Today’s focus verse is one that is an encouraging principle and promise from the Word about how we can live the Christian life. Let’s start with the verse itself, 1 Corinthians 10:13.
13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The common twist on this is actually in the way it’s usually quoted; it becomes…
God won't give you more than you can handle.
- Misquotations 7:15
There are at least two problems with this twist. First, it simply isn’t true. I’m in my 40th year of knowing Jesus as my Savior, and I can assure you that God gives me more than I can handle all the time; just my past 7 days have had way more than I alone could handle. If we tell struggling people “Well, you know, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can handle!”, we are seriously damaging our credibility, which will, in turn, hamper our further ability to share the things of God. If God never gave us more than we could handle, why would we need Him once we have obtained salvation? The Bible is replete with examples of people who were getting more than they could handle; let’s look at one such instance in Psalm 40.
11As for you, O Lord, You will not restrain
Your mercy from me;
Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will
ever preserve me! 12For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
13Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me! 14Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
The Psalms, being poetry, often speak to feelings common to mankind, and this is one of those places. The theme of the psalm is God’s deliverance, something David cannot manage to do himself - it’s literally “more than he can handle.” Yet, this bigger-than-him situation causes David to cry out to God for help, and to depend on Him for his deliverance. God brings us through situations that are more than we could handle ourselves, to demonstrate His love that is not just a saving love for our souls, but a living and active love for our lives as well. How could He do that if He never allowed “more than we could handle”?
The second problem with this twist is that it completely misses the actual promise of the text. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is talking about temptation, and comes immediately after a verse that is usually quoted correctly, even when snatched from its context.
12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
In the even larger context of this chapter, Paul has warned the Corinthian church about idolatry, sexual immorality, and testing God. He then writes vv. 12-13, telling them to be on guard, yet encouraging them that God will not allow a temptation so great that they, through Him, cannot resist. This is a very big deal! We all face temptation; if you have tried to resist it yourself, you’re likely thinking back to the time when you failed in those efforts, and gave in to the sin you had been resisting.
Why are we so bad at resisting temptation on our own? The main reason is that resisting temptation is spiritual warfare, but our fallen nature (what we use when we do it “on our own”) is ill equipped for that battle. Paul writes that we have a way of escape provided; let’s look at a few of different strategies given in the Bible. The first is from Jesus Himself, speaking to His disciples after He returned from praying in the garden of Gethsemane and found them asleep.
40And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with Me one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Did you pick up on any common themes in those three passages? “Pray” (Matthew 26:41), “pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22), and “submit[ting]…to God” (James 4:7) are three different ways of saying the same thing - we must have God’s power if we are to be able to resist temptation. We must actively pray, pour His Word into our hearts, and be vigilant. This is the only way for us to be able to recognize the “way of escape” so we can take it.
There is one final caution, back in vv. 12-13, where Paul says that this temptation will not exceed our “ability.” Ability is developed through practice, and God, in the process of refining us to make us more like Him, will provide opportunities for us to increase our ability. Don’t lose heart if, after successfully resisting temptation, another stronger one appears. Conversely, you may reach a point where most temptation is pretty easy to resist; that’s where the warning in verse 12 becomes even more important. When we let our guard down, we become the most vulnerable to temptation.
As we have looked at what 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, and what it doesn’t say, I pray that you have been blessed. It truly is an encouraging promise for us who are trying to live our lives the way Christ would have us live them. I hope you also realize how much damage this common misquotation can do, both to the truth and to our witness. The Christian life is great, having Jesus to guide, warn, and protect us; I wouldn’t want to live any other way. That being said, though, we would be lying if we say that it is easy, and saying this to a hurting person will provide the opposite of comfort.
“Tan!” “I like it on the hook by the door!” “I’m going to Kalamazoo for 32 days!” These are some tame samples of some of the nonsensical things you might have seen on Facebook over the past few years, all coming back to breast cancer awareness. Other diseases have their specific “awareness” advocates as well.
I mused on someone else’s status that I wish I needed a game to make me aware of cancer. In the past few years, I have known people who have had to fight breast, liver, kidney, prostate, lung, and bladder cancer; some have won, some did not, and others are still fighting. There are two big reasons that I’m so aware of cancer at this point. The first is that some of these have hit close to home, striking friends and co-workers. The second is through praying for those who have these terrible diseases. While I don’t recommend the first, the second is where we’ll focus today. Let’s start in Philippians.
6…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Here, Paul sets us up with a negative and a positive instruction. The negative instruction, “do not be anxious about anything,” is a necessary reminder. When we humans are dealing with troubling times among friends and family, we tend to worry for them, on their behalf; when we deal with troubling times in the world at large, our anxiety tends to be more focused on ourselves. Neither of these are acceptable, and Paul continues by giving a solution that works in both cases - tell God about it. However, this is not a heavenly-directed spleen-venting session. Paul uses “prayer and supplication” to describe how we are to take everything to God. Prayer is a reverent request, not a vent and not a demand; supplication carries the idea of a fervent, urgent request. We are to reverently, but fervently, bring our requests to God.
However, there’s another piece - “with thanksgiving.” Even in the most dire of circumstances, there are things for which we can be thankful. We can be thankful that we have the ability to pray. We can be thankful for our knowledge of the people for whom we are praying, and for the benefits we have seen in our lives from them. We can be thankful for things that God has done in the past, and the opportunity to see what He will do this time. Being thankful has two benefits. First, it lets God know that we remember His blessings. Second, it helps us; it’s very difficult to be worried or angry over something for which we are giving thanks.
This brings us to one of the most curious things about prayer that I’ve learned over the past few years. Yes, prayer is important, and can lead to big changes in circumstances. But, more than changing God’s mind, prayer changes the one who prays. God, though prayer, can reveal His will, and give peace when His will is not the result we are expecting. I think that the best example of this type of prayer was Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane. (emphasis mine)
39And going a little farther He fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
My suggestion, given the above, is two-fold. First, if you are not aware of anyone with cancer, or whatever disease has your attention, remedy that; find someone (at least one, but more if the Lord leads) and start praying for them, and see if you don’t see the difference. Then, instead of playing games that can be zany at best, and offensive at worst, post the details of the people for whom you are praying. You’ll raise awareness, and you’ll be encouraging others to pray as well. That sounds like win-win to me.
This is an end-of-the-letter salutation from Paul to the church at Thessalonica. Paul began and ended most all of his letters by talking about the “grace and peace” of our Lord, and his hope that it would remain with those to whom he was writing. This theme of peace is one that is woven throughout the Bible. The word “peace” (or some form of it, like “peacemaker”, “peaceful”, etc.) is found in 266 verses in the HCSB. We’re not going to look at the other 265 verses, but we’ll look at a few of them.
Peace was used as a greeting to Gideon…
23But the Lord said to him, “Peace to you. Don’t be afraid, for you will not die.”
In these four verses, we see a common theme - the source of peace is God, through His Son Jesus. But how to we get this peace? Ask God for it! According to Peter, the disciple of Jesus who went on to lead the early church…
10For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11and he must turn away from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it, 12because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.