No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13
Our third memory verse should be easy to cite. Last week's was 1 Corinthians 1:13 — for this one, just add a zero!
I used to be fairly superstitious, I'd say about average. One of my biggest superstitions was the number 13. “Triskaidekaphobia,” meaning fear of the number 13, is a good trivia word. (And if you want to joke “that's easy for you to say,” it's actually true. I've studied Greek and “triskaideca” is Greek for 13!)
But anyway, I had a good solid superstition. If I went to bed and the clock said 12:13, I'd sit on the edge or do something else until the clock changed. If I saw a subway car with the number 13, I'd walk down and get on another one. I had no defense to a silly superstition, to the point where I would change my behavior because of it.
But God sent me a Spirit. I read Exodus 23:19b, “Do not boil a kid in the milk of its mother.” This is a pretty easy verse just to skip over, since it seems like just another weird food taboo from the Law of Moses. But I was moved to investigate, and discovered that this was a Canaanite ritual to ensure fertility. What God is telling the Hebrews in this verse is to remember, in all respects, that power is His. The Canaanite fertility ritual is both meaningless and ineffective, and plus, it is idolatrous.
And then I realized what the ritual was: it was a superstition. An act that was meaningless in both science and Christianity, ineffective in both the natural and the supernatural realms. God was telling the Hebrews, “Do not indulge superstitions.” And I was cured. I can now sit in seat number F-13 at the theater without a single qualm; my previous superstition was ridiculous, and God provided me with a “way of escape.”
I have overcome much greater obstacles with God’s help in my life; I don’t really want to go into them here, because there really isn’t room. But I will point out the second step in the Alcoholic Anonymous program parallels our Memory Verse: “[We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Temptations to sin are powerful, for Satan is more powerful than we are. Most men, and many women, have enormous sexual lust, especially in their younger years. If they are “lucky,” their lust is for adults of the opposite sex; their behavior is so socially acceptable that they can avoid accusations and blame from other Christians. But “lucky” is in quotation marks, because having a string of heterosexual relationships, looking at pornography, etc., is just as sinful whether society accepts it or not.
Those who commit adultery or homosexual acts fall in a middle ground, but more and more, the sinners defy God and His Holy Word by describing the sinful expression of their lust as an act of “love,” refusing to face God’s clear prohibition of their conduct. And there are acts which even the permissive society of today abhors, such as sex with children and rape. (Although, one must note that even child molestation is beginning to show signs of toleration. In 2019, for example, we have Barbra Streisand publicly defending Michael Jackson’s sexual relations with children, not to mention the horrendous scandal in the Catholic Church.)
But lust, although its power and abuse are easy to see, is no stronger than many other temptations. Pride is nearly a universal sin, infecting the church as Christian leaders allow themselves to be adulated and give into, or even encourage, their personal glorification. How many women spend their time perusing the pornography of materialism, in the form of Vogue or Town & Country?
There is no temptation so peculiar that somebody else has not faced it. There is no temptation so great that God cannot overcome it. There is no temptation that God will not help us to resist it: you just have to ask Him enough, for a spirit sent by God is the most powerful force in the universe.
So we do not need to let our lust, our pride, our greed, or even our silly superstitions control our behavior. We may have committed a specific sin ten thousand times. We may be so attached to it that we ignore it or try to rationalize it. But the Bible promises us, we can overcome it, because an all-mighty God will help us. And we will be happier for giving it up.
Lord, let me always remember that you will give me the power to overcome any temptation. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer