“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, that you may be able to endure it.”
–1 Cor. 10:13
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority…now and forever. Amen.” –Jude 1:25
“Take the way of escape at the threshold,” Dr. Bill and Anabel Gillham are fond of teaching in their “Lifetime Guarantee” seminars. Referring to Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor. 10:13, the Gillhams share how people often complain that God didn’t come through for them when they were tempted. When queried, however, it is seen that a way of escape did exist, but people often failed to make their escape at the threshold of the temptation, before its gravitational pull could take them over the edge into full-blown sin.
Near the city where I live, there’s a range of mountains with a series of beautiful canyons, stretching like fingers into the high Arizona desert. Carr Canyon is one of these, where, during the spring thaw and rainy seasons, there’s an 800-foot waterfall that can be seen for miles around. Carr Falls is a popular hikers’ destination and is frequently a hangout for young people. At the top of the falls, there are barriers and signs warning that proceeding past that threshold, even when the rocks appear dry, can be deadly. There is lichen growing on those dry rocks—laden with invisible moisture—which, crushed underfoot, releases lubrication that can make a slide unstoppable.
Many years ago, a young adventurer decided to go past the threshold. The water wasn’t running…the rocks appeared dry; and so, spurred on by the hubris of youth, he stepped over the barrier while his friends watched. He was sure he could stop any possible slide; he could gamble and beat the odds. But the odds were against him and, tragically, he lost. And his family and friends lost him.
Our own delusional hubris may try to convince us that we can beat the odds when Wormtongue beckons us beyond the threshold. And, thankfully, sometimes we can turn back when a slide begins, but the effort required becomes herculean and our vulnerability is keenly felt—often complete with pounding heart, anxiety, and guilt about transgressing the threshold, putting ourselves in such a vulnerable position. For my Bent-Man brethren, our areas of greatest “bent-ness” (for me, sexual temptations) have thresholds which, once crossed, rarely permit a reversal. In those particulars, if we opt to play, we usually pay. Sometimes dearly.
The point of all this is not to condemn our falls—those are dealt with by confession and repentance—but to make us alert, sober, and wise as we make forward progress on the journey. In particular, we need a brutally honest awareness of both our vulnerability and our inability to triumph on our own. This is where we may reckon on God’s assurance of victory when we take the way of escape at the threshold. That’s how we experience the truth of, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Through obedience, we are “being led in His triumph” (2 Cor. 2:14) and participate in His victory through His overcoming Spirit in us.
Finally, there is a proactive aspect we must remember. Hebrews 12:12-13 states: “Therefore strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Part of future victory is preemptive strategy. The cornerstone of preemptive stategy is not paranoid preparations, or legalistic leg-irons we clamp on to keep ourselves in check: the cornerstone is knowing Jesus intimately, dependently, transparently, and lovingly.
Abba, thank You that You ARE able to keep me from stumbling; You can even save me from MYSELF. Grow me to the place where I joyfully embrace Your dominion and authority—and know them as my refuge. Let my ears distinguish Your voice from among deceptive “others,” including my own untrue self. MOW ©2010