“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”(1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
One of the dangers we are told exists with the current Coronavirus is the way that it is a particular threat to those with compromised immune systems and the elderly. Because this demographic in society often lack the physical stamina to fight off a severe infection, they can succumb more easily to viruses that attack the body than a person who has a stronger body and immune system.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, the Apostle Paul is encouraging the church to develop a robust spiritual immunity by learning from the mistakes and sins of Israel. In many ways, Paul had heard many troubling things had taken root in this congregation, and Paul knows where this could very easily lead.
“Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:7–11, ESV)
What Paul saw happening in the church was a roadmap for destruction. He had seen it happen in the Old Testament as Israel left Egypt and indulged in sin with wanton abandon. Looking at their lives and their refusal to heed the patient and steady warnings of Moses and the Lord, the bodies of Israelites littered the wilderness for forty years.
How does sin “overtake us?” It is not because we are not equipped to handle temptation. The Israelite are described as having been fully aware of God’s presence with them when it says:
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4, ESV)
Israel was led by the shekinah glory cloud, by the Lord himself. They saw the Lord protect them and fight for them when they passed through the Dead Sea on dry land. They received provision in food and water in the wilderness, and all of these showed that they were led by God. But they still rebelled. This is how sin “overtakes us” in temptation. We give ourselves over to sin little by little. A little indulgence here, and a little there. We might have all the resources of Christ before us, but we do not take advantage of them. Instead we coddle our sin, like holding a rattlesnake to our chest. We love it, but it will destroy us.
“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6, ESV). A robust faith is an exercised faith. It is one that fights sin. It may get knocked now, it may slip and fall, but it gets back up. It is a faith that cries out to God for mercy and help. It sees its own weakness without Christ and leans upon the salvation won by him on the cross. It looks and learns from not only the victories of others, but also the failures as well.
A robust faith is active. It isn’t like the seaweed that drifts back and forth in the tide of culture. It doesn’t wait until someone else comes to push us, but seeks to grow in faith by the study and application of the Word to self, and then seeks to go and help the weak in faith.
Temptation will always present itself. But like those that are physically healthy and strong can resist most diseases and threats to their immune system, so too will the one who is spiritually healthy be better prepared to face the temptations when they come. And even if they should succumb to the threat, they will grow wiser and stronger, even in their failure, and the next time, they will not fall as quickly or as easily.