So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation [test] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted [tested] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted [tested], he will provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:12-13)
Every temptation is a test, one that reveals what matters most to us and where we are most vulnerable at a given moment.
Temptations vary in seriousness and consequences, but every one of them involves a decision.
Each test has its own significance. Giving in to “lesser” temptations can school me to fail in the bigger tests. That’s why it’s important for me to make sure I’m prepared, whether the test is a pop quiz or a final exam.
God’s tests have no trick questions. Satan is the one who constantly looks for ways to trap or trick me into moving into his oppressive orbit. I can also trick myself into rationalizing that the thing I want is really best, or unavoidable, or someone’s else’s fault. God’s tests require a thorough self-examination that will expose my focus, my motives, my weaknesses, and my level of dependence on Him. Failing to take the self-exam is to predetermine the end result.
God never gives me a test I can’t pass if I keep my eyes on Him, and allow Him to carry me through. The test may be excruciating, but it will be bearable with His help. God is faithful; He will be with me in and through all things. If I give up, I’ve essentially made a choice to forego His help. He never gives up on me, but I have sometimes unconsciously given up on Him.
Feeling that I’m beyond temptation, or a particular kind of temptation, is a huge danger signal. Pride is a ticket to ride the downhill slope at breathtaking speed. By its very nature, pride is a dependence on myself rather than on God. It elevates me to the place that belongs to God. Pride is a virus that can spread, and takes vigilance to be alert for the early symptoms. When they break out, I need to take frequent doses of God’s truth until they disappear; then stay alert for waves of re-infection.
What about when I stumble? What do I do about the regrets, the guilt, the sense of failure?
The same source of the truth about temptation contains the truth that God longs to forgive His children. My part is to repent — not excuse — my departure from His will. He knows that’s essential to shape my character. He then wipes my slate clean, removing the stain as far as the east is from the west.
Just as God forgives me, I need to be willing to forgive myself and move on. One thing I won’t be able to escape are the natural consequences of my actions. I will be able, with God’s help, to make amends where possible, and lean on Him to empower positive changes. I will also be more able to forgive and understand others.
When Satan tempts me to wallow in my failures, it helps me to remember Paul’s assessment of himself when he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” (1 Tim. 1:15) It’s a great testament that God chose a persecutor of His people to reach countless others, and to write so much of His inspired Word. If God did that through Paul, He can and does use someone as ordinary as you and me.