“No temptation has seized you except what is common to humanity. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” ( 1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV)

I come to this scripture with some fundamental assumptions. First, as the passage says, we all face the temptation to sin. Second, we all have sin inside us and give in to it periodically. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

So my perpetual fascination with today’s passage in 1 Corinthians 10 is not that we all face temptation – but the promise that God will provide a way out for us so that we can stand up under it. What is the mysterious way out? Is there some divine method of distraction or preventative measure that I have been missing? What is this passage referring to? I would like to suggest that Paul is referring to the ‘replacement’ approach to temptation. I was first introduced to this concept in the 1970’s by a sermon illustration told by Erwin Lutzer, the Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago.

He told the story of a young man who entered the Illinois State Science Fair. These annual events would bring together high school students from all over the state who would attempt to solve the science project theme of that particular year. The project of that year was to completely remove all of the air from a milk bottle. The judges slowly went from table to table and reviewed each entrant’s project solution. Some were quite large – requiring two tables for the vacuum apparatus to ensure that no air would be left in the bottle. Three finalists were identified, and in preparation for the award of the winner, they were on stage behind tables upon which their solutions were hidden under a sheet.

The first finalist pulled off his sheet, started his vacuum pump and according to the judges timing, sucked all of the air out of the milk bottle within 3 minutes. The second finalist pulled off her sheet and started her apparatus, which, using better pumps and hoses, was able to eliminate all the air in the bottle in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. When the crowd’s attention turned to the third and final project, everyone noted that the sheet covered a solution that was quite small in comparison to the other two. The small boy pulled off the sheet to reveal a plain open milk bottle and a pitcher of water. He simply poured the water into the milk bottle, thus eliminating all the air. He finished in 4 seconds flat. The crowd sat in stunned silence for a second, then cheered as the judges pronounced the third finalist the winner because of his simple and fast solution to the challenge.

What this simple story shows is that the easiest method to eliminate the presence of something is by replacing it with something else!

So it goes with the very human challenge we face with temptation. I think we can all testify to the futility of desperately gritting our teeth and trying to resist bad behaviour. This is analogous to the high school students who developed complicated apparatus to suck air from the milk bottle. Even the apostle Paul confesses to struggling with that futile approach to temptation. “…the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

But the way out that God provides is the opportunity to fill our minds with the positive fruits of the Spirit and his Scripture so that the temptation is replaced and eliminated. The more you immerse your mind in Scripture, prayer and worship, focusing upon spiritual things and the presence of Christ in your life – the less room you make available for temptation of any sort to take root.

REFLECT:

  • When you are tempted, what is your default reaction? Do you grit your teeth and pour all your energy into resisting? What is your success rate with that approach?
  • Try the ‘replacement’ approach to temptation. Whatever temptation that presses in on you, rather than resisting, why not immediately focus upon a short scripture passage or go immediately to your daily prayer list and pray through it? Claim God’s promise that when you are tempted, He is right at your side providing spiritual companionship, providing a way out, so that the temptation will melt away as you focus on Him.

John Wiseman – Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

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