"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." –1 Corinthians 10:13
I remember the story of a monk who went to see his superior (the abbot) with great excitement. He wanted to report on a recent spiritual breakthrough—he thought he was not facing temptations anymore. When the abbot heard of his new circumstance, the monk was surprised that the abbot did not express joy. Instead, he saw wrinkles forming in the pondering abbot’s forehead. So the monk asked, “Abbot, is there something wrong? Is it not a cause of celebration that I am no longer tempted by the devil?” Sighing, the abbot responded, “My son, I am afraid your current situation is dire. Your temptations may have ceased because the devil may have already succeeded in bringing you back to his fold. He sees no need to pester you, therefore, he has left to tempt another.”
Temptations come to us in great waves. This is true for Christians—especially faithful Christians.
Peter warns us that the tempter prowls like a lion, waiting for our moment of weakness to show up before he can devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Worse still, the temptations we face are not simple. The crafty tempter (Genesis 3:1) poses like an angel, switching goodness with evil and twisting God’s Word. Anything can be used to tempt us, including basic urges like hunger and thirst and human needs for love, attention, and relationships. We can be tempted even through our godly desires. The desire to be successful in the ministry or to be helpful to others can become avenues for our greatest temptations. Our desire to give our children a great future can tempt us to be dishonest in our business to earn more money. Our desire to be a blessing can tempt us to hypocrisy. The list goes on.
Paul wrote that the temptations we face are all “common to mankind” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Nevertheless, specific temptations have greater potency to specific persons. Our temptations are personalized in accordance with our unique nature, idiosyncrasies, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, I really don’t care about any baseball team, so there’s no temptation for me there. But when it comes to basketball, temptations toward anger and resentment confront me. We have to bear in mind that even mature Christians, or those who love God wholeheartedly, are tempted, perhaps more viciously. This is why Wesley wrote, “Any of these, if they do not continually watch and pray, may, and naturally will spring up and trouble not themselves only, but all that are around them.”
The good news is that God does not allow us to be tempted beyond our capabilities. The story of Job is a good illustration. Everything we face in life, including the trials and disciplines, are within the scope of our capacity to bear and come out triumphantly when we rely on God. God is faithful. Even the seemingly unbearable circumstances of life help stretch our character and strengthen our faith. A break-up in marriage or the death of a loved one could be a new experience with its accompanying temptations. These are, of course, common to all humanity. But when we overcome the temptations related to these new life events, we emerge with stronger faith than ever. God allows us to experience pain and temptations when we are ready. We must not be afraid because He also provides a way out for us.
Dick Eugenio is the academic dean of Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary and discipleship coordinator for the Philippine-Micronesia Field.
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