December 4, 2005

When The Heat Is On

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Corinthians Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:13


When The Heat Is On

1 Corinthians 10:13
Sunday, December 4, 2005
Pastor Randy Smith

Mark Talbot once said, "American Christianity tends toward a kind of 'easy-believism.' The Gospel is often presented in a way that suggests that someone is saved as soon as he or she has 'accepted' Jesus as Savior, even if that 'acceptance' never manifests itself in the emotional and volitional recentering of the person's entire life. But this is actually the paradigm of the sort of dead and fruitless faith that the whole New Testament condemns" (The Signs of True Conversion, p. 28).

According to Paul House, "Clearly many Christians have not embraced the fact that Christians must be committed to Christ and His teachings. They may have mentally assented to certain gospel facts...joined a church...repeated a prayer...walked forward at an evangelistic meeting. But by any biblical measurement they were never converted. There was no transforming conviction of sin, no repentance, no commitment to Christ's lordship, no love for those who love Christ."

Stephen Olford adds, "There was no 'easy-believism' in Paul's presentation of the Gospel. Decision was to be accompanied and followed by devotion. Jesus Christ IS Lord and, therefore, MUST be Lord in our lives."

If you have been with us the past few weeks, we have encountered what Olford calls "Paul's presentation of the Gospel." We have encountered devotion. We have encountered material that has been challenging and convicting - Material that is ignored by many in the church, but essential to those who claim to be followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is the stuff that makes Christian teaching distinctively Christian. It is the stuff that separates true believers from imposters.

In chapter 8 we learned about the need to forsake our rights if it meant serving another brother or sister in Christ. It is the whole principle of loving the body of Christ more than we love ourselves. In chapter 9 we learned about the need to forsake our comfort if it meant getting the gospel to others more effectively. It is the whole principle of loving the lost more than we love ourselves.

These lessons chafe at everything we've been taught by the world and everything we'd like to preserve for our own selfishness and believe about our own goodness. They are hard lessons, but they must not be ignored. They teach a standard that is to be expected from all who follow Christ. They are the necessary fruits expected in the life of a Christian.

Paul concluded this material at the end of chapter 9 by comparing the Christian life to running a marathon. In other words, the Christian life has certain demands like discipline, focus and perseverance. And it contains a prize, heaven, for those who run successfully until the end. Therefore Paul says we are to "run in such a way that (we) may win" (1 Cor. 9:24) lest we be disqualified by the Judge.

Then to illustrate this principle of successful running, Paul laid before the church in chapter 10 the negative example of the Israelites in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:6, 11). Of the nearly two million that left Egypt over the age of twenty, only two were permitted to enter the Promised Land. They, like we in the church, were given God's very best (1 Cor. 10:1-4), but they responded by craving evil things (1 Cor. 10:6-10). They were self-deceived, self-confident and self-reliant. They failed to finish the race. So Paul concluded verse 12 of chapter 10 with a bold exhortation to the arrogant Corinthian church (4:6, 8, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4) tottering on the precipice of spiritual disaster: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."

That's a summary of the past six sermons. A high standard set for people who are weak and prone to sin. A deadly consequence that may result in eternal damnation. My friends, I walk away from this material not only humbled by the demands expected from the child of God, but also trembling when I consider what hangs in the balance. Do you? With Paul, we may compare the Christian life to the Olympic games, but the Christian life is far from a game! There are serious expectations!

On our own we will never make it, but here is the key - We are not alone. Nor are we called to run the race on our own strength.

I believe Paul, through the influence of the Holy Spirit wanted to take us to this point of desperation to make us aware of our own inadequacies and weaknesses and then remind us of the strength and resources we have available in God. Yes, the demands are difficult, but God will help His children succeed. Jesus promised us that His sheep would never perish (Jn. 10:28; 17:12; 18:9). So after breaking us down, he builds us up in verse 13 saying, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." We have hope!

This morning as we continue to prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper, I would like to take a look at this popular verse that I trust many of you have memorized. I do not want to negate our need for spiritual sweat, but I do want to emphasize the key to spiritual victory is faith in a God who will get His elect people through this difficult course and over the finish line as spiritual champions.

Let us begin our study of this excellent verse!

Most Bible versions that we have represented this morning begin verse 13 by saying, "No temptation has overtaken you" (NASB, KJV, NIV). However some other versions state, "No testing has overtaken you" (NRSV) and yet others, "None of the trials which have come upon you" (NJB). So what exactly is this verse talking about?

The confusion comes from the Greek word peirasmos. This word is can be translated: temptation (Lk. 4:13; 8:13; 11:4; 22:40; 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Pet. 2:9), test (1 Pet. 4:12) or trial (Lk. 22:28; Ac. 20:19; Gal. 4:14; Jas. 1:2, 12; 1 Pet. 1:6: Rev. 3:10) because there is a strong link between all three of these terms. Allow me to explain.

When we go through the many difficulties of life, we commonly say we are going through a trial. In His sovereignty God sends these trials into our lives to test our faith. If we fail to respond rightly to these divine tests, the test originally intended for positive could easily turn negative which is now called a temptation.

Though trials are often very painful, we are able to give thanks for every one of them (1 Thes. 5:18) because we know they all originate or pass through the hands of a loving and wise God. God uses them for a variety of positive purposes.

  • To strengthen our faith
  • To test our character
  • To show our loyalty
  • To demonstrate His power
  • To manifest Christ in us
  • To cause spiritual growth

Therefore in many ways, we can think of our trials as individual spiritual tests. How will we respond when pain enters our lives?

  • Will we still trust God when things aren't going our way?
  • Will we submit to His strength and direction?
  • Will we cling to the promises of Scripture?
  • Will we thank Him and praise Him?
  • Will we pass the test by honoring God and growing spiritually?

Yet we must remember these tests, intended for good, also have the ability to be used for evil in our lives. As in any test, we have the potential to fail. Satan knows that and loves to get his diabolical hands in the mix to seduce us, make sin attractive and pervert the good plans of God. That's why Jesus called us to pray, "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Mt. 6:13). Satan lives to see our tests become temptations to sin.

Consider the following examples: If you receive money from the government that does not belong to you, will you respond rightly to the test or will you circum to the temptation and sin by failing to return it? If you are afflicted with a health concern, will you respond rightly to the test or will you lose your joy and peace? If you experience a difficulty in ministry, will you respond rightly to the test or will you quit refusing to "endure hardship" (2 Tim. 4:5). If you are stationed next to an attractive person at work, will you respond rightly to the test or will you commit the act of adultery in your heart? If you have a problem in a relationship, will you respond rightly to the test or will you demonstrate hate, bitterness and anger?

Consider the following Bible characters: Was Job tested or tempted? It depends from whose perspective you view the situation. God wanted to put Job's faith to the test. But Satan, after asking God for permission, used the divine test to tempt Job to curse the Lord. Was Jesus tested or tempted when He was led into the wilderness? God wanted to test His faith, but Satan used everything in his power to tempt the divine Son of God to sin.

How are you responding to your trials? Is your faith coming forth as gold or are you giving into temptation? Are your trials making you better or bitter? Are you thanking God or accusing God? Are you witnessing spiritual growth or spiritual decline? "Blessed is a man," says James," Who perseveres under trial" (Jas. 1:12a).

Quite often the temptation to sin during a test comes from the evil one, but quite often we are too quick to blame the evil one when in reality we are tempted by our own wicked and deceitful heart. The Bible calls it our "flesh." Satan (without) and the flesh (within) bring forth all our temptations, but not God. They never come from above (Jas. 1:17). James stressed this point when he said, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God;' for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (Jas. 1:13-15). And might I add, we are all plagued with temptations, but temptations are only sinful when we give into them.

Next, verse 13 says these trials, tests and temptations are "common to man." This means that every human being who has ever existed has experienced them. We are not alone. They are part of life. There is no escaping them. Therefore we had better learn to live with these difficulties. The great theologian, Augustine, once said, "God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering."

Along these lines, the Scriptures say Jesus experienced these trials to better exercise mercy (Heb. 2:17), aid (Heb. 2:18) and sympathy (Heb. 4:15) on our behalf. In the same way, our own experiences in these common afflictions enable us to minister more effectively to one another. I think we would all agree that oftentimes the most compassionate and serving people we know are those who have suffered the most.

And while others can be a great source of comfort and strength, we must remember that our ultimate hope while suffering is a God who cares and stands ready to help. The next section of verse 13 in the context of suffering says, "God is faithful."

How does God demonstrate His faithfulness during these difficult times?

  • He is faithful to come to our need. He will not abandon nor forsake us in the midst of our suffering. He is there with us as a participant, not a spectator (1 Pet. 5:7). Nahum 1:7, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him" (cf. Heb. 4:16).
  • He is faithful to dispense grace that is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9), strength for the day (Mt. 6:34) and mercy for our pain (Lk. 6:36). While suffering, through Christ we can experience peace and joy that transcends our circumstances. As Paul said, "sorrowful yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6:10).
  • He is faithful to use these trials to bring forth good in our lives (Rom. 8:28).
  • He is faithful to get us through the trial victorious, to "confirm (His children) to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8-9).
  • He is faithful even when we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13). His faithfulness is unconditional. We, not Him, are always the covenant breakers.

Two other ways He is faithful during these trials are found in the remainder of verse 13. First, the verse says, "(He) will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able."

God is faithful to know our limits and capacities. It's comforting for me to think that He knows me better than I know myself and that He is wise and loving and sovereign in allowing everything that touches my life. I'm glad things go His way and not my way!

Pastor Don Fortner once said, "As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine, our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good. Too much joy would intoxicate us. Too much misery would drive us to despair. Too much sorrow would crush us. Too much suffering would break our spirits. Too much pleasure would ruin us. Too much defeat would discourage us. Too much success would puff us up. Too much failure would keep us from doing anything. Too much criticism would harden us. Too much praise would exalt us. Our great God knows exactly what we need. His Providence is wisely designed and sovereignly sent for our good!"

God will never push our faith beyond what we can bear (cf. Jn. 18:8-9). Therefore, every test I can pass and every temptation I can resist. If I am in Christ, I don't need to fear abandoning my faith and being disqualified from the race if I can keep my eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). We have His promise that He will never give us more than what we can handle.

John Rollo tells the story of a customer who one day went into a draper's shop and saw a small boy standing with outstretched arms, while the proprietor of the shop placed package after package from the shelves into his waiting arms. As the pile grew higher and higher and the weight increased, the customer turned to the boy and said, "My lad, you'll never be able to carry all that." Turning round, the boy replied with a smile, "My father knows how much I can carry."

On December 1, 1997, Missy Jenkins was one of seven students gunned down at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. A bullet damaged her spinal cord, leaving Missy dependent upon braces and a walker in order to move around. At the time of the shooting, Jenkins was 15-years-old and described herself as "without direction." During her convalescence, she not only found the will to stay alive, but the determination to go forward in a positive direction with her life. "I realized I did not die that morning. I'm all here. I'm alive," said Missy in a recent interview. On December 18, 2004, carried by that resolve, Missy received a bachelor's degree in social work from Murray State University. Her future plans include a master's degree, marriage, children, and a job. Missy said, "I just don't think God is going to give me anything I can't handle" (James Malone, "From Horror to Healing," Courier Journal (12-17-04).

Yet in response to that someone once said, "I always know God won't give me more than I can handle but there are times I wish He didn't trust me quite so much." But maybe those who suffer the most should be encouraged that God finds in them the strongest faith. And maybe those who are tempted the most should take pleasure in the fact that Satan finds their faith most disturbing.

Another way God demonstrates His faithfulness during these rough times is found at the conclusion of verse 13. He "will not allow (us) to be tempted beyond what (we) are able" and here it is, "with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." In other words God will provide for us both escape and endurance in the midst of our trials.

Now that sounds like a contradiction. How can we escape something that we care called to endure? Well, if we are talking about trials, the way of escape is not to circumvent the trial, but rather to escape the trial by passing through it. There is only one proper way of escape in the trial ("the way") - God's way! When going through a trial our primary prayer should not be, "God, please get me out of this trail," but rather, "God, keep me in this trial until you have accomplished Your good purposes for my life." The right way out of God's crucible of suffering is to pass through the flames until all the dross is burned off and pure gold remains (Jas. 1:12a).

This isn't the message we always want to hear, but this is the message we need to hear. The door of escape we look for in the trial is endurance until God sovereignly brings the trial to an end.

How about temptations (which I believe verse 13 is primarily referring to as Paul harkens back to 10:7-10)? How do we endure and escape temptations? We all know we are to flee temptation. We all know that we should resist temptation the second it comes. Therefore we escape temptation through:

  • A prayerful readiness
  • Personal accountability
  • Wise counsel and Bible knowledge
  • Faith believing the sin will bring less joy than obedience
  • Dependence on the strength of God

God will provide an exit path to every temptation we experience.

But while all this is true, how does this way of escape gel with the endurance spoken of in verse 13? How do we escape a temptation we are called to endure?

I believe many of our temptations are more complex than we wish to believe. The one-time temptations (like Joseph running from Potipher's wife - Gen. 39:12) are easy to flee from, but what about living in a world that plagues us daily with temptations that we often cannot avoid? The financial worker who always deals with money? The student who always has the opportunity to cheat? The Internet buff that always has access to pornography?

Martin Luther once said, "Temptations, of course, cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair" (The Early Years, Christian History, no. 34). Everyday we are confronted with hundreds of temptations. They fly over our heads like birds. They are inescapable. But the question is, will we give in? I believe this verse is teaching us that we can endure these temptations without falling if we turn to the Lord for strength. This marathon we run is lined with obstacles, temptations that will lead is astray. But God is faithful to see we endure these temptations in general and escape them when necessary to make it across the finish line a spiritual champion.

Mort Crim said, "I believe young people are indifferent to the church today, not because the church has required too much of them, but because it has demanded so little (from them)." Let me ask you, would God receive greater glory for Himself if He made the Christian life so easy we could accomplish it on our own strength or so hard we must daily depend on Him for grace if we wish to succeed?

The God we worship will never lower His standards, but He will through His love and mercy enable us to achieve His expectations because we have been crucified with Christ. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20). So through faith we will endure. We will win the battle against temptation. We will finish as spiritual champions.

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Give unto each day what He deems best;
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev'ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure,
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As your days, your strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in ev'ry tribulation,
So to trust Your promises, O Lord;
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a Father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Words by Lina Sandell Berg, 1832-1903
Music by Oscar Ahnfelt, 1813-1882

other sermons in this series

Apr 22


Edification or Self-Exaltation

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Apr 15


Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Series: 1 Corinthians

Mar 18


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