Lately I‘ve asked about your sense of safety and then about your anxieties. Today I want to address our confidence or lack of it. Do we have confidence in the medical community to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 this year? If you’re an American, do you have confidence that the right man will be elected president? That we’ll never have another 9-11? What about your finances, health, or goals? What about your ability to be faithful to God—what’s your confidence level? We know God is utterly faithful to us, but our confidence is tricky because it has broad applications. The Mirriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as: “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances; faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way; the quality or state of being certain; a relation of trust or intimacy; or a secret. But the Bible is clear that only our confidence in God will lead to real faith, belief, certainty, and trust. Our faithfulness is a direct result of our confidence that God will do what he says he will do in his Word. How much confidence do we have that God will help us be faithful when faced with temptations? Paul writes, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 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 10:12-13)
God knows we will be tempted, especially by a false confidence in ourselves, and in others, systems, or things. Isn’t that part of what we fear, when we remember the tragedy of 9-11 in the U.S.? After that tragedy, systems and positions were created to ensure that we won’t experience it again. But we, as individuals don’t plan for the everyday temptations that we will all face in this life. We should be seeking God’s help to prepare for, recognize, and resist false confidence and common temptations that oppose godly living. Preparedness for these certain temptations will result in faithfulness because of God’s promise and power to provide escapes or endurance. “No Christian can afford to take lightly the warnings of Scripture, because these warnings are the God-appointed means by which true believers persevere to the end. Those of faith heed these warnings as the Spirit works through them to make them will and work ‘for his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12-13).” (1)
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (v. 12) One Bible translation reads, “stands securely,” as if there is no danger in falling. Can you picture a mountain-climber without ropes and carabiners, thinking that there is no chance of falling? Some years ago, I visited the Giant Causeway in Northern Ireland. Since I was having trouble with a knee, I didn’t chance walking on the rocks, which has naturally formed into hexagonal shapes. But I did want a photo, so I climbed on one rock—just one—and wouldn’t you know the wind was so strong it blew me down on the edge of the rock. I suffered a bruised tailbone, and the pain2was excruciating for weeks, sometimes hindering my ability to engage with others in ministry. If I had stopped to assess the wind’s strength, I would have restrained myself. In the context of 1 Corinthians, this is “Perhaps a reference to the Corinthians’ mistaken ‘knowledge’ that they have the right to eat in an idol’s temple [without regard for their influence on others].” (3) When we start down the road of “it’s my right,” we negate the fact that our behavior has far-reaching consequences, including backsliding or a temporary lapse in faith. God knows we will be tempted and warns us against false confidence to trust him for escape or endurance. We stumble in their faithfulness because our independence and lack of practice hinders us. But God’s Word encourages us to prepare for, recognize, and resist false confidence and the ordinary temptations that impede our godly living.
“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) “Paul’s carefully chosen words imply that at times’ escape’ from temptation will not entail a change of circumstances, but the Holy Spirit’s power to withstand and endure.” (2 Cor. 12:2-10) While this warning may be necessary for us, Paul’s words are meant to be more comforting than admonishing. “We have full encouragement to flee from sin, and to be faithful to God. We cannot fall by temptation, if we cleave fast to him. Whether the world smiles or frowns, it is an enemy; but believers shall be strengthened to overcome it, with all its terrors and enticements. The fear of the Lord, put into their hearts, will be the great means of safety… God is wise as well as faithful, and will make our burdens according to our strength. He knows what we can bear. He will make a way to escape; he will deliver either from the trial itself, or at least the mischief of it.” (3)
“God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above—no man can be tempted, afflicted, or persecuted by men, but by a divine permission, and that voluntary; nor more than, or above that measure which God hath determined…[and] he will never leave them nor forsake them, and that he will bear, and carry, and save them unto the uttermost…foras he by his permission makes way for the temptation or affliction, which otherwise could not come; and as he knows how, in what manner, and at the best time, to deliver his people out of temptations; so he does and will, in his providence, open a way that they may escape out of them, at least so as not to be over-pressed and destroyed by them: that ye may be able to bear it; or God does not always think fit to remove at once an affliction or temptation, though at the earnest request of his people, as in the case of Paul, (2 Cor. 12:7-8) yet he gives them grace sufficient to endure and stand up under it, yea, to get the victory of it, to be more that conquerors, and triumph over it.” (4)
The sovereignty of God over temptations, as with everything, supplies us with the best reason to believe that preparing to confront our temptations will meet with success and greater faithfulness. Didn’t God choose to show you mercy, to give you to Christ as his precious treasured possession? Didn’t he provide a church family for you and his Word for your growth in faith? How many times has the Lord proved his faithfulness to you? “To be assured of one’s salvation is indeed an immense blessing…divine help is still needed by assured believers who do not live in a rarefied atmosphere but in an imperfect church and a fallen world. They have duties to perform and burdens to carry. Being assured is therefore an immense help in living the ‘ordinary’ Christian life. It provides an extra stimulus for faithful obedience to what has been heard, over against the danger of being deceived, and also for caring for one another.” (5) Our faithfulness during temptations is the gospel of Jesus Christ—he is our way of escape and endurance.
But how do we apply the gospel to the way we deal with temptations? “God does not make us holy in the sense that He makes our character holy. He makes us holy in the sense that He has made us innocent before Him. And then we have to turn that innocence into holy character through the moral choices we make. These choices are continually opposed and hostile to the things of our natural life, which have become so deeply entrenched— the very things that raise themselves as fortified barriers ‘against the knowledge of God.’ We can either turn back, making ourselves of no value to the kingdom of God, or we can determinedly demolish these things, allowing Jesus to bring another son to glory (see Hebrews 2:10). 2 Corinthians 10:5 ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.’” (6)
Since God knows that we will be tempted, he teaches and warns us against false confidence to trust him for escape or endurance. Let’s turn to God to prepare for, recognize, and resist self-reliance and common temptations that oppose godly living. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). Since we’re already conquerors in Christ, we prepare for temptations based on our confidence in God, for victories and faithfulness.
- The Reformation Study Bible, 1 Corinthians 9:27, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Corinthians 10:12, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” 1 Corinthians 10:13, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-30.html
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Corinthians 10:13, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1corinthians-1.html
- Jones, Hywel R., “Assurance in Prayer,” Modern Reformation, Vol. 29, No. 5, October 2020, Escondido, CA.
- Chambers, Oswald, “My Utmost for His Highest, Do It Yourself,” based on 2 Corinthians 10:5, https://utmost.org
September 11, 2020