Have you ever felt freakish because of the trials and temptations you’ve been facing in your life, as if you are the only one going through what you are going through? I have a word of comfort for you today . . . and it’s a word of comfort for me too!
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13)
A quick check for definitions of the word freak yields, “A person on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature; monster.” A “freak” is so far removed from “ordinary” that we are tempted to turn and gape in astonishment when we see one, as we might stare at the “bearded lady” displayed at a circus. A freak is in a special category.
Let me assure you that our struggles with temptation do not make us freaks! The Bible makes it clear that because of our indwelling sin nature, we all wrestle with temptation. No temptation has seized us except what is common to all men.
Most of us have heard sermons preached on this verse. We tend to confine our focus to the last portion of the text. We know God will provide a way for us to stand and have victory over our temptations. But the first thing we need to understand—if we are ever going to find the strength to resist temptation—is the commonness of it.
Bryan Chapell writes, “The knowledge that others struggle as we do rescues us from the weakening despair of thinking that we are unique and strange when we feel tempted.” In other words, you should no longer feel like a freak because of the temptations you are struggling with. You are not alone!
Temptation is a common life experience for everyone. And a temptation is not a sin. Yielding to it is sin, not the presence of it. Remember, even Jesus Himself was tempted by the devil: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Yet we know there was no sin in His perfect life. Hebrews 4:15 confirms that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.”
When we understand that others did and do struggle against the same temptations and trials we encounter, we feel less isolated and freakish. Knowing we are all confronting temptation in one form or another is a source of strength in the battle. If we feel we are abnormal and alone, we may easily give up and give in to the temptations that plague us. And this is the place of abject surrender to which Satan wants to drive all of us.
The Bible makes it clear we are not alone in our fight against temptation, and the Gospel gives us the power to resist. And when we fail to resist, the Gospel gives us the grace to come running to the throne of grace, where we find unending forgiveness and unconditional love, which empowers us to go further in and further up into our salvation. The less freakish we feel about our individual temptations the more we will desire to be faithful, knowing we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who struggled mightily, just as we do.
Most of us can repeat 1 John 1:9 from memory: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But have you looked at that verse in context lately? See how the Holy Spirit bookended that marvelous promise of God’s grace and forgiveness! I’m going to highlight verses 8 and 10 of 1 John to emphasize Scripture’s matter-of-fact appraisal of our fallen nature:
(8) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Do you see that? Scripture is, in essence, telling us: “Don’t even think about trying to pass yourself off as someone who wins all your battles against temptation. If you do, you’re a liar. Worse still, you’re calling God a liar!”
Remember, there was only One who walked this earth and never once surrendered to temptation! Because of His victory, we can look forward to the day we too shall live in victory, a day when there will be no more temptation . . . no more tears . . . no more cries of “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).
Until that glorious day, let’s fight in the strength of the Lord, knowing we are all in the battle together. Know that He is there to battle with you! “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).
Therefore, let us “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). We’re all in the same leaky, sinful boat together. So let’s pray without ceasing and paddle like crazy!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!