The Way Of Escape

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation (or trial) has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (or tried) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation (or trial) will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

Suppose you are trapped on the second floor of a burning building, and there is no way out except to jump from a window. You are foolish if you don't take this way of escape. The leaping experience might be very painful, but a broken leg is nothing compared to being burned alive! Suppose you are being chased through the African bush by a lion. When all hope seems gone, you notice a ranger station. You are downright stupid if you don't run to the safety and help of the ranger. To take this way of escape is not to admit weakness and defeat; it is a matter of choosing life over death. Suppose you are on a luxury liner that is just beginning to sink. Even before the ship shows the slightest sign of going down, the command to get in the lifeboats is given. You are very short-sighted if you don't avail yourself of this way of escape. Yes, it will mean leaving the "fun in the sun" of the pleasure cruise. And it takes "guts" to commit yourself to the sea in a small lifeboat. But how much better it is to be saved before it is too late than to be caught helpless with the way of escape closed.

Certainly no one involved in any one of the hypothetical situations described above would turn away from the way of escape. Let's hope not! But think now of these cases as illustrations of spiritual realities. Is it not true that many people do not avail themselves of the way of escape when it comes to the salvation of their souls? Many who have realized their lost condition and have even been concerned about the destiny of their souls are reluctant to take the way of escape provided for them. How sad that people refuse the way of escape that God has promised in Christ!

These three illustrations of the way of escape have been an application for believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, 1 Corinthians 10:13, which mentions the "way of escape", is addressed to Christians. The way of escape mentioned in this Scripture is not in reference to our eternal salvation. It has to do with our walk, or way of life, as believers. Notice that the way of escape is from temptation (or trial) that has come upon us. How often we growing Christians are involved in situations which result in some sin or spiritual loss in our lives because we did not avail ourselves of the way of escape which God provided. As in the three illustrations, taking the way of escape to avoid spiritual failure or ruin may be very painful at times. Or it may mean such a "running for help" that the uninformed observer reads our actions as a sign of weakness. Or it may mean separation from the things which are very pleasurable to our bodies and minds.

The important point to remember from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that "the way of escape" is a wonderful promise that God has given to growing Christians. In fact, it is one of three very special promises or teachings that are contained in this verse. All three of these truths have to do with the subject of temptation. What about this word "temptation"? The first thought that usually comes to our minds when we read the word "temptation" is the idea of some kind of enticement to sin. However, the word translated "temptation" in the New Testament can also mean "trial" or "test". That is why the words "or trial" have been inserted after the word "temptation" in our text above. When this word occurs in the New Testament, the context will generally determine whether the meaning of the word is "solicitation to evil" or "trial". For example, in James 1 this word occurs in both verses 2 and 13. In verse 2, the obvious meaning is "trial", while in verse 13 the obvious meaning is "solicitation to evil". Now in 1 Corinthians 10:13 it appears that both these ideas are in view. Notice that the text concerns the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Here they not only yielded to temptations which caused them to commit immorality and idolatry, but they were tested by God to see what was "in their heart". (See Deuteronomy 8.) Therefore when we apply 1 Corinthians 10:13 to ourselves, as the Corinthians were exhorted to do, we should recognize that the promises made here have to do not only with what we normally consider temptation but also with any trial that we may be called upon to face.

The first truth concerning temptation or trial in verse 13 is the assurance that we are not unique. The temptations and trials which we face are those that befall all mankind. We can't excuse ourselves by saying something like, "No person has ever had this temptation before!" or, "No one has ever had to go through the trial that I'm going through!" This Scripture will not allow that kind of reasoning. Our trials are not greater than those that other Christians have had to face. Just to know that others have been in similar circumstances before us, and many have "weathered the storm", should be an encouragement to us.

The second promise or truth in verse 13 is that God will never allow us to be tempted or tested beyond our abilities. We will never be swept away by an "overpowering" temptation. We are never the "victims of circumstance". We are never put in a "can't handle it" situation. We can never say, "I couldn't resist!" or, "The devil made me do it!" The temptation or trial will never be too heavy--regardless of the time or pressure involved. God knows our abilities and limitations, and He sovereignly sets the bounds of any test given us, and of any "solicitation to evil" that Satan throws at us. (See Job 1 and 2 in this connection, and particularly the concept of the "hedge" in 1:10.) Let us remember this promise when we are in the middle of a temptation or test.

The third promise is the guarantee of the way of escape. Along with the temptation or trial will come the ability to endure. This is the basic idea behind the "way of escape". It is not the idea of a way to avoid dealing with the problem or of making it disappear. No, it is the idea of escape through endurance. But the ability and means to endure are available--for sure! That is the promise! In terms of the three illustrations used before, the burning building will not suddenly stop burning, but the open window will still be there; the pursuing lion will not suddenly drop dead or disappear, but the ranger station will be there; the sinking ship will not miraculously mend itself, but the lifeboats will be there. When faced with temptation or trial, let us look for the "open windows" and the "ranger stations" and the "lifeboats" that God promises will be there to enable us to endure.

The promise of the way of escape is not a promise that the way out will be easy to follow. Taking the way of escape to avoid spiritual failure may involve hurt, as pointed out in the illustration of the burning building. But the hurt of "broken bones" may leave the life preserved for further service and glory for Christ. Consider the case of the Christian girl who, because of the explicit teaching of Scripture in 2 Corinthians 6:14, purposes in her heart not to marry the nice non-Christian guy who proposes to her. She will experience hurt and pain as she severs the relationship, but her life will be spared from future spiritual loss. Her decision to say "no" may not be easy, but there will be the way of escape to enable her to endure. It may come as an opportunity to change locations. It may come through meeting new Christian friends. The way of escape may be provided just by seeing or hearing of the unfortunate results that come from an "unequal yoke" in the life of an acquaintance. The way out may even be provided by a renewed conviction of the authority of God's Word, as she yields herself more to the control of the Holy Spirit.

To take the way of escape may seem at times to be a sign of weakness or defeat, but this is not necessarily true. The Christian couple, for example, seeking godly counsel because of problems in their relationship are not showing signs of defeat any more than the person running to the ranger for help in escaping the lion. It is not a sign of "weakness" for a couple to "escape" from a threatening situation by running to the safety and security of a Christian counselor. This is very often the way of escape that God provides. In fact, for us not to seek the aid of a mature Christian counselor who "knows the woods" may result in our being "mauled by the lion". Remember that "the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

The way of escape will sometimes involve turning away from the "pleasure ship" and committing oneself to the hardships of the lifeboat. Think of the Christian college student who realizes that he is being pressured into a pattern of life that is just one big selfish pleasure trip. It takes more than a little commitment to separate from this lifestyle and get involved with the Christian fellowship group on campus, or the small Bible church in the community. These "lifeboats" are not always the most inviting or glamorous, but they are the ways of escape that God provides and promises will be there. This application is certainly appropriate to more Christians than just the college students. Many growing Christians find themselves being drawn into the pleasures of this world. This world system is a sinking ship. (See 1 John 2:17.) Why risk spiritual shipwreck while the way of escape is still available? Putting the Lord first in our way of living is not only obedience, but it may very well be the way of escape from spiritual ruin.
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