Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Testing, God’s Strength Is Enough

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” ~1 Corinthians 10:13 (NRSV).

There are times in life when we think the above verse is a lie—times we feel God’s power and Presence is unexpectedly absent. Whether it’s Satan that leads us to this or not is irrelevant to us at the time; we’ve just been pushed too far and our strength is puny.

“Testing” – in Context

The Apostle Paul, writer of 1 Corinthians, has a broader scope for the above verse than perhaps we read within it.

God does allow us to be tested for obedience’s sake. As we reflect over the earlier portion of chapter 10 of First Corinthians, we soon learn there is a vitality of spiritual compromise that we’re not to enter into. It’s dangerous territory for us. If we, for a critical moment or season, forget to consider the costs for not obeying God we’re putting at risk the very things God’s now blessing us with, as well as those still coming.

All of the preceding twelve verses of Chapter Ten build up to a marvellous promise, however, in verse 13.

The Sin That Hangs

Without forgetting our crucial context—that we live for God in the realm of the many, unto vast but basic morally-divined love-related laws—we have the opportunity to live free. Paul issues this very freedom in the context of what foods we can eat—and how, as the circumstances present—later in Chapter Ten.

The truth of life—in the perspective of obeying God—is we can all too easily become confounded and vexed by thought or effort around simply ‘not sinning’, as if that were a simple and easy choice for us.

The truth for the many is there’s sin and there’s sin; some we depart easily from. Other sin sticks to us. It’s formed in habit. Getting far from some of our sin is much easier said than it’s done in actuality. Some sin just hangs on valiantly. We all have such problems.

Verse 13, as it’s mentioned above, is the thing that bridges obedience and sin. It relents over the vast chasm, making it possible for us to please God.

There is Relief!

We can surely know as we read over and meditate upon the abovementioned verse that we have been and will be tested—to obey God. None of this is beyond what anybody else, or certainly others we’re either aware of or aren’t aware of, is tested to.

God does always provide good ways out of the messes we find ourselves in—if we have with us a heart to listen, trust and obey.

Even though we will be pushed to our brink, and perhaps many times, God is not of the character to allow testing unnecessarily. We can tell from the Old Testament allegories, that provide a good sense of exemplary warning to us, that life is life, and no one gets a distinctly better run at it than the next person does—not when all things are considered.

We will all struggle to comply with God in certain areas of our lives. God, of anyone, is patently aware of this—the Spirit of God knows our fallibility better, in fact, than we do ourselves. Recall that—due our repentance—we are forgiven.

There is relief for every single person in every single situation. It is up to us, however, to continue the search such that we may find it—that relief. We must remember always, nonetheless, that this relief is sourced in God, and no other.

Temptation to Sin or Suffering?

Lastly, we should try to never forget that this verse—1 Corinthians 10:13—is set in the guise of sin and obedience and not the bearing of ‘impossible’ suffering, as many might find. Let’s not forget the first twelve verses lead to the thirteenth.

In other words, it’s very important for us to not use this verse as a cliché-response to someone’s suffering, given that it was originally cast to encourage believers to simply discern and obey God’s will and repent from sin; that God would not allow us—in our temptation toward sin—to be marooned and left alone in our own strength, if we trust him.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), pp. 190-201.

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