When I was newly recommitted to God I was really interested in what the Bible had to say about temptation. I had this notion in my head that God used inescapable temptations to teach us lessons. It’s really just something I’d invented, but I really thought that God would put us in an impossible sin situation to teach us a lesson about where we were with Him. As I started to study God’s word, I quickly found that my views on temptation were very unbiblical. Here’s what God’s word says about temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 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.
There are two important things here. One is that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability. That’s key to understand, because no matter how severe the temptation is God’s word tells us that it is not more severe than we can withstand. That’s a black and white, right here in writing, take it to the bank, Bible guarantee.
The second thing this verse says is what I want to focus on today. “But with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.” If you look back to my opening paragraph you’ll see the word inescapable. I thought there was such a thing as an inescapable temptation. God says otherwise.
When I think of escapes and escape plans I think about someone breaking out of jail. It’s undoubtedly a side effect of watching far too much TV and movies, but in this situation it’s a pretty good illustration for sin and temptation. We can be enslaved to sin and temptation, and the bars of a sinful lifestyle keep us from experiencing the fullness of a life with God.
When you watch a movie or a show about a prison escape, things seem bleak at first, don’t they? All the guards, the metal bars, the constant surveillance, it makes it pretty tough to imagine that there’s a way out. But then things start to change. The characters will start to pick up on things. They’re usually minor, maybe a ten second window when no guards are looking, or maybe it’s a rusty screw in the air conditioning vent. Eventually they’ll use a lot of ingenuity and seize on these minor openings to break themselves out of jail.
For the prisoner in these shows, at first, the situation seemed inescapable. Just like I used to think there were inescapable temptations. But when do things change for the prisoner? It’s when they start taking notice of the escape routes. It’s not until they stop focusing on the bars and start focusing on the few opportunities of escape that the possibility of escape becomes real to them.
It’s this point that I really feel like God has for us in this scripture. When we are in temptation, we need to start taking notice of the escape options. I’m not just saying note that they’re there, I’m saying call them out loud if that will help. This is something I’ve been putting into action in my own life. When I start to feel temptation I’m forcing myself to look beyond the bars of sin and try to find those escape options that God’s word tells me are always going to be available.
Let’s look at one that I know a lot of men struggle with, and that’s going to inappropriate websites on the computer. That temptation hits, you start thinking about pointing your web browser towards the dark side of the internet. What are your escape options at this moment? You could turn the computer off. You could pull the internet cord out of your modem. You could switch off your monitor. You could get up and go into another part of the house. You could go kneel beside your bed and start praying. You could grab your phone and call up your accountability partner and tell them you’re being tempted. Right there are six escape options available to every human that is sitting in front of a computer and being tempted to look at bad websites.
Here’s the thing, we need to be willing to look stupid in order to avoid sin. I’d rather be a stupid looking holy man than a cool looking sinner. My mom told me about a preacher she heard talk about laying on your stomach in the floor any time you’re tempted. The reason? It’s very hard to commit any sins when you’re laying on your stomach in the floor. It’s pretty stupid, but also kind of true if you think about it.
Then there’s one of my favorite examples of avoiding temptation by one of my favorite people in the Bible. Joseph is working as a servant in this story, and he’s gained great favor with his master. And apparently, he’s caught the eye of his master’s wife, also. She starts flirting with him and trying to get him into bed.
Genesis 39: 11-12 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.
I know I’ve blogged about this story before, but it just cracks me up. He runs out the house without his clothes. Underwear? Naked? Not sure, we’ll have to ask Joseph when we meet him in heaven, but we do know that homeboy saw an escape option and took it. The escape option? The front door, and quick!
It’s easy to equate this just to physical sins like lust but God doesn’t limit the type of temptations that He’s providing escapes to. This verse doesn’t point out just a few, it’s talking about all temptation. What if I’m tempted to lie at work to cover up the fact that I messed something up? What are the escape options there? What if I’m tempted to spend more money than I should even though I know it’ll mean I can’t tithe this week? What are the escape options there? What if I’m tempted to give up on God because I don’t feel like He’s answering my prayers? What are the escape options there?
It’s not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted. He knows what it’s like, and I find that to be very reassuring. When I pray about temptations, I’m not bringing some foreign concept before my Lord. He understands what I’m talking about, just as He understands that if I’m willing to look for it, there is an escape from whatever temptation I’m facing. Some escape options are easier than others. Wanna escape a lustful situation with your lady? Run out the door. Wanna escape an escalating argument that’s about to turn physical? Walk away. But where’s the escape when we feel lost and alone, and we’re tempted to give up? That’s when you have to dig deep, when you have to really want it, when freedom from sin and temptation has to be your utmost desire. Because sad as it is, we get used to our cells and cages, we grow complacent surrounded by these bars. That’s when we test our faith, when we grow our faith, when we start searching for the tiny escape options. When a ten second window opens up when the guards aren’t looking, when one of the screws on the air conditioning vent are rusty. How deep are you willing to dig to get free? How desperate are you to find that exit that will get you out of the temptation cycle and the sin cycle that’s choking the life out of your walk with Jesus? God’s got that escape plan ready for us, that’s never in question. The question is, are we done being prisoners yet, or aren’t we?
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, today I pray on behalf of every person reading this as well as myself. Give us a desire for freedom, Lord. We get so used to trash and filth, it becomes second nature. We let these sins and temptations hang around long enough that they’re just part of who we are, part of our daily life. God, today I say that we’re done with that. Today I claim the freedom of Jesus over the lives of everyone I know. We’re done playing games with sin, we’re done toying with temptation. We’re done sitting in our cells, content that part of life is bondage to sin. Jesus, you didn’t die to save me from some sins. You didn’t grant me a part time salvation. My destiny isn’t to spend half the week surrounded by sin and temptation and the other half in your presence. So right now I declare the word freedom. Freedom. I speak it out loud, Jesus, and then I praise your name because I know it’s done. The second our eyes are off the bars and onto you, the escape options are everywhere. Give us the wisdom to seek the escapes, give us the desire for holiness and cleanliness that will get us running out of the house in our boxers like Joseph did. And God, I thank you right now for your incredible faithfulness. There is always an escape. Your word tells it, and your word is unshakeable and unbreakable and man I just praise you with my whole heart for that. Make us great escapists, make us impossible to chain, let sin and temptation get so sick of us escaping that they eventually just stop coming around at all. Freedom in you, Jesus. I’m free because of you. And I thank you and I love you for it. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Well, another week has come and gone. I hope it treated you well and that this blog finds you in a good place tonight. If it doesn’t, reach out to me so I can pray with you. I’ve got a heart for prayer this week, and I would be so honored if I could just join with you in prayer for whatever needs you may have. I love you guys. Have a safe and relaxing weekend!