1Co 10:13, 14 | The Ministry of Temptation

Text: I Corinthians 10:13, 14

There is something that all of us in this building have in common, no matter who you are or what you are or what your position in life is, how educated you are or how uneducated you are, how spiritual you are, or how carnal you are…there is one experience that all of us have had in common this week. And that is the experience of temptation. The Bible makes it very clear in a number of passages that temptation is the appointed lot of all of us.

Failure to understand the meaning and the ministry of temptation can lead to a great deal of frustration and failure in the Christian life. I think it was about a year ago that we dealt with this passage in the chapter, but I have felt all week the necessity of us taking two verses in this tenth chapter this morning and dealing with them again…because as you and I come to know Jesus in a greater way and as the experience of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3 becomes ours when he said,
“…that I may know Him…that I may come to know Him as I have never known Him before…” there is going to be at the same time greater knowledge of temptation. By that I mean experiential knowledge of temptation.

You are going to be facing more temptation and if you do not understand that there is a ministry of temptation, then as a Christian you’re going to be subject to frustration and failure. So I want you to listen as I read 1 Corinthians 10:13-14…
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that you may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”

There has no temptation taken you…and the word “taken” means “to seize and hang on” and doesn’t that graphically describe some of the temptations you and I have to endure? It not only seizes us suddenly, but it just seems to hang on doggedly and stubbornly. And some of us struggle with the same temptations day after day, month after month, year after year. And we wonder why it is that these things come upon us, and what can be the reason for all of this and why it is that God allows some of these experiences to come to us and if it is God allowing us to do it, or if it is because we are still sinful and is it because we are still not right with God. Many times I have talked with Christians who, when they face severe temptation, their first reaction was, “Well, I must be wrong with God…maybe He isn’t really Lord in my life. Maybe I’m not even saved.”

Now, you need to understand two or three things about temptation if you’re going to enter into the ministry of temptation. And that’s the title of the message this morning. I think it’s remarkable how that everything that God brings into our lives, or allows to come into our lives, has a ministry to perform! Last Sunday morning we talked about the ministry of the thorns. A few months I preached on the ministry of failure. And I praise the Lord this morning that He is such absolute control of all things…circumstances and situations…that everything that happens to me and everything that comes to me performs a ministry…even if it’s tragedy.

This past Saturday…yesterday, as a matter of fact…we had some testimonies at the couples’ retreat. And I was overwhelmed by two or three of the testimonies as young married couples stood and testified of tragedy in their lives…one couple whose child had been run over by a car…another whose child had died of leukemia. And as these couples stood and gave testimony how God used that experience to bring them to Jesus and to bring their home together and to bring them to a full and abundant life I sat there and I thought, “Isn’t it amazing how God can even take the worst things that befall us and use them as a ministry to His glory and for our ultimate good.”

You need to understand this, Christian. Everything that happens to you does not happen because of some impersonal, unknowable fate. It happens because there is a loving Father in heaven who is seeking to work out and carve His purpose in your life. There is a ministry of temptation.

We’re going to say three things about temptation as revealed in these verses this morning.

God permits the experience of temptation.

Notice what the apostle said… “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man but God is faithful who will not suffer (will not allow) you to be tempted above that you are able.” Now, that little expression, “God will not allow you to be tempted” tells me two things.

First of all, it tells me that temptation itself is not a sin. If it were a sin, God would not allow it to come to me. God allows me to be tempted. Temptation itself is not a sin. And I find increasingly that Christians don’t understand this. The devil comes and tempts us and at the same time he accuses us because we’re tempted. He says, “Now, you see…if you were really right with God…if you were really saved, you wouldn’t have those thoughts. That would never occur to you. That desire would never well up within you if you were really right with God.”

But, you need to understand that the temptation itself is no sin. The book of Hebrews says that Jesus Christ was tempted in all points…not a few…but in all points such as we …yet without sin. Jesus was led of the Spirit, driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Jesus was sinless yet He was tempted. And when the devil tempts you, don’t let him bluff you into thinking that that temptation itself is a sin. It is no sin!

But, this also reveals another truth to me. God allows the temptation. He permits the experience of temptation in my life. Now, God Himself tempts no man. God tempts no man. It says He allows the temptation. He Himself does not tempt us. Listen 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. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.”

Now, you say, “Well, what about those expressions in the Old Testament where it says that God tempted Abraham and God tempted Israel?” The word “temptation” is used in two different ways in the Word of God. It is used with the meaning “to entice to evil, to entice someone to sin.” God never tempts anyone in that manner. God never tries to get you to sin. He never entices you to evil. And so, James says that when a man is drawn away to sin…when he has this impulse to sin…to do that thing which is unholy…don’t ever let him accuse God of bringing that temptation.

But temptation is used another way in the Bible… “to put to the test…to try something to see if it is real or not…” Now, God does tempt us in this way. He puts us to the test…1 Peter 1 speaks of the trial or the testing of our faith. In other words, God leads us into experiences to test us and to try us to see if our faith that we profess to have is really genuine.

Abraham had made his profession of faith. He’d said, “Lord, I’m yours. Everything that I possess, everything that I love…I put You above all of that.” And so, God tried his faith and put him to the test. And God does test us and tries our faith, but God never entices us to sin. The enticement to evil never comes from God. But God permits us to be tempted.

Now, why does God permit us to be tempted? What is the ministry of temptation? I think there are two basic reasons God allows you to be tempted and every person here this week has been tempted. Every person has been tempted and some of you have yielded to the temptation and that’s sin. Some of you have been confused by the temptation and it’s caused you to be filled with doubt and uncertainty about your relationship with God. So, why does God allow this temptation to grab hold of me and just hang on doggedly?

There are two reasons…

First of all, God allows us to be tempted to expose us to our weaknesses. Listen to Deuteronomy 8…and God is giving here an explanation why He led the people into that wilderness for forty years. In the Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses says,
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led you these forty years in the wilderness…” Now why did He lead them in the wilderness? “…to humble thee and to prove thee…” The word “prove” means “to examine, to expose” “…to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or not.”

Do you know what the children of Israel had said on one occasion? “…whatever the Lord tells us to do we will do!” And they were lifted up with pride and self-confidence. And God allowed them to be tempted…He permitted the experience of temptation to expose to themselves the sinfulness and the wickedness and the rebellion that was in their hearts.

Do you know that one of the easiest things for a Christian to fall into is spiritual pride and spiritual presumption. And you and I get to the place we think, “I’ve arrived! You other poor creatures, you’ll just have to look with awe upon me because I have arrived. I came. I saw. I conquered all things!” And God says, “Now you don’t realize the wickedness that’s in your own heart.

And you know it’s very difficult for us to see the weakness and the sinfulness that’s in our own heart. So, God allows the devil to tempt us to evil so that we might recognize the sinfulness that’s in my own heart. And everything I am tempted, whether I yield to that temptation or not, the very fact that I can be tempted…the very fact the desire to yield to that temptation convinces me I still have a ways to go. And Paul says in this tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “…take heed lest you fall…” And in Galatians 6, he says, “Brethren, if a brother be overtaken in a fault, you restore him and you watch out because you can do the same thing.”

Once in awhile, you and I get the idea that certain things can never happen to us and this failure that this fellow went through will never happen to me and we have the idea that we’re better than they are and we begin to look with a critical eye and a condemning eye upon them…so God allows us to be tempted to expose to me my own wickedness and my own sinfulness.

But, there’s another reason. And I think this is the best reason and the most comforting reason. God allows us to be tempted, not only to expose us to ourselves, but to enlarge our capacity for God.

He allows us to meet conflicts and difficulties and temptations in order to enlarge our capacity. You know, God meets a person on the level of his capacity. And God will give you as much blessing and God will pour as much of His fullness into you as you’re able to contain. Now listen to Exodus 23: 29-30…God is telling them how He is going to bring them to victory in the land of Canaan. And He says:
“I will not drive them (that’s the enemy) out from thee in one year. (He says it’s going to take longer than a year…Rome was not built in a day and Canaan was not going to be possessed in a year…it’s going to take longer…now why?) “…lest the land become desolate and the beast of the field multiply against thee, by little and little I will drive them out from before thee until thou be increased and inherit the land.”

God said that He was not going to drive all of the enemies out at once. And have you ever wondered why it was that when the people of Israel crossed over Jordan that God did not immediately just drive every enemy? They took it one city at a time…one city at a time… God said, “You’re a small nation. Not only are you small in number, you’re small in spirit. And you don’t really know Me well enough yet to trust Me in every situation and if I were to just completely vacate the land of all enemies, you wouldn’t be strong enough and big enough to hold the ground that I give you. And while you’re waiting to grow up spiritually and statistically, the beast would multiply and they would multiply faster than you multiply and the land would become desolate because there’s not enough of you to occupy the land.”

So, He says, “I’m going to give you victory by victory, as you’re able to take it, as you’re able to contain it.” Now, this is true to the experience of most of us. Man, when we got right with God and we came to that place where we said, “I’m willing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord in my life…” it seems as though every enemy in the land was completely overpowered. And we thought we were big enough to possess the land…we thought we were strong enough that we would never fail…that we would never falter…but you know what happened? The land became desolate and we found out we really weren’t strong enough to take all the blessings that God was giving to us. We really weren’t mature enough to trust Him in all of these things that God was going to do for us.

And so pretty soon, we began to lose ground. Have any of you lost ground spiritually? Have you ever had that experience? Sure you have! You’ve lost ground…because you were not big enough, strong enough, mature enough to hold the ground that God gave you in victory. So, this is the way God works. And some of us are perplexed because we think, “Well, I thought I had victory and today I met an enemy I didn’t know I had! Today, I met an area of my life that I didn’t even know existed!” And sometimes we think maybe we really didn’t mean it when we asked the Lord to come into my life.

NO! God brings you victory one city at a time…little by little…He’s enlarging your capacity for fullness. And as God allows one temptation to come to you and you overcome that temptation that enlarges it just a little bit. That increases you just a little bit. God allows another temptation to come to you. You conquer another city and that gives you time to increase and enlarge just a little bit. And what God is doing in our lives is enlarging our capacity so He can pour more of His fullness and more of His strength and more of His blessings into us.

That’s the ministry of temptation, so when you’re faced with temptation you need to thank God for it. You need to realize that God is doing two things in this temptation…He’s exposing you to the weakness and the sinfulness of your own heart so you won’t be filled with pride and presumption and also He is making you larger so you can receive more of His fullness and more of His love and more of His blessings. So, God permits the experience of temptation.

God prevents extreme temptation.

Now, this is a very comforting statement that the apostle makes…
“…but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted above that ye are able…” “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…”

You don’t ever have an uncommon temptation.
Now, I want you to understand this morning, Christian, that if you ever yield to temptation, it’s your fault. God never allows you to be tempted beyond your ability to bear it. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your capacity…beyond your strength…because God is gradually enlarging you and He is not going to allow the devil to tempt you beyond your capacity to take that temptation and stand against it.

This is why in the third chapter of Genesis, when the devil came to Adam and Eve to tempt them, he came in the form of a snake…in the form of a serpent. I’m convinced that if God had allowed him to come in all of his power and in all of his majesty, Adam and Eve would have had no choice but to fall beneath the tempter. But, you see God had already given to man dominion and rule and control over the reptiles and the serpents and so God said, “Satan, you can tempt My creation but you’re going to have to reduce your potential and you’re going to have to come in the form of a serpent because man has dominion over you and I’m not going to allow Adam and Eve to be tempted above that which they are able.”

Man has dominion over that serpent so he did not have to yield. And I want you to know this morning that because of the blood shed on Calvary you as a child of God have dominion over the devil whether you know it or not and you don’t have to yield. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…” It’s just human. It’s never beyond your strength.

I had a man come to me a year or so ago and he said, “Pastor, I have a problem…maybe you can help me with it.” He said, “I have this problem of bad language.” He said, “I just curse all the time…I can’t help it! I cannot control my tongue. I cannot help it! I curse all the time!”

I said to him, “I’ve never heard you curse. I’ve been around you a great deal. I have never one time heard you say one foul word.” He said, “Oh, no! I wouldn’t around you!” I said, “Well, then, don’t tell me you can’t help yourself! If you can control your language around me you can control it around anybody.”

You see, he thought he was helpless. He thought he just couldn’t help using that kind of language. Now listen, if you can control that language around one person, you can control it around anybody. Don’t say that that’s beyond your strength! It isn’t! I said, “Well, why don’t you use that around me?” He said, “Well, you’re a preacher.” You know, as though that puts me in another category…sub-human or subterranean or something!

Somebody said, “One of the greatest days of my life was when I discovered my pastor was human.” Well, that’s a very discouraging discovery for a great many people. So, he went on to say, “I don’t use that language around you because I have too much respect for you.” I said, “Your problem is you have more respect for a human being than you have Jesus Christ that dwells within you.”

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man and God is faithful…” Do you believe that? God is faithful! He “will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear…” You can endure. When a temptation comes to you, you just thank the Lord… “Thank You, Lord, I’m grateful that this temptation is just common to man and I’m grateful that I’m able to bear it.” And then you thank Him for the next thing.

God provides an escape from temptation.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.”
The Greek word means “moderate…moderate to man.” “…but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that ye are able…” and notice this… “but will with the temptation…” right along with the temptation… “also He will provide a way to escape…”

Every temptation that comes to you has with it a corresponding way of escape. There’s a way out of every temptation. That word “escape” means “a path through a mountain canyon.” And it is a picture of an army that has been stampeded into a box canyon and there they are pinned in. There’s no way out. The only way out is guarded by the enemy. They’re doomed. They’re finished. They’re going to be wiped out. There’s no way of that mountain box canyon. But, as they look, they discover a little opening. They discover a door in the mountain. There is a way to escape! And as they look for it, they discover they can slip out of that box canyon and escape the onslaught.

That’s the word that he uses there. And you may sometimes feel like you’re hemmed in with temptation and you’re just in a valley surrounded by mountains that are too high to climb over. This is the way temptation comes to us. In James 1, it says, “When you fall into temptation…” It’s just like falling into an open grave or falling into a deep hole and there’s no way out! He says, “Listen, I’m faithful. I’ll make a way out! You trust Me! I’ll make a way of escape. You just look for it! There’ll be a door and you can get out of it.”

Now I want to point out something to you that doesn’t come out in your English version of the Bible. Literally, what the apostle says is “but will with the temptation also make the way of escape…” There is a definite article…THE…in front of the word “way”. And the rule of Greek grammar says that when the definite article is used it is referring to a specific and a definite thing. There is always not just a way to escape…there is always the way to escape! Do you know what that way is? Jesus said, “I am the Way!” Jesus is always the Way to escape!

A man came to me yesterday in Colorado. He poured out the problem he had. Oh, it was a heartbreaking problem. He said, “What can I do about it?” I said, “Friend, the first thing is to recognize it’s not your problem. It’s God’s problem.” And the first step in victory is to see that this isn’t my problem, it’s His problem. Jesus dwells within me and every demand that is made upon my life is really a demand made upon Jesus who dwells within me. I said, “Sir, the first step is to see that it is not your problem…you cannot handle it. Don’t try. It is God’s problem and you commit it to Him.”

There is THE way to escape. You say, “How can I escape temptation?” When temptation comes to you, you remember God is faithful and God has toned down this temptation. God has stripped down this temptation. God has limited this temptation. God has policed this temptation, and has made certain this temptation, this particular temptation that is coming to you is not beyond your capacity to take it.

He tailor makes temptations for you…or He lets the devil tailor make it. The devil says, “I want to tempt Job…” God says, “Alright, here’s what you can do. I’ll give you his size and you make it to fit him.” And the devil has to obey the Lord. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a great deal of comfort. And the Father says, “Alright, you can tempt that fellow. Here are his measurements. You make it to fit him. You can’t make it any larger than he is. It’s got to fit him perfectly.” God is faithful! And so when temptation comes I say, “Thank You, Lord, this temptation is tailor made for me. It’s not bigger than I am. It’s not more than I can bear. And I thank You that there’s a way to escape and Jesus, You’re the way…and Jesus this is really Your temptation because You’re my life and You dwell in me and this is my temptation and I’m just going to trust You and let You handle it”

And if we’d come to more and more depend upon the indwelling Christ and rely upon Him and recognize that it’s not your problem, not your difficulty, not even your temptation…but it belongs to Jesus who dwells within you and that’s why He dwells within you…to take all of this…to do your living for you. He not only did my dying for me. He does my living for me! And that’s the way to escape!!

So, he says, “Wherefore my beloved brethren, flee from idolatry.” When you see the EXIT…run, don’t walk to the nearest EXIT. When you see the way God has given you to get out of temptation…you flee…you run from the face of temptation and idolatry. You say, “Well, Preacher, what if I do yield? What if I do fail?” Well, no cause for permanent defeat…1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I think God has just taken care of everything!

There is just no way that the Christian who knows this Book can miss out and lose! If the temptation comes to me, and it will, it is not more than I can take and Jesus will provide escape. If I do fail and I do yield to that temptation, I can go to the Father, confess that sin…I am forgiven and I can still stand in His presence. And God has just taken care of everything!

God has taken care of the failure as well as the success! Whenever you failed this week…maybe you’ve met temptation and you’ve yielded to it…it’s easy to get rid of that sin in your life…just be confession…just by saying, “Lord, I confess this thing..” and you just name that thing…and the Bible says that the very moment you confess it to God He forgives you of that sin and He goes a step further…He cleanses you from all unrighteousness.

Now, let’s bow together…

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

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