From Your Pastor, May 19

From Your Pastor, May 19

A Memory Verse . . . that teaches much more than one thing

Many of us have favorite verses that have sustained us through many a danger, toil, and snare. Verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9, if well stored in our minds, teach us that we are not saved by works (lest we boast) but only by God’s grace. That liberating verse teaches many other things as well. Equally, the magnificent Romans 8:28 teaches us many things.
 
Or Philippians 4:13 says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That also is another grand verse, although I misappropriated it as a new Christian in high school, claiming it as I attempted a personal best bench press in the gym. Didn’t work.
 
There are many great verses in the Bible to store in your mind. One of the best is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which many a Christian has used to console oneself that God will sure take me through whatever trial I’m facing. And that verse certainly does teach that.
 
But this morning, before moving right to the dessert in that verse, there’s even more in this meal prior to arriving at that great promise. I’d like to call your attention to 4 things about that All-Star verse. And if you’ve never memorized it, this might be a good day to do so.
 
First, the context from v. 12 calls believers to assess humbly their own strength. The warning that precedes v. 13 is, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” A healthy distrust of one’s own ability occurs before we get to the dessert course.
 
Second, v. 13 itself adds a large historical context. And it insults us a bit along the way by telling us, “You’re not that special.” We tend to think, especially when we have some pain, that we are the only or perhaps the first in history who have suffered as we do. It furthers the humbling of v. 12 to note that many have gone before us and that no temptation occurs “except what is common to man.” Can you apply that to lust—you’re not the first. Can you apply that to ambition or greed—you’re not the first. Neither are we the first to face most (all?) church situations. Neither are we the first pioneers to face depression, contagious diseases, pressure from unbelievers, or even disappointments with fellow believers. Before claiming all of 1 Corinthians 10:13, God wants us to put this in perspective: None of these temptations or situations are other than “what is common.” Knowing that we’re not that unique or unprecedented helps with calm discernment to avoid temptation.
 
Third, the middle part of v. 13 gives us the foundation to resist temptation—and it is not in how good or strong we are. Rather, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” We may certainly trust him this day for his faithfulness.
 
Fourth, following on these, we learn that when tempted, God provides a way out, an escape. The Lord does not paint us into a corner, requiring us to sin. It may take some work and some resolves, but we should know that when facing temptation or trial, the Lord provides an Exodus, a way out.
 
You will be called on this day to recall your position (be humble and don’t overestimate your abilities or uniqueness), your provider (God is faithful), and your promise (the Lord will provide a way—he always does).
 
Memorizing this verse in its fullness teaches us many things. To be sure, God delivers us from temptations. He also calms our storms by assuring us that what we face, despite our emotional reactions, is what others have faced.
 
That is both humbling and assuring—not to mention helpful in identifying action plans.
 
An Unidentified Pastor