When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
What we all must keep in view, especially when we being assaulted by the slings and arrows of the enemy, is this: The power that is within us is infinitely greater than any power that comes against us! In other words, God will never allow more to come up against us than he has put in us to handle it. We simply must not say, as 1970’s comedian Flip Wilson liked to say, “The devil made me do it!” God promises His people that “No weapon forged against you will prevail” (Isaiah 54:17), so we can never rightly claim that we have been overcome by the enemy.
So what is God’s divinely ordained “way out” of the temptations we face? Let’s take a brief look at two simple principles.
#1. The Principle of Resistance
When our Lord commands us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), He is setting forth the principle of resistance. When Jesus raised us from death to life, He gave us a new power that operates in our lives: the Holy Spirit of God. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist the devil by means of our Spirit-given desire to be faithful to our Lord.
Throughout the New Testament, we see the Christian life described as a fight or a spiritual battle against the forces of evil and darkness in this world. Paul likens the believer to an athlete in competition and to a soldier in battle. Both are actively engaged, striving in the hope of achieving victory. They are not passive and they are not powerless, and they are called to pursue victory in the strength of their Savior.
#2. The Principle of Refocus
It’s important to understand that the Scriptures tell us to “resist the devil,” not to resist “temptation.” To resist temptation is to try to resist a thought, and that simply does not work. In fact, it intensifies it. In his sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” Thomas Chalmers rightfully observed that we cannot simply stop thinking about something that has attracted our affection. Rather, we must replace it with a “new affection” . . . and that is what I call The Principle of Refocus.
Notice how Paul framed out this new affection; he wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). And, of course, “these things” can all be summed up in one word: Jesus. The author of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . .” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Remember, we naturally move toward what we focus our attention on, so the more we focus on Jesus, the more we will move toward Him.
Where in your life right now do you need to activate The Principle of Resistance? What will it cost you if you don’t? And as you engage in The Principle of Refocus whenever you face any kind of sinful struggle, shift your focus to Jesus in prayer, in His Word, and through the trusted support of a brother or sister in Christ. Know that when you are tempted, there is never “no way out.” God will provide a way out; you have His Word on it! All you need to do is look for it.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!