Red taillights stretched as far as the eye could see. Traffic was at a stand-still. It appeared as if no one would be going anywhere anytime soon. Frustrated drivers craned their necks, trying to get a glimpse between the mass of vehicles, all looking for the same thing: an exit ramp to deliver them around the gridlock.
Have you ever found yourself in such a situation? Maybe it wasn’t a traffic jam in which you were trapped, but a conversation that you just couldn’t find a way out of. Your mind cycles through phrases, searching for the magic words that will release you from this interaction: “Well, I guess I’d better be going,” you try, but your acquaintance doesn’t take the hint and rambles on. You desperately need an exit ramp.
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul was urging his readers not to follow the same sins that the people of Israel had committed in the wilderness during their exodus from Egypt. Paul specifically mentions the sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, putting the Lord to the test, and grumbling (I Corinthians 10:7-10). And Paul noted that the punishment that Israel received for their sins was an example for the believers of the current day, to inspire them to be careful that they stand firm in the faith and do not fall.
It would be easy to stand firm in the faith and avoid falling into sin if it were not for temptation. Every sin begins with temptation to do something that we know we ought not do. If sin was not tempting, why would anyone do it? James wrote that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15, NIV).
Temptation can be relentless. We are seemingly bombarded from every side with temptations to pursue things that do not honor God: pleasure, power, wealth, ambition, self-centeredness. Many Christ followers believe that the overwhelming flood of temptation is too much to overcome. And all of these temptations can certainly grind our progress along the Way to a halt. We need an exit ramp!
Paul knew the Corinthians needed encouragement for the pressures they faced, and he delivered one of the greatest promises in all of scripture: “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He 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” (I Corinthians 10:13, NASB). Commit that verse to memory! Write it on your heart! Cling to its truth in the moment of temptation. It is your exit ramp!
When you are overwhelmed by the pressures and enticements of the world, and you feel there is no way out, that sin is inescapable – remember these truths of Paul’s promise:
- Everyone is tempted – you are not alone.
- God will not allow you to be tempted more than you can bear.
- When you are tempted, God will always provide an exit ramp – a way of escape so you can stand firm in the face of temptation.
When you are faced with temptation, ask yourself: “Where is my exit ramp?” If you look hard enough, with God’s help you will find it!
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13)
~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair