Sermons


1 Corinthians 10:1-13                          How can we overcome temptation and testing?

 

I wonder if you are finding the Christian life tough or easy? It can be very tough, can’t it? We sometimes imagine that the longer we go on as Christians the easier the Christian life will become, but sometimes the opposite is true. We can forget that we are involved in a spiritual battle. Satan has one aim in mind as far as you are concerned and that is he is determined to draw you away from God and away from the Lord Jesus, and he knows every trick in the trade to do this.

In our reading from 1 Corinthians 10, we find Paul giving specific teaching to the Corinthians and to us as to how to overcome temptation. He uses the example of what happened to God’s people the Israelites who had been delivered from slavery in Egypt and were on their way to the land that God promised them.

 

1)  We can have wonderful experiences and significant events and still fall before temptation

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-6)

 

The Israelites had been through the Red Sea; they had been led by a pillar of cloud (a sign of God’s presence); they had been fed with manna in the desert; when Moses struck a rock with his staff, water flowed from it and they had drunk from it. In spite of all these wonderful experiences when they were tempted to rebel against God, they did just that.

 

We too may have been baptised; we may have received the Lord’s Supper or Communion often; we may have been filled with the Spirit; we may have brought others to faith; we may be leaders in the church, but when temptation comes we can still fail. Sadly there have been high profile cases over the years of Christian leaders who have failed.

 

 

2)  We can set our hearts on evil things

a)  We can be idolaters“Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”  (verse 7)

We can put something in the place that God should have in our lives. It can be something good, like our children; or a hobby; or our work; or our home; or sport.

 

 

b)  We can be guilty of sexual immorality – “We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did.”

We live in a sex crazy world. All over the place there are sexual images. Many ministers, and of course others as well, are hooked on internet pornography

c) We can test the Lord – “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did.” (v.9)

We can test the Lord by saying, “I will do this, if you do what I want.” By not obeying the Lord, we are testing him and challenging him.

d) We can grumble   -  And do not grumble, as some of them did.” (verse 10)

We can grumble about all kinds of things. We can grumble about the church and its leaders. We can become grumpy old men or even grumpy old women, when in fact we are quite young. Ultimately when we grumble, we are grumbling against God. Most of us would not put grumbling in the same list as idolatry, sexual immorality or testing the Lord, but that is exactly what Paul does.

 

3)  Heed the warnings and don’t be complacent

”These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (verses 11 & 12)

We can very easily become complacent. You may be thinking I don’t need to hear a sermon on this subject after all I have been a Christian for years. Well, remember that Satan is out to get us. Be aware of his methods

a)  Satan will attack us where we are weak and when we are weak. Someone said to me, “I know that when I am tired and stressed, I am particularly vulnerable to falling to this temptation.”

b)  Satan will attack us where we feel strong. When things are going well, we need particularly to be on our guard. James Wolfe captured Quebec in Canada by leading an attack up a cliff face, which the French defenders thought was impossible and had not guarded it.

c)  Satan will persuade us that what we are contemplating doing or saying is very minor. “It won’t really make much difference, if I do this or say that.”

d)  Satan will encourage us to look at other people – to justify what we are doing; “Everybody does this nowadays.” “What I am thinking of doing is nothing compared to what Peter does.” 

Please, please heed the warnings of Scripture.

 

4)  Remember that our particular temptation is common to other people

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.”  (verse 13a)

We may think that our particular temptation or testing is unique to us. No one else faces the tests that we face. No one else is really in our situation. We are unfairly being put under this temptation or test. The problem with this attitude is that it may give us an excuse for giving in when tested or tempted. It may also prevent us seeking help from someone else for fear of humiliating ourselves before them. However, when we dare to share the fact of our temptation with another, we often find that they have been similarly tempted or tested.

 

5)  Hold on to the faithfulness of God

“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”  (verse 13b)

What a great truth and a great promise! God is faithful. We can rely on God. We can trust him. He is there for us. He wants what is best for us. There was a version of the Lord’s Prayer in the 1960s and that replaced “Lead us not into temptation” by “Don’t test us past our breaking point.” This verse promises that God will not allow us be tested until we break, provided we use the means that he provides for us to stand firm.

 

6)  Use the resources that God provides

“But when you are tempted, God will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. “ (verse 13c)

God will provide a way out or he will give us the strength to remain faithful. However we may not be willing to take the way out of to use the means that he provides to help us in times of testing and temptation.

a)  “Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation”

These are words spoken by Jesus to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night that he was captured. They found it difficult to pray and feel asleep. When the testing came they all ran away. By contrast Jesus kept praying so he did not fail the test of remaining faithful to his Father as he went through the agony of crucifixion and separation from his Father.

b)  Use Scripture  “It is written ... it is written ... it is written..”

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he responded to each temptation by quoting from Scripture. The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) Through reading and learning the Bible we deepen our relationship with the Lord, which gives the strength to resist Satan’s attacks.

 

 

c)  Look at Jesus on the cross

When we focus on Jesus on the cross, he realise all that he has done for us and the strength of his love for us, this enables us to stand firm before temptation and testing. One of the ways in which we focus on the cross is through sharing in the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.

d)  Use our Christian friends

We are pilgrims together, we are disciples together, we are soldiers of Christ together. We are there to support, encourage, strengthen, and correct one another. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) It seems to me that too often we want to fight our spiritual battle on our own and do not seek one another’s help and support enough, and we are not honest enough with one another.

e)  Don’t believe the tempter’s lies

Remember that Satan is a liar. He uses every lie possible to undermine our relationship with the Lord, our relationship with one another and our sense of well-being. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by the great deceiver.

 

7)  When we fail take action

We will all sin at times. We will fail the tests of life. We will not take the way out to stand firm that that Lord offers us. But don’t then wallow in your failure.

a) Seek confess your sin or failure and seek God’s forgiveness

“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Sometimes it may be helpful to confess our sin or failure to someone else, particularly if you had done something against them.

b)  Get up and go on

There are many accounts of Christians who have failed badly, but have confessed their failure and accepted responsibility for their actions and have been forgiven and they have been used by God in the future. We can think of Simon Peter denying that he knew the Lord, and yet Jesus forgave him and he led the early church.

Praise God that failure need not be the end of the road for us. After painful reconciliation with God a fresh start can be made.

So temptation or testing is an ongoing experience in the Christian life. Let us be on our guard and let us use the means for overcoming laid down by St Paul. May the Lord help us to gain victory and to encourage and support one another.