Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
1 Corinthians 10:13
We each face temptation every day. Sometimes it even seems as if there is no escape. Yet, Joseph in the Old Testament provides a sterling example for all of us. His purity, even in the face of great temptation, shows us how we can resist wrong and overcome temptation.
Joseph refused to do wrong. Over and over he said "no" to Potiphar's wife. I Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Satan will not tempt you with sin just once; he will persistently and continually entice you, hoping that you will eventually fall. To resist wrong, you must continually say, "No!"
Joseph set boundaries against wrong. Joseph knew his moral boundaries, and in Genesis 39:9 he told Potiphar's wife, "Neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife." No one but God would have known if Joseph yielded to temptation, but he resisted because he had pre-determined his boundaries. Don't wait until Satan tempts you to establish biblical boundaries. Rather set boundaries for your life before you are in the place of temptation.
Joseph was conscious of God's presence. He viewed sin as a direct offense toward God. This is why he said, "...how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). The best motivation for avoiding sin is realizing that sin is ultimately against God. Avoiding sin for your family or job is good, but avoiding sin for God is best!
Joseph may have lost his coat, but he kept his character. You and I can likewise resist temptation by following Joseph's example.
Pinpoint the areas where you struggle, and purpose to resist temptation through God's strength.
"For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?"
1 Corinthians 10:30
In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, Illinois. Edward Spencer, a nearby ministerial student, saw the event and waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue seventeen passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged and he had to live with complications for the rest of his life. Years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.
Giving thanks, even for such a monumental task as saving someone's life, seems to go unnoticed today. And if something so large as this can go unthanked, how many smaller acts of kindness go unnoticed on a daily basis?
How often do you give God thanks? God desires that we would live in a spirit of thankfulness each day, daily pointing out kindness from others and being grateful for the goodness of others and from Him.
When was the last time you made a special note to thank God for all He's done for you? We may say thanks for a meal or express gratitude after an answer to prayer, but how often do we make time to thank God? God has blessed each of us in so many countless ways and deserves constant praise from our lips.
Take time today to thank God for His goodness. Carve out a time in your schedule when you can be alone with God and reflect on His blessings. Perhaps write them down. You'll soon find that God's goodness cannot be fathomed. Make a point of constantly living in a state of thankfulness and never go a day without giving God thanks.
Taking time to give God thanks will remind you just how blessed you truly are.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:13–14
In 1994, a fire broke out at a club in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the stampede to get away from the fire, four young people were trampled to death. The investigation revealed that the lighted sign over one of the two exits was not working at the time of the fire. Even worse, it was discovered that the exit door had been nailed shut—apparently to keep people from slipping in without paying. For those young people, there was no way of escape.
When we are tempted and give in to sin, we sometimes look for someone else to blame. But every sin is our responsibility. James 1:14 says that each of us is led to temptation "by his own lust." There is always a way for us to escape; the door is never nailed shut. But sometimes we don’t really want to take that escape. Someone said, “The hard part of resisting temptation is that we don’t want to discourage it completely.”
Playing with sin is one of the most dangerous things we can ever do. Instead of seeing how close we can get to the fire without being burned, the Bible instructs us, "flee also youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22). God places the responsibility for escape on us because He provides the way to escape.
Next time you find yourself in a moment of temptation, remember that God provides the way for escape, and quickly flee before you find yourself trapped in sin.
God provides a way of escape, but we must choose to walk through the exit door.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
Lenny Skutnik had no intention of being a hero that day. The staffer at the Congressional Budget Office in Washington was having an ordinary winter day when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River shortly after takeoff. Those who survived the crash faced death as the plane sank in the icy waters.
A helicopter dropped a rescue line to one of the survivors, but she was too weak to hold on. Lenny Skutnik saw what was happening and dove into the water. He swam out to her and pulled her back to shore, saving her life. Two weeks later, President Ronald Reagan invited Skutnik to attend the State of the Union address, and in describing the accident said: “And we saw the heroism of one of our young Government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.”
Skutnik was honored by the president of the United States, not because he tried to draw attention to himself but because he did what was right in a crisis. Satan tells us that we need to be sure everything we do is seen and praised. Yet God reminds us that attempts to promote ourselves eventually backfire. Only the honor that God orchestrates is sure. Psalm 75:6–7 says, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”
It is much better to leave recognition in the hands of God. We can trust Him to see and properly reward all that we do for Him. Better still, when we do “all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), we are completely free from the being elated or deflated by the finicky approval of men.
When we leave our honor in the hands of God, we free ourselves to do all to His glory.
"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."
Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, often told his employees this story to emphasize the vital importance of maintaining integrity: “In China's later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, ‘There's no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know.’ ‘You say that no one will know,’ Yang Zhen replied, ‘but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know too.’”
When we are tempted to sin, we face a choice. Will we listen to the enticement and agree to go along with it, or will we stand firm for what is right? There will always be “reasons” we can use to convince ourselves why it is okay for us to do wrong—but any reasons that justify sin are short-sighted. If we allow ourselves to accept them, we will bear the consequences. Rather than trying to find a reason that will allow us to sin, we should instead search for God’s means of escape.
Paul wrote, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sin is not an overpowering force. Through grace we have been given the means to resist temptation—but to overcome we must refuse to listen to those who would draw us astray.
Temptation to sin never overcomes us without our consent—there is a way to escape.
"(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows."
In addition to his long career as a political leader, including several years spent as Secretary of State and candidate for President, William Jennings Bryan often filled pulpits as a preacher. His powerful rhetoric opened the Word of God and challenged men and women to repent. In one memorable illustration, he told of a man from his hometown of Salem, Illinois, who once had been a drunkard. The man was convicted of the error of his ways, and signed a temperance pledge to stop drinking. But as Bryan told the story, each time he went into town, he continued to tie his horse up at the hitching post in front of the tavern where he used to drink. It wasn’t long before he was back inside with his old friends, drinking once again.
The devil for centuries has been convincing people that they are different—that they can get close to the edge with temptation without going over. He delights when Christians believe that they are strong enough to resist continual exposure to temptation without giving in. He knows he is close to triumph when we forget Paul’s admonition, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The devil doesn’t play fair. He doesn’t care what he has to use to lure us to sin. Anything—even good things—can become tools in his hands. We need to walk through the world with our guard up and our eyes fixed on Jesus. Only then can we triumph over temptation and win the victory.
Satan is a master of deceit. Only by clinging to the truth can we hope to overcome his deception.
"Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
1 Corinthians 10:10-12
We must never forget that we have an enemy whose purpose is to destroy us and render us ineffective in God’s service. One of the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal is pride. When we become proud we let our guard down, thinking that we are not at risk—and in that moment the devil strikes. Many men and women who served God for years and accomplished much for Him have fallen prey to the snare of pride.
Winston Churchill knew the importance of guarding against pride in light of his prominent position and many accomplishments. He was once asked, "Doesn't it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?" "It's quite flattering," replied Churchill. "But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big."
God has given us every talent and ability we have. His Spirit empowers us to work for Him. We have nothing of which to be proud. Paul reminds us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since we have nothing that God has not given us, we have no basis for pride. Yet it is easy for us to look around and declare ourselves the architects of our lives—and thus allow the devil a devastating means of attack.
Do not allow pride to lure you into a false sense of security—keep your guard up so that you will not be destroyed by the devil.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Dr. Horatius Bonar—the gifted Scottish pastor and hymn writer of the 1800s—said that it was possible to tell when a Christian was growing in grace: “In proportion to his growth in grace he would elevate his Master, talk less of what he was doing, and become smaller and smaller in his own esteem, until, like the morning star, he faded away before the rising sun. Jonathan was willing to decrease, that David might increase; and John the Baptist showed the same spirit of humility.”
Spiritual warfare is a daily reality of our lives. Paul instructed Timothy about the necessity of fighting to gain the victory. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Our triumph over the enemy requires the use of the right kind of weapons. And the successful use of spiritual weapons requires humility and obedience. Pride keeps us from receiving the blessing and power of God. If we insist on fighting in our own strength, we are certain to fail.
The beginning of humility is found in our thoughts. If they are captive to Christ, pride has no place to grow and develop in our hearts. Paul wrote, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Right thinking—keeping Christ in His proper position of preeminence—is essential to right living.
Victory in spiritual warfare begins when we walk daily in obedience to Christ in our thoughts.
“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Some time ago my wife and I went to Los Angeles for a friend’s birthday party. As we drove along the freeway, we passed a Denny’s Restaurant where I used to go and study for exams when I was in Bible college. There were a lot of memories tied up in that place. Back then I dreamed about starting out in a ministry. That was decades ago, and these days my thoughts are more on finishing the course in a way that honors and glorifies God to the end.
One of the most striking and sobering realizations of the Bible is how many servants of God had major failures in the latter part of their lives. The devil is a patient enemy. He is willing to set traps that will not develop for years, and spring them at just the right moment. Because of our proud natures, it is easy for us to fall for the lie that we have reached a point where we no longer need to be cautious regarding attacks from the enemy.
The Apostle Paul warned us: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). There is never a time when we will be exempt from temptation. We never “arrive,” and thus we need to be constantly on guard. It is a tragedy to serve God for many years and then fall toward the end of our lives.
Work each day to ensure that you will be able to finish your course with joy.
“And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
It was shortly after the death of King Uzziah that Isaiah saw his vision of God on His throne in Heaven. It was a remarkable glimpse of the glory and majesty of God, and it prepared the prophet for a lifetime of powerful ministry. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this story, but one of the most significant is the change that seeing God made in Isaiah’s focus. In the previous chapter, we find him pronouncing judgment on the people. “Woe unto them” occurs again and again. Yet after seeing God, Isaiah said, “Woe is me.”
It is easy for us to become proud of our spiritual accomplishments and look down on others who we perceive have not reached the same level of a walk with God. In many cases, it is only our pride at work, and in some cases we may actually be a more mature Christian. Even then, however, if we are proud of ourselves and look down on others, we are not nearly as close to God as we think.
Paul wrote, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). When we compare ourselves to others, we may find comfort, but when we hold up the perfect standard of God’s holiness, we realize our desperate need for His cleansing power.
Seeing God as He truly is makes it easy for us to remain humble as we fall before His throne.
“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
1 Corinthians 10:8–11
The story of the Israelites on their journey from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land is a repeated pattern of disobedience, judgment, and repentance. Sadly, it is not a pattern of learning from mistakes! Instead the people grumbled and complained about the same things over and over. They feared to follow God rather than acting in faith, and they were ungrateful for the many blessings that God showered on them. Time and again they sinned against the God who delivered and provided for them. Paul tells us that these stories are not just in the Bible as historical truth, but as examples for us to consider as we determine how we should live.
Someone said, “While it may be true that a wise man learns from his mistakes, it is a wiser man who learns from the mistakes of others.” The Bible is filled with commandments given to us by an all-wise, all-knowing God. The things that God tells us to do are not to cause us pain, and the things He tells us not to do are not to keep us from pleasure. God not only gives us His commands, but He provides examples to show us what happens when we do and do not follow them. Yet far too many Christians persist in believing that somehow they will be an exception to the rules—that they can sin and avoid the consequences—and then are surprised to find God has not changed.
If we obey God’s Word, we protect ourselves and our families from great heartache and suffering.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
George Müller was a man of great faith. For many years, he operated orphanages that cared for thousands of children. The work was completely supported by prayer. Müller did not believe in asking people to give money—so much so that on more than one occasion when people asked him what needs the orphanage had, he would tell them, “I told God what we need. Ask Him what you should do.” Müller carried a great weight of responsibility, but he did not bear it alone. On his desk Müller kept a frame with this declaration: It matters to Him about you.
The devil lies and tells us that God does not care about our situation. When we stop and think that there are some seven billion people living on earth, it is easy to feel like our lives may not attract God’s attention. But in reality, He knows exactly where we are and everything about us—even the number of hairs on our heads. This is the God whose knowledge and wisdom is so infinite that He even keeps track of the most insignificant birds, and He loves us far more than the sparrows.
God never loses sight of us, or forgets what we are experiencing in our lives. When He does allow things to come into our lives that are painful and difficult, He measures carefully what we are able to bear. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Rejoice today in God’s knowledge and love for you right where you are.
“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
It is easy for us to look around and think that we are better than those around us, and not as much in need of God’s grace as they are. But while such proud thoughts are satisfying to our fallen nature, they are not in line with reality. Near the end of one of his best known poems, “To a Louse—On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church,” the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
If we truly saw ourselves as God sees us (for while we may deceive others He always knows not only our actions but our thoughts), we would abandon any pretense of pride.
The problem we have is that rather than measuring ourselves against the standard of God’s perfect holiness, we look to those around us and measure ourselves against them. It is easy to find areas in which we are superior (or at least can convince ourselves we are) and focus on those. The problem with this approach is that it is flawed and foolish. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead of thinking that we are better than others by looking horizontally, we need to look up and realize that we are just as much in need of God’s grace and mercy as those around us.
Having a high view of ourselves keeps us from having a proper view of God.
“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
In his poem Aeneid, which details the mythical life of the founder of Rome, Virgil described a cruel and wicked tyrant named King Mezentius who opposed the hero Aeneas. Among the evidences given for his harshness was his practice of tying corpses to those whom he wished to execute but did not wish for them to die quickly. Mezentius’ victims were condemned to carry the dead body around with them until the decay spread and killed them as well.
That is something like the image that Paul uses in describing the old nature that remains with us even after we are saved. While we are given a new nature and a new father, the old remains. Paul described his own struggle with doing what was right: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). The body of death, the sin nature, will never leave us until we reach Heaven.
The difference, however, between our experience and King Mezentius’ victims is that we are not doomed to continually fall into sin; in fact, we are destined to victory. God is our deliverer. Ultimately, we will be freed from sin when we are in His presence. In the meantime, He is always faithful when we seek His help: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
If we seek God’s way of escape and live in the power of His Spirit, we can defeat temptation.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
1 Corinthians 10:11–13
Heavyweight boxer James “Quick” Tillis grew up in a poor family in Oklahoma. When he began his professional boxing career, he decided to move to Chicago where he would have better training and publicity opportunities. In the personal account of his life, Tillis wrote, “I got off the bus with two suitcases under my arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, ‘I am going to conquer Chicago.’ When I looked down, the suitcases were gone!”
All of us are tempted to rely on ourselves—to think that we have things together and can make it on our own. That is never true. In fact, it is when we are most self-confident and self-reliant that we are in the greatest danger of failure. The battles we face cannot be won in our own strength. Even the archangel Michael relied on God’s strength rather than his own when confronting Satan. “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 1:9).
God calls us to be victorious, but it is His power that wins the battles, not ours. When our focus is on ourselves and what we can do, we are in a dangerous place.
The more thoroughly we humbly depend on God, the more protected we are from temptation and sin.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
2 Corinthians 10:3–6
What people think determines how they feel and how they act. In the 1970s, a Stanford professor named David Rosenhan conducted an experiment. He and several other healthy subjects checked themselves into mental institutions. They then tried to convince the staff that they were normal. They did not exhibit any characteristics of mental illness or abnormal behavior, but on average it took nearly three weeks for them to be released. Even then many of the facilities insisted on putting a continuing treatment plan in place before allowing them to leave. Why did they respond that way? Because they were convinced there was a problem and found evidence to support their belief.
The Christian life requires proper thinking if we are to live as God intends. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Victory does not begin on the outside, but on the inside with our thoughts. The way that we view every part of life—worship, work, family, others—is determined by how we think about those things. God has given us His Word, not to carry to church on Sundays and then set aside, but instead to guide, control, and fill our thinking. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
Only when our minds are under control can we win victory over temptation and sin.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
2 Corinthians 10:3–6
Anyone who has ever tried to drive a nail with the handle of a screwdriver or the heel of a shoe knows that it can be very difficult to do a job with the wrong tool. Sometimes it is impossible. There is only one tool that will work, and no matter how hard we may try, we cannot do the job without the right tool. Spiritual warfare is one of those areas. The tool that we have been given is the Bible. Nothing else will suffice.
Charles Spurgeon said, “‘It is written.’ Stand upon it, and if the devil were fifty devils in one, he could not overcome you. On the other hand, if you leave ‘It is written,’ Satan knows more about reasoning than you do. He is far older, has studied mankind very thoroughly, and knows all our weak points. Therefore, the contest will be an unequal one. Do not argue with him, but wave in his face the banner of God’s Word. Satan cannot endure the infallible truth, for it is death to the falsehood of which he is the father.”
Every day we do not use the Bible to respond to temptation, is a day when we will be defeated. The Lord has not called us to do battle with our own weapons, but with His Word. It is our protection, our strength, our guide, our wisdom, and the sole weapon with which we can resist Satan.
Rather than relying on our wisdom or power, we must use the Bible to overcome the enemy.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
1 Corinthians 10:31–33
Many people are looking for a purpose or meaning in their lives. Books regularly hit the best-seller list by promising help in this search. Television is filled with programs and advertisements that offer (usually for a small fee or three easy payments) to guide people to finding meaning. Yet such efforts are focused in the wrong place. This life is not about us, but about God. We do not belong to ourselves, but to Him. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Charles Spurgeon said, “If God had willed it, each of us might have entered Heaven at the moment of conversion. Why then are we here? Would God keep His children out of paradise a single moment longer than was necessary? We remain on earth as sowers to scatter good seed; as ploughmen to break up the fallow ground; as heralds publishing salvation. We are here as the ‘salt of the earth,’ to be a blessing to the world. We are here to glorify Christ in our daily life.”
The life that is aimed at bringing glory to God will look different from one that is focused on human accomplishment and meaning. Rather than trying to be promoted, we will be humble. Rather than trying to be prominent, we will be serving. Rather than trying to be successful, we will be faithful. The world may not value such a life, but God certainly does.
Seeking to glorify God in all that we do changes how we think, how we speak, and how we act.
“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7–9
At a time without any of the modern communication or travel tools that we take for granted, the Apostle Paul journeyed thousands of miles, enduring great physical suffering to preach the gospel to multitudes of people. He planted churches across the Roman Empire, preaching with power and teaching the new converts. Young believers that he trained, like Timothy and Titus, carried on the work of the gospel ministry as they led churches in places like Crete and Ephesus, continuing what Paul had begun. There is no question that Paul’s ministry was effective. But why did he accomplish so much?
We tend to look at Paul as a giant of the faith, but while he was a great pattern and model of ministry, Paul was not without his faults and his detractors. It was not so much his talent or gifts as a speaker that produced the results as it was the power of the Spirit poured out through Paul’s heart for those to whom he ministered. In fact, Paul’s speaking was sometimes critiqued as ineffective. “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:10).
But no one could deny the compassion and fervor with which Paul labored to reach the lost and train the saints. He cared about people. As a result, he was patient, gentle, dedicated, and loving in his approach. Paul shook the world not by his gifts, but by his compassion.
Effective ministry to others is not a matter of talent, skill, and gifts, but of obedience and heart.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
2 Kings 6:15-17
Though the Syrian army was stronger than the Israelite army, they were not winning battles. That is because Elisha was giving updated military intelligence to the king of Israel, warning him of where the Syrians were planning to attack and setting up ambushes. The king of Syria thought he had a spy in his palace, but one of his advisers told him the problem was the prophet who lived in Dothan. So the king decided to take care of that problem permanently and sent his army to capture or kill Elisha. The presence of the enemy alarmed the servant, but Elisha had no fear. That is because he recognized the power of God that had deployed in his defense.
Once the servant's eyes were opened to the angels standing guard, his fear fled. There is a great spiritual battle going on all around us, and it is important for us to be aware of it.
Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). We have no shortage of power available to us—but we must be conscious of the conflict and seek God's help for victory.
Though we have a determined and powerful enemy, the power of God provides us with victory.
“And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me. And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.”
1 Kings 20:10–11
Most corporate CEOs are fairly anonymous to the general population, but not Todd Davis. The cofounder of LifeLock, the company that provides identity theft prevention services became very well known during the company’s aggressive advertising campaign. Davis publicized his own Social Security number, basically daring anyone to steal his identity. Many of the commercials featured shocked people warning him of the danger that his stunt posed. Davis declared his trust in his company, but it proved to be misplaced. A number of people succeeded in opening various accounts using Davis’s information and identity. He was confident, but he was wrong.
The world tells us to believe in ourselves, but God tells us to believe in Him. The world says that we can be anything we want to be, but God says we can do all things through His strength. Rather than becoming self-confident, God wants us to be completely dependent upon Him so that He gets all the glory. “And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judges 7:2).
Building confidence in ourselves does not make us stronger, but more vulnerable to attack and temptation. Paul warns, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). While we should be not fearful or discouraged, it is vital that we remember our strength and ultimate victory are all God’s doing and not our own. Confidence in Him is never misplaced or disappointed.
When we place our confidence in ourselves rather than God, we are headed for trouble.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
In 1337, disputes between England and France over succession to the throne and control of land broke out into open warfare. For the next 116 years, fighting continued in what came to be known as the Hundred Years War. Though there were brief periods of truces and peace, the conflict, along with smaller wars between competing factions and allies of the two nations that went on at the same time, continued until France finally gained the upper hand and England renounced all claims to the French throne. Five generations of English kings ruled during the time the fighting lasted. It was a battle that must have seemed like it would never end.
As Christians we are part of an ongoing spiritual conflict that will never end until we reach Heaven. The new nature that we receive when we trust Christ as Saviour competes with the old sinful nature that we inherited from Adam. The battle never ends. There are no days off or times when it is safe for us to set aside the weapons of spiritual warfare. Satan never gives up on his attempts to drag us down and destroy our lives. We must not grow weary of battle and stop fighting, or we will surely be defeated.
On the other hand, we can rejoice in the fact that, through the Holy Spirit, we are not powerless in this struggle. Second Corinthians 10:3–4 tells us, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;).”
Walk in the Spirit today, and you will have access to the mighty weapons of God in defeating sin and temptation.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Imagine an army going into battle armed with cap guns. They might be able to march impressively and make some noise, but they would have no chance of victory against an enemy armed with real weapons. That seems like a ludicrous example, but how often do we try to fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons? The result is the same—certain defeat. Yet if we use the spiritual weapons God has provided for us, victory is assured. The battle is real, but the final outcome is already settled.
George Whitefield said, “Since then Christ is praying for us, whom should we fear? And since He has promised to make us more than conquerors, of whom should we be afraid? No, though an host of demons are lined up against us, let us not be afraid; though the hottest persecution should rise up against us, yet let us put our trust in God. Even though Satan, and the rest of his apostate spirits, are powerful, when compared with us; yet, if put in competition with the Almighty, they are as weak as the smallest worms.”
The reason that we yield to temptation and give in to sin is not that is overpowering, but that we are not using the mighty weapons God has made available to us. We know that prayer is essential, yet often we set it aside because we are too busy. We know that the Word of God is our weapon, yet too often it gathers dust while we focus on other things. When we use God's weapons, the victory will be ours.
Spiritual battles can never be fought and won with our own resources—we must use God's weapons.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The foundation of right living is found on the inside, not the outside. Our behavior is determined by the thinking which proceeds it. J. C. Ryle said, “Imagination is the hotbed where sin is too often hatched. Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.” We have control over our thinking if we choose to exercise it. Neither the devil nor the world can force us to think the wrong things. We only do that when we choose to do so. Because there is frequently a delay between the wrong thinking and the wrong actions that follow, we are tempted to feel like what we think does not matter. But what we continually think in our minds will certainly eventually show up in our actions.
There are temptations and thoughts that are hard for us to resist. While those vary according to our personality and experience, we share in common the need to control what we are allowing to fill our minds. There is victory available over wrong thinking for those who will claim it. Paul wrote, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We have a responsibility to take control of our thinking instead of allowing anything to linger in our minds that will lead us away from God. To please Him with our conduct, we must first make sure that our thoughts are filled with truth and right. Temptation will come, but we do not have to allow it to take root.
The key to godly living begins with biblical thinking.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:11-13
Perhaps the most famous of Aesop's fables is the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare." No one expected a slow tortoise to be able to compete with a speedy rabbit in a footrace. But the arrogance and overconfidence of the hare led him to stop for a nap before the race was finished. By the time he woke up and started running again, it was too late. There are some powerful lessons in that ancient story, and they are lessons we need to apply in our spiritual lives.
There is no place for arrogance and self-confidence when it comes to dealing with sin and temptation. Every one of us is capable of committing awful sin. Often the thing Satan uses against us is that assumption that we do not need to be on guard. When Jesus warned that after His arrest the disciples would turn away, one of them was certain that it would never be him. “Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33).
When we are convinced that we cannot or will not fall, that is when we are most in danger. Just as Jesus told him, Peter denied the Lord three times—even cursing to make his point that he didn't know Jesus. Satan is patient, and he is willing to probe our defenses. Because he knows that pride undermines us, he often attacks at the point we think we are strongest.
We need to rely on God rather than on ourselves for the strength to overcome temptation.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Ever since Adam tried to shift the blame for his sin to Eve, people have been looking for ways to feel superior to others. Sometimes that takes the form of downplaying our own contributions to problems. Sometimes it takes the form of judging others for what they are doing or not doing. It's always possible to find something about even the greatest people to criticize if we choose to live that way, but it is a foolish approach to life. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
There were people in the church in Colosse who were observing the commandments of the Mosaic law in respect to diet, holidays, and observances. There were also people there who were not. Neither position was a valid cause for judgment or condemnation. It's important for us not to judge others unfairly, but it is also important for us not to accept false judgments from others. We can and should learn from criticism if it is valid, but we should not allow improper judgments from others to make us feel like we have fallen short. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Romans 14:22).
We are one day going to give an account to God for our service to Him, and how we used the talents and abilities He gave to us. His evaluation will not be based on what anyone else thinks, but on what He has said. We do not need to fear that the judgments of others will persuade Him to adopt their views. We should be more concerned about obeying and honoring God than we are about anything else.
God is looking for people who are more concerned with doing what He says than they are with impressing others.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17
In 1795, near the end of George Washington's second term as President, the Great Seal of the United States with the motto e pluribus unum—out of many, one—was struck on the $5 gold coin known as the half eagle. The motto was added to silver coins starting in 1798, and it remained in use until the 1830s. After the motto had been dropped, a movement arose to have it returned to the coins, and the Coinage Act of 1873 (which remains in effect to this day) required that it once again be included.
The motto of our country is also a good description of God's plan for His church. Though people come from all different backgrounds, races, economic statuses, education levels, and life experiences, they find unity in Jesus Christ. The night before He would be crucified, Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:21-22).
The one central thing that unites us is far greater than anything that might divide us. There is no reason for God's people not to be united in fellowship, in worship, and in working for the Lord. Indeed this unity of God's children is one of the key evidences meant to convince the world that we are truly following Jesus Christ. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
God unites our hearts with other believers so that we can show and reflect His love to the world.