Him never to put anything on me that is beyond, out of the limits of what I am able to endure. So what does He do?
Well, look at the second part of it and you will begin to understand. God can be trusted to give us ability to endure whatever temptation we are facing. You see, God knows something. Have you ever tried to tell Him, “God, this is what I cannot do,” as if you are going to tell Him something He doesn’t know. God already knows that. But what He is going to do is give you the ability to do what you cannot do. We attach ourselves to Him in the midst of temptation. That is the time we begin to discover the difference in what I can’t do and the difference in what He can do. So all of a sudden, it doesn’t become a matter of rating temptation as to what is the heaviest for me; all of a sudden it becomes a matter of if I am surrendering to Him. There is nothing that can come into my life that He will not enable me to go through.
Look at the verse. He says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also [watch out now] that you may be able to endure it.”
Now the first thing you’ve got to realize here is He doesn’t deliver us from it. It looks that way at first reading. He doesn’t deliver you from anything. He delivers you in the midst of it. He already knows what we cannot do. Trials, as a matter of fact, James shares, drives us to the point of admitting what we cannot do. When we cry out to Him, that’s when He does in us and through us what we couldn’t have done to begin with. This is the whole thing.
What Paul is saying is, “God is not going to lift the temptation. God is not going to water it down. God is going to leave the temptation like it is.” That doesn’t change, but we change in the midst of it when we begin to realize what He can do as opposed to what we can do.
Look at the phrase, “but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also.” The word “with” is the word sun. That word is used with intimacy. There is something intimately related to this truth that we all have to deal with temptation. What is intimately related to it? That in all temptation, no matter what the trial is, no matter how heavy it is, God in us will give us ability that we don’t have and deliver us, not from it, but deliver through it. This is critical.
He says, God “will provide the way of escape also.” The word for “provide is poieo, which means to bring something into being. To me the idea is to make it obvious to me. When I am going through a difficult time and my mind is screaming at me for my flesh to either run from it or to try to figure it out or help God out, the Spirit of God is making something obvious to me. And what He is making obvious to me is that is not the route to go. “Come this way. Trust Me.” I yell, “But I don’t understand!” And He says, “Whoever said you needed to understand. You just do what I tell you to do and you will begin to realize what I and only I can do in and through you.”
“[B]ut with the temptation will provide a way of escape also.” Now the word for “escape” is ekbasis; ek, out of, and basis means to go, a going out of and escaping something. That can mislead you right there. “I am going to get to escape this.” What you are escaping is the inevitability of realizing what you can’t do. Thank God, I can escape that route. But what you are experiencing is His ability.
Look at the last part of the verse, “that you may be able to endure it.” We have an infinitive here which has to do with purpose. God’s way, the purpose of this escape, the purpose of what God is doing is to show us that He can give us the ability to endure. Endure is hupophero. It means to bear up under something that is heavy. It even can be used of something that underpins, like the underpinnings of a bridge, the underpinnings of a building that is holding the whole structure up. He says, “You are able to be that underpinning. You can bear up under no matter how heavy the load comes. God will provide a way.” The temptation, no matter how severe, becomes a platform for us to prove His strength instead of a way to show our failure. Are you with me? He doesn’t deliver you from it, He delivers you through it.
I tell you what, we have this idea that God is going to get us out of something. That is why we pray for healing. Now, it doesn’t mean we can’t pray for healing, but you better be careful here. Remember, God never spares you the pain of living down here, the temptation that is common to man. But He does give you the power to endure whatever it is you need to endure while you are here. There are times He will heal. There are times He will deliver you from it. But His purpose is to deliver you in the midst of it.
I can cling to Him and when I cling to Him, He gives me the ability to endure whatever comes around me. That is what Paul is trying to show the Corinthians. Man, he is trying to give them some comfort. “Hey, guys, you’ve messed up but let me show you how to get it right and not to mess up again. When you get in the midst of those situations, God is faithful. He won’t let you go beyond what you can endure.” That is not even the issue. He is going to give you endurance you didn’t know you had. It is going to be His. And He is not going to deliver you from it, He is going to deliver you through it.
Well, there are no exceptions when we face temptation, so don’t think there is an arrival point you can get to that you will not be tempted. But there is always hope when we face temptation. God promises, if we will learn to attach to Him and not become idolatrous and prostitute our faith by going the route of the flesh, we can tap into His endurance and find out that He can do in and through us what we could have never done ourselves.
Therefore, flee from idolatry
But then thirdly, there is one more rule in facing temptation. Putting it all together and coming into verse 14, there is only one thing, the one conclusion you can come to. What is that rule? Verse 14 says, “Therefore.” That word is not really “therefore.” That is part of it. It is a much more intense word. It is the word dioper. It is more than just “therefore.” It is a particle which expresses emphasis. What Paul does, if he was speaking, he would come down on the pulpit and he would hit that pulpit and say, “Now, do you understand the necessity of doing what I am about to tell you.” I mean, it is strong! He has built his case and now he comes down with emphasis.
He says, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” The word “flee” means to run, to escape something. It can mean that, but not in this text: To hastily move from danger to safety. Now we are getting somewhere. It has the idea to avoid idolatry with all steadfastness. In other words, I have got to make up my mind and be diligent as I am going through whatever I am going through. I am not going to trust my flesh. I am not going to do it. And when the flesh rears its head, and I begin to succumb, immediately confess it and resubmit back to the grace and the power that God can give to me, to avoid with all earnestness. “Flee,” he said. It is the same word used in 6:18, only there it meant run from it. That is the word for flee immorality. When it comes to idolatry, it means to avoid it. And the way we avoid it is by surrendering in the midst of whatever is going on, just shucking everything and saying, “God, I surrender to You and to Your Word knowing that others are going through the same thing I am going through. But, Father, let me be a witness and encouragement to them. I am going to surrender to you.”
Over in Matthew 10:23 it is used, but it also means to run. But here it means to avoid, to do whatever is necessary to get out of the sphere of the influence of idolatry. We turn to Christ, we surrender to Him. We don’t adulterate our faith. We don’t prostitute our walk with God by choosing to do what the flesh wants, but simply we surrender to Him.
Now I want to tell you something, this is not natural to your flesh. You have got to learn this discipline. It is the same thing you talked about in chapter 9. Just like a runner has to learn it, you’ve got to learn to deny flesh. Flesh will go one of two ways. It will either rebel or it will seek to do it in its own power, one of the two. Romans teaches us that. So you’ve got to avoid that at all costs. And remember, that is not natural to your flesh. It is unnatural. It is natural to the Spirit. It is the exact opposite of what you think ought to be done outside of God’s Word.
Sometimes when I come to a quick conclusion over something, based on my opinion of how I think and not having been before God and in His Word, I can just about count on the fact that is a bogus opinion. That’s flesh. It is the exact opposite.
I love to snow ski. You know why I had such a hard time learning how to ski? Because everything you do in snow skiing is exactly the reverse of what your mind tells you. It is the hardest thing in the world to figure out. I would be going down the hill and I would lean up the hill because I was afraid of falling down the hill and I would put my weight on my uphill ski and everybody would say, “You are doing it backwards.” What do you mean, backwards? “You don’t lean uphill, you lean downhill.” Downhill! I’m falling downhill! It doesn’t make any sense.
That is exactly the way you walk through trials. Don’t let the natural inclination, your opinion, what you think, don’t let that govern, because if you do, you are going to do exactly what Israel did. Israel knew more than God knew. That is why they griped and murmured. That is why they complained against their leadership. That is what Corinth had done. Corinth had never grown up. Remember chapter 3? They had attached themselves to men instead of attaching themselves to God. And in the midst of this time, Paul gives a comforting word as we walk through temptation.
Well, I don’t know about you, but this has really helped me. It usually helps me more than it ever helps you. I mean there are things going on in my life I don’t know. I can’t figure them out. God just keeps drawing me back to the fact, “You trust Me, you trust Me and go against what the grain of your flesh is telling you because in the middle of it, I am going to prove something to you. I am going to prove what I can do in and through you as opposed to anything you ever thought you could do for me. I am going to give you a way of escape, but it is not from it, it is in the midst of it. You are going to discover Me like you have never known Me before.”
All of us desperately need to come back to the One who is faithful.