Some of the difficulties that come into our lives as believers in Jesus Christ and also as his servants are due to how we sometimes fail to process temptation properly. In addition to the challenges that come from Satan and others who choose to fight against us is the reality of our own sinful distractions. For those of us who serve as pastors and Christian leaders there is a time for healthy, truth-focused introspection concerning our own lives. Those of us who seek to bring others under the judgment of God’s Word should certainly not fail to do this with our own lives.
1 Corinthians 10:13 has often be cited as an occasion about the reality of temptation in all of our lives which also includes the promise of victory and escape by God’s grace. It consists of a number of important facts: no temptation is unique, God is faithful in working with us in temptation so that its strength will not overcome us, and he will be sure to provide a way through it. The context helps us understand that the temptations Paul is writing about are similar to the ones that came into the lives of God’s people as they were led from Egypt through the wilderness. Those temptations included the inclinations toward idolatry, sexual immorality, doubting or testing God, and grumbling. In the context the admonition to flee from idolatry is repeated.
I used to think that the temptations spoken about here in 1 Corinthians 10:13 were of the trials that came into our lives as circumstantial difficulties that God allowed — much as Job experienced. That happens no doubt, but the context here in Corinthians implies that temptations at times come by the inclinations of our own hearts — as had also been the case with the children of Israel.
So we need to be realistic about these tendencies. How many times do we find ourselves in difficulty simply because we have given in to some form of idolatry — haven’t kept our hearts pure in their desire toward the supreme exaltation of Jesus Christ in our lives–have opened our hearts to indulge the senses in a way that idolizes them instead of giving glory to God with them, etc? These temptations are common and have common consequences in terms of trial and difficulty of many kinds. If the truth were known the burdens of our lives are undoubtedly often the result of yielding to various forms of temptation toward idolatry.
Sometimes it takes a severe experience of difficulty in our lives to arrest our attention deeply enough to seek the Lord for his mercy and grace. God uses the trials that emerge to get us to think about particular instances of idolatry and to be honest about them with ourselves and with him — confessing them as sin. Could this be the “way of escape” to which Paul is referring in this verse? An early detection of temptation by this means keeps us from indulging further. In this way we are spared from serious idolatry and are restored to walking in the joy and freedom of his grace once again.
In my own experience I have to confess to the reality of temptation in many of the ways that the children of Israel experienced it and that seems common to all followers of Jesus. And God in his grace has allowed trials to come as a means of escape that leads me back to confession, forgiveness and freedom. This is the way of practical sanctification again and again. Evidently it is by this means that God’s glory in our lives is restored and that we can be useful to him once again.