…beyond what you are able…

book-160876_1280William J. Stewart | Is That Really What It Means?

We want to be diligent students of the entire Bible, and yet there are segments of it that stick with us more than others, and that’s ok. For example:

  • you may be able to name the 12 apostles, but how about the 12 spies sent to Canaan?
  • you can likely quote 3:16 of the fourth NT book from memory, but I doubt you can quote the same reference from the fourth OT book.

When we commit texts to memory, it will generally be verses that are going to help us in our walk as a child of God. Several times, I have encouraged people to memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13. There, the apostle Paul wrote:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

When someone is going through difficulties, it is not uncommon to hear would be encouragers say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  Whether it is the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a severe illness, or any number of things that might happen in life, there is nothing that will come our way that we cannot endure and overcome. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the text that is cited as proof for this assertion.

So long as we face the trials with the Lord, we will be able to endure and overcome. However, if we are not walking with Him, there is no promise that He will hedge us against bad things. Though the premise is true, this is not what Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Rather, I would cite the book of Job, and in particular the interaction between the Lord and Satan in chapters 1 & 2. The text clearly shows God setting limitations on what the devil could do to Job. We serve the same God Job served, and He knows our faith just as He knew Job’s.

Now, why did I say 1 Corinthians 10:13 is not the right text to look at to support the idea that God won’t give us more than we can handle? Look at the context. Paul used Israel as an example of God’s people falling to temptation and sin. He’s not talking about losing a job, breaking a leg, or mourning a loved one. His instruction is about not falling to temptation and sin. He gives a summary of their failures (6-11), opening and closing by emphasizing these things are examples for us. We need to learn from their failure so we do not repeat it.

Verse 12 warns,

…let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

We do not want to be haughty, believing we can’t fall. The Exodus generation of Israelites fell, despite being God’s people. The same could happen to you and I. Let us not be arrogant or proud.

Lest we be constantly afraid that we might fall, the apostle immediately adds verse 13, a text that assures us we are able to overcome temptation, and that calls upon us to take responsibility for our sin. Notice a few things we can learn from verse 13.

  1. Satan can’t blindside us with a new temptation that no one has faced before. The apostle emphasizes the common nature of temptation. Others have faced and overcome what we are tempted by.
  2. God is in control. He knows where we are in our faith and what we are
    able to handle. It’s promised that He will not allow us to face a temptation beyond what we’re able to bear. Paul doesn’t say how God does this, just that He does. So, when we are tempted, we can know that God knows we are able to overcome. That means if we do not—if we fall to the temptation, then we are to blame. We chose to sin rather than to overcome.
  3. God provides the way of escape. It’s imperative that we know the Bible, for it is the way of escape. When Jesus was tempted, His response was “it is written” (Mt 4). He fought temptation with Scripture. So can we.

Let’s be diligent students of the Word and overcome the wicked one.

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