No 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.
When I was a boy, I loved He-Man. I may be dating myself here, so if you haven’t heard of He-Man, get with it man! Just kidding - you can find him on YouTube of course, where you can find anything. But what boy wouldn’t like He-Man? I mean, this guy had a magic sword that could transform him into a muscle bound bundle of invincibility! I would get chills every time he made that transformation and would hold up his sword and proclaim, “I have the power!” I wanted to be able to say that, I wanted that sword, that power, and that cool tiger to ride! When I thought no one was looking, I’d transform my backyard into that mystical landscape and pretend I was him, with a real live apple tree branch for a sword. Yep! I was all-powerful until my mother called me in for lunch.
Recently, I was chatting with a co-worker who is going through a hard time. She told me that to encourage herself, she wanted to find the bible verse that explains that God will not allow us to go through a trial that is too much for us to bear. The verse she was thinking about is 1Corinthians 10:13. When she found it she wasn’t sure it applied to her situation because it says that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, not that God will not allow us to face a trial that is beyond what we can bear. To further confuse the issue, a friend had also told her that God does allow trials in our lives that are too great for us to bear so that we will lean on Him to make it through them. So what had been a potentially encouraging passage of scripture to her was rendered not so because she was interpreting the word ‘temptation’ too narrowly.
I was a bit surprised at her conclusion that this verse did not really apply to her situation, and wondered if there may be other believers out there who might come to the same conclusion and pass over that scripture when going through a trial. So here’s my attempt at a cursory definition of terms, namely - what is tempation and what is sin? The bible tells us in James 1:14-15,
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death”.
It also tells us in Romans 14:23,
“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin”.
So maybe we’ll start with sin, and use a classic example: alcohol consumption. I’d say that Christians are quite fairly divided on this issue. Some believe drinking in moderation is okay, others believe any consumption of alcohol is wrong. The Word clearly tells us not to become drunk. If you’re one who believes any consumption of alcohol is wrong and find yourself in the company of others who have no problem with having an occasional drink and a drink is offered you which you take against your better judgement, it is sin to you. It doesn’t matter if the people drinking around you are the most spiritual people around. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only one who doesn’t think this is okay; if you drink it, you’ve sinned. This is the essence of what Paul teaches in Romans 14. It is sin to you because you defile your conscience in the drinking of it; your drinking of it is not done in faith, and since whatever is not of faith is sin, your drinking of it is sin to you. Paul further teaches in this passage that enjoying your liberty in the things you allow is also secondary to loving your brother. So, in the same situation, if you are one of those who has no problem with an occasional drink, and you’re in the company of one whom you know does, then for that person’s sake, so as not to put a stumbling block in their path, don’t take the drink.
Now you could go to extremes and apply this teaching to drugs, drunkenness, sexual immorality and the like, saying that if you engage in these activities in faith, then it’s okay - you’re not in sin, but that would be a mistake. First, the Word is very clear about these things, that those who practice them will by no means inherit the kingdom of heaven. Secondly, (and this is something we don’t always consider), the Holy Spirit alive on the inside of us is constantly guiding us into all truth (John 16:13). He won’t be silent when we’re in error, but will reveal God’s perfect will for us so we can know when we’re about to engage in anything that doesn’t please God and which goes contrary to the new nature we’ve been given in Christ. At that point we’ll have a clear choice either to ignore the Spirit of God and suppress the truth in unrighteousness, or to obey and find the blessing of His presence. So sin is anything that is not of faith. Good rule of thumb, if you’re not sure, don’t do it, pray about it.
Temptation therefore would be an enticement to us to follow our natural desires and make a decision that is not of faith. I explained to my co-worker that in this trial she’s facing, she could be tempted to worry, tempted not to trust God, tempted to act in fear, or to despair and give up or any number of things that don’t proceed from faith. These are real temptations that hit us every time we face a trial in life. So God’s promise to us to not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear most definitely applies to trials in our lives. The trials can be huge, and the temptations that come with them equally so, but never more than we can bear. God will provide for us the way out. This is a promise we can hold on to, and know that God will help us to stand up under whatever temptation, during whatever trial. Thank God for His great and precious promises!
So in the words of my childhood hero, He-Man, “I HAVE THE POWERRRR!” and I’ll add a little subscript “IN CHRIST!” Thanks for lunch, mom! Now, where’s my sword?