Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bearing UP in the Temptations We Face

1Cor. 10:12-13 NLT 
   12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

I have carried the joy of this passage ever since I came to Christ at age 14 in the Mountains of California at a teen camp. The year was 1959. No one in my family was a believer other than a saintly grandmother who had considerable influence upon me but with with whom I did not live consistently. I came from being a wild street kid, little supervision, poverty, raised by a single mom, sometimes having nothing to eat so I ate at friends houses. When we moved together with other family members into an apartment with our grandmother, she encouraged me to get into a church, as she had always done when I was a younger boy. Owners of the apartment complex were believers and they invited me to their church youth group. Their older teen age son offered to drive me in his cool 1950 customized ford. I was thrilled with that.

The first week, I was invited to go to the church camp later that month and someone from the church paid the way.  People were praying for me whom I did not even know. The time came and I went. It was fun-- church camps always are, of course. But I heard a message that caught my mind and heart attention each night. By Thursday night I could no longer sit through the message without gripping the back of the chair in front of me. I was supposed to do something but did not know what. Then the preacher explained how I needed to invite Christ into my heart, accept forgiveness of my sins and sin condition by faith, and surrender my will to God. That was a lot for at 14 year-old with no church background to grasp, but I reached out to it and to Jesus.

I prayed "if you are real Jesus and you really do love me, as the pastor said, I accept you. Please show me your way." The next morning we had a Bible class-- something I had half slept through the first three days. This time I was full of questions and pressed for answers. I must have frustrated our young preacher-evangelist who happened to be teaching my group. We were studying Chapter 10 of Corinthians. In those days Bible study done in the King James version of course,  and that was not a language I understood very well. It was this same passage that jumped off the page to me and fixated my mind upon it. It became the very first Bible verse I committed to memory, mostly because the Holy Spirit kept saying it to me in my mind for the next several days. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men: but God is faithful who will not suffer you be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it." (I just wrote that from memory after all these decades.)

I have faced lots and lots of temptations in my almost 67 years. Some I was able to overcome and others I was not so good at overcoming. But God has always reminded me of this verse. I still see that boys' bible class with pastor Gerald teaching us about this passage. I still see me blurting out a response to his question about what this meant. "It means that when I am tempted, whatever I am tempted about, I already have the power to resist it. 'Cause God would not permit me to be tempted with something that could beat me down."  In my 14-year-old new believer theology, this was a large life-raft in a very stormy ocean. I have repeated that blurted-out answer thousands of times to myself when facing a temptation to do something I know I should not do.  I have reminded myself to "look for the way of escape."  "You have been given power by God to say 'NO' to this, so just say 'NO!'"  I would say to myself.

Sorry to drag you down my little detour down memory lane but this passage was next on our schedule and I could not let it pass without telling you how important it has been in my life. Thanks for reading along. It can be an important help in your life as well. It is absolutely true. Nothing you are facing is unique to you. Others have faced it and God has enabled them to overcome, just as God will enable you to overcome as well. The ways of escape are always present, you just must be persistent in looking for them, and then in taking them when when you see the way. You can be strong in Christ but first you must choose to permit HIM to make you strong. Then you must simply and humbly follow him moment by moment, day by day.
Your servant

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