How to Endure Common-to-Man Temptations
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. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
“No temptation.” I love that phrase. It covers them all. But the temptations that Paul is talking about specifically in the preceding verses are sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 10:8) and grumbling (1 Corinthians 10:10).
These are not grand temptations like jumping off the temple into angel arms or denying Jesus when threatened with torture. These are “common to man” temptations. These are the temptations you and I will face today. And tomorrow. And the next day. They dog at our heels and whisper in our ears at the slightest glance or inconvenience.
Common to Man Temptations Are the Most Dangerous
And they are the most dangerous temptations we face because they’re aimed at where we are weakest: our profound, pathological fallen selfishness. This is why Satan concentrates most of his efforts on them. They encourage us to nurture a fantasy that the world we perceive is our world. And in this fantasy-world we ought to possess what we desire and things ought to go our way.
The more we indulge this fantasy the more we want it to be true. It feeds and expands our sinful desire-appetites. It increasingly shapes our thinking and behavior. If not resisted and battled vigorously, we will eventually pursue as real an image we created.
This is rank idolatry, which is why Paul makes a connection between these temptations and Israel’s golden calf a few verses earlier (1 Corinthians 10:7). We are not to play with these “common to man” fantasy-idols. They are lethal. They destroy people every day. They “[bring] forth death” (James 1:14–15).
Look for the Escape
So what do we do when we feel like grumbling or when we’re enticed by some lustful indulgence today? We look for the escape. There’s gospel in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
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.
God promises to always provide an escape. But what kind of escape does he promise? God’s escape is almost always a promise to trust.
Temptations are promises. The temptation to sinfully grumble is a form of the promise that if you can be your own god and have your own way you will be happy. Grumbling is a form of rebellion against the incompetence of God. The way of escape is trusting promises such as,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
The temptation to indulge in sexual immorality is the promise that a forbidden sexual experience or the selfish use of someone else’s body for your own pleasure regardless of how it affects them will make you happy. The way of escape is trusting promises such as,
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Every escape will be slightly different. But it will be there in the form of promises. When temptation hits look for the promises.
Prepare to Not Want Escape
The hardest part about fighting these temptations is that we often don’t feel like we want escape in the moment. Don’t be surprised. Remember. Fighting temptation means trusting promises over perceptions. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Follow the promises of truth, not the appetites of error. Joy will come with the former and horrible regret with the latter.
And when we’ve failed and fallen into sin, we are invited to go straight to the cross where our cancelled sin has been paid in full. There, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
So today, let’s trust that Jesus, “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), will provide a way of escape that is more persistent (Hebrews 13:5), far more powerful (1 John 4:4), and far more satisfying (Hebrews 11:25–26) than what our “common to man” temptations are promising.