I have got to tell you something, I am really excited about getting into this message today.  We are going to be talking about temptation and sin, and how to overcome this stuff…and I have to say, this message excites me because it gives us great handles, and practical tools to deal with things.  Things that we all deal with…now we may not like to tell people in church we deal with things like this but and Paul will tell you this too…we ALL deal with this!  We ALL deal with temptation.  We ALL deal with sin…even that person sitting beside you today that looks so perfect!  They deal with this stuff too.  So I am very excited to jump into this with you today.  Our study today will focus on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13…an AWESOME chunk of scripture that I have really had book marked to talk to you guys about for a while now.  In fact Chapter 10 is just so good that I am going to jump off of our schedule, and finish chapter 10 with you next week, because there is so much here for us, that I just don’t want to breeze by with you!  So to get things started today I want you to think back to the last time that Kim and I spoke with you…do you remember that?  We had our very first ever Sunday morning track meet right here in the Sanctuary, do you remember that?  The kids ran hard, raced hard…but in the end only one got the prize!  How insensitive is that?  Well, that was helping us really see Paul’s illustration found at the end of Chapter 9 where he says this…

1 Corinthians 9:24 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. 25 All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. 26 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! 27 I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. MSG

Everyone runs, but not everybody wins…and there is a bit of a warning there in verse 27 where Paul says that he himself is running hard, and trying to stay alert so that he doesn’t miss out on that eternal prize either!  So Paul is talking about our Spiritual journey and ends chapter 9 by saying we need to stay alert, because even though we are on the right path, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have challenges, temptations, and sin to deal with along the way.  Paul wants us to stay focused, and run this race hard, because he himself doesn’t want to miss out on that eternal prize at the finish line!  And he transitions right from there into these thirteen verses that we studying today…where he challenges the church of Corinth and all of us to not only see temptation and sin, but to avoid it, and persevere through it on our Spiritual journeys.  He also gives us a good history lesson so we can learn from human mistakes…Paul really starts by reminding them of the Exodus journey of the Children of Israel.  Showing them a good  history lesson…

1 Corinthians 10:1 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. 2 They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. 3 They all ate 4 and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. 5 But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much — most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.  MSG

The Message is pretty kind there when it talks about the people being defeated by temptation in the desert…these people never made it out of the wilderness.

1 Corinthians 10:5 Yet after all this, God was not pleased with most of them, and he destroyed them in the wilderness. NLT

Okie-dokie…destroyed in the wilderness by God…well, that is pretty cheery for a Sunday morning, but on we go!  Paul is taking them back to how God saved the Israelite people from Egyptian slavery through Moses!  Which has always been an amazing story to me!  These people saw God signs in ways that we never have or will. (At the least it seems highly unlikely that we would see it.)  They have watched God perform miracles through Moses, they have walked through the Sea on dry land, and then watched that Sea swallow up and destroy the Egyptian army.  They have literally followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  They have been eating food dropped from the sky by God for nourishment, and have been drinking water that would just spew out of rocks for them to drink.  They have seen God signs in ways that would make God so real, and so touchable and so in the forefront of their minds all the time.  So it seems crazy to think that they could ever doubt Him…or fall to sin…because God was so unbelievably coming through for them!  They could see Him, and hear Him in such a tangible way that…WOW…it just so miraculous!  God is moving!  It just is beyond our comprehension today to think about God doing these thing like right here today isn’t it?  This has always amazed me, that through all of that privilege and blessing and God signs…they fell to sin.  They complained.  They struggled with their faith…fell to worshiping statues that they themselves made, and often just wanted to go back into slavery.  WHAT IN THE WORLD!  As crazy as that all sounds…I want you to think about how much we actually can relate to these Israelite people even today.  Ok, so you aren’t being led around by a pillar of fire at night but you to have experienced being saved by God.  And God certainly does provide for us too, and while it isn’t a pillar of fire at night, we do know that Jesus left so that we could have the Holy Spirit to guide our lives too!  So God saves us, provides for us, and guides us too.  But I got to be careful here because I already did the sermon on focusing on our own salvation a few weeks ago and we have a lot to do…but I will say this before I move on.  No, God may not be as in our face as He was with the children of Israel as He led them out of Egypt but we do experience God in the same way, most of us are just too distracted, busy, or just focused on ourselves to see what all God is doing today.  But He is doing it today too.

It’s amazing to me to think that God was moving in such mighty ways back in the day for these people and those people’s Spiritual journey…the race they were running, it didn’t end well and Paul here is saying “Hey everyone, we need to learn from this time in history.  So that our story doesn’t end the same way…remember…everyone runs, but not everyone wins this race.  Moses himself didn’t even get to enter into the Promised Land!  It’s not easy and we need to see that and learn from them.”  Then in verse 6 this becomes clear as to why Paul is sharing this history lesson.

1 Corinthians 10:6 These events happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did.  NLT

The Bible is so great for us, we can learn so much from it, sometimes it is what to do, and sometimes it’s what not to do as we learn from the mistakes of others.  Paul is sharing the Israelites story, of how God frees them from slavery, saves them, and they still fall away from Him as a warning for all of us and he really uses their journey with a few stories so that we can run our race, and gain that eternal prize that he told us, clearly, that not everyone gets.  I want you to see something there…before we move past verse 6…and that is that word “Crave.”  Cravings are such a real thing for all of us aren’t they?  And we see that in just year one of the journey of the Israelite people out of Egypt they crave evil things…YEAR 1!  These people have been given the law at this point, they have built the tabernacle, they are now travelling as a nation through the wilderness being led by God…and they began to crave evil things…lets go back and read what evil things they were craving in Numbers 11 this is so interesting!

Numbers 11:1 The people soon began to complain to the LORD about their hardships; and when the LORD heard them, his anger blazed against them. Fire from the LORD raged among them and destroyed the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people screamed to Moses for help; and when he prayed to the LORD, the fire stopped. 3 After that, the area was known as Taberah — “the place of burning” — because fire from the LORD had burned among them there. 4 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt, and the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5 “We remember all the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that we wanted. 6 But now our appetites are gone, and day after day we have nothing to eat but this manna!” 7 The manna looked like small coriander seeds, pale yellow in color.   8 The people gathered it from the ground and made flour by grinding it with hand mills or pounding it in mortars. Then they boiled it in a pot and made it into flat cakes. These cakes tasted like they had been cooked in olive oil. 9 The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night. 10 Moses heard all the families standing in front of their tents weeping, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. NLT

Poor Moses…the guy had a lot on his plate with these people and he has all of 4 decades of this to deal with as a leader.  But I want you to think about this.  What is the evil thing that they are craving?  It’s good food!  They want to hit a McDonald’s drive thru and there just aren’t any McDonald’s out there in the wilderness…and everyone is craving something other than manna to eat!  They were so tired of manna that they wanted to go back to Egypt where they could eat meat…where I am sure there was a McDonald’s on every corner!  The craving for food was so strong, that slavery in Egypt sounded like the best option! Sounds amazing doesn’t it?  Sounds unbelievable in so many ways doesn’t it?  You are eating food that is literally being dropped from the sky for you and now you want something else?  How is this possible?  How ungrateful.  God is guiding them, providing for them, has save them…and they aren’t happy.  Well if you think about this, we deal with this too don’t we?  We crave a lot of things in our lives that are beyond what God has provided for us.  We have been given enough, but we crave lots of things too.  We have been given enough but it’s easy to want more, or something else right?  Whether its money, or a bigger home, or a newer car, or faster internet…God provides enough, but we often get in trouble because we crave more.  Paul is showing us here that these cravings are the reason that everyone is running this race of life…but not everyone is winning this race we run.  So let’s keep going here, in the next three verses Paul starts talking about 4 sin that these people are dealing with.

1 Corinthians 10:7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”   8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. NIV

So Paul lays out a pretty clear list of 4 sins that the Israelite people fell to.

Sin 1 is Idolatry. Vs 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”  

So if you remember, Moses goes up the mountain to talk to God, and he is up there for a while…and while he is there, the people begin to worship idols.  Which is ridiculous right?  You are watching God do amazing things and it’s just taking too long up there on the mountain for Moses to return, so they turn from the God who saved them…to a golden calf that they made out of their own jewelry.  You know next week we will really hit this hard, as the people of Corinth are really struggling with idolatry too…and as crazy as it sounds to worship a golden calf, we all struggle with idolatry.  Idolatry is really putting anything or anyone in the place in our lives where God should be.  For you and I today we probably aren’t worshiping golden calves but everything for material possessions, to money, to our own children, to things as silly as our child’s budding sports career…to our own careers can easily slide into the place in our lives where God should be.  I think in many ways it’s easier for us today to fall to idolatry than it would be for these people of Israel…I mean we aren’t seeing and hearing God the way they did…and they struggled with it…so this is a very strong warning for us…if these people watching and feeling all these God signs can fall to idolatry, we will struggle with it too.

Sin 2 is Sexual Immorality. Vs 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.

So this story is found in Numbers 25, where we see the men of Israel falling into sexual immorality with the Moabite women…they fell into all kinds of trouble here, and as you can see from what Paul said over 23,000 of them are lost that day.  This really leads us back into Ken’s talks on 1 Corinthians 5 and 6, where we see how the Corinthian people really struggled with sexual sins in their community and I have to say in our culture today, it is so easy to fall to sexual immorality…we are all just a click on a phone or a computer away from lustful things.  It can grab you and become a real challenge to break free from…again, these cravings just are so hard to pull away from.  Let’s get real honest here for a minute…if food is strong enough to cause people to want to go back into slavery over, I think this warning about sexual immorality is very important…because…well, it’s sex, so…ok, moving on! J  The next two sins are really interesting and to me really tie together.

Sin 3 is Testing the Lord.  Vs 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-and were killed by snakes.

Couple thing here…maybe the worst way to die EVER…snakes, yikes!  Secondly and probably more to the point, what in the world does this mean to test the Lord?  Well Paul is referring to a moment found in Numbers 21…

Numbers 21:4 But the people grew impatient along the way, 5 and they began to murmur against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this wretched manna!” 6 So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among them, and many of them were bitten and died. NLT

So again, they are tired of what they are eating and what they are doing.  Now I bust on these people a lot but I know on a two hour long hike how grumpy my family gets as we start to get hungry, so I can’t imagine a 40 year hike and how grumpy I may get along the way…morale would get low.  They were right back to really pushing in on God’s patience, and were once again complaining about God’s provisions for them and God is furious with them yet again…which ties into the fourth sin well.

Sin 4 was grumbling.  Vs 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel.

This pretty much could feed into any story you read about in the children of Israel’s journey but you can look at like Exodus 15 or Numbers 17 or the story we were just looking at there in Numbers 21…but they complained and grumble a lot.  Which again, morale would get low after a while, but all that time God was blessing them and providing for them and they had a hard time seeing that they had enough.  Do you see a theme building in these sins that Paul is mentioning as we learn from this story in history?  At the heart of all of it is a lack of gratitude.  They are not grateful for all that God was providing and doing for them.  They couldn’t settle with enough, they constantly wanted more.  This is a very human thing to do right?  This is what appetites and cravings do!  It just looks more ridiculous for them than it does with us today because God was so physically active in their lives.  It just sounds crazy to think that you could see and hear God do all these amazing things around you and still be ungrateful for all He is doing…but it is a very important lesson for all of us to see.  When is enough, enough?  Well for most of us, it’s hard to ever be satisfied, we get one thing it always leads to wanting another.  Do you relate to that at all?  I sure can.

I have two cars, that is more than enough…yet when I get in that 97 Suburban it is easy for me to not be thankful for the transportation that God has provided me, but wish I had something with things like air conditioning, and defrost, and brakes that work consistently well.  When I see all the things others have I wish that I could provide those things for my family too.  It’s easy isn’t it to get on Facebook or Instagram and see everyone else’s conquests, and victories, and vacations, and new things and wish you had more too…and when you are in that world of high lights everyone is showing you, it’s hard to remember that God has provided me with enough.  I can very easily lose sight of just how blessed I am and I forget how grateful I should be for all that God has given me.  This is at the heart of these cravings…more, never enough…it’s a lack of gratitude for what God provides…and He provides enough.  Then in verses 12 and 13 we see a very important warning, and a very important message…that is so important for us to break down today.

1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV

So this is really where my heart was for this message…there are three really important messages about temptation found in these verses that I really want you to see.

  1. We all deal with temptation. I think this is a very important perspective to have when it comes to the challenges of temptations…you aren’t alone in it.  Dealing with sin and the temptation to sin isn’t unique to you, we all deal with it.  Check out Paul’s words in the NLT…

Vs 12-13 If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.  But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful.

  1. You Can Overcome Temptation! Listen as people we will all deal with temptation, but we are all different so different temptations will hit all of us, and all of us have different limits to what we can handle.  But Paul tells us that God won’t put more on us than we can handle.  This means that you can overcome the temptation that comes at you because God won’t allow it to be beyond what you can handle!  Listen to this portion of 13 in the ESV…

Vs 13 …God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, ESV

So you CAN overcome it.  God knows you can handle it, and you can handle it…but and this is a very big but…it doesn’t mean that we don’t have things to do in the process to protect ourselves from our sinful cravings and temptations.  There are many things we can do, but I want to hit two of them with you today…

1st– We must be spending time with God.  When we are spending time with Him, we will hear so much more clearly from the Holy Spirit, which is God-in-us, speaking to us…guiding us through the difficult moments of life.  If you are not spending time with God, you will not hear the voice of God…whispering to you, guiding you…and helping convict you in those weaker moments!  The more time you spend with God the more you are drawn towards holiness…the less those cravings scream…and the more we hear God.

2nd-Watch Out, Be Focused, and Deliberately Using Safe Guards from Your Temptations!  I think this is so important, and in many ways something that many of us struggle with in our culture.  Clearly thinking and deliberately doing something.  So in this case, we clearly see a struggle we have and we intentionally put safe guards in our lives…just doing anything intentionally is very hard in a world of clutter, and busy schedules, and constant multi-tasking but when it comes to sin, we must be intentional!  Yes God won’t give us more than we can handle, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do in the process.  Listen…if you struggle with pornography for example…then you need to put safe guards on your computer and phone, and you need to think…when do I get myself into trouble there and then stay away from those times, locations and moments…maybe midnight all alone, with just you and your computer aren’t for you.  If you struggle with alcohol abuse…maybe hanging out in the bars just isn’t for you.  Think it through, ask yourself, “Where am I when the temptation hits me the hardest?”  Recognize that, and then stay away from that person, place or thing.

We don’t just say, “Well, God will never give me more than I can handle so whatever, happens will happen!”  No!  We get deliberate and do things on purpose to guard ourselves from this stuff.  We need to think this through and help ourselves out here.  I love this quote from Mother Teresa on the subject…

“I know God won’t give me more than I can handle, I just wish he wouldn’t trust me with so much.” Mother Teresa

The last really important message about temptation is found here…

3rd– God provides you with a way to overcome temptation.  Vs 13…But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV

Listen to me, you can overcome these temptations, you are not stuck!  God will provide a way out!  Which if you are sitting there today feeling convicted about something that you are struggling with should serve as a huge encouragement!  You are not alone in this stuff.  We all deal with these things.  We aren’t given more than we can handle and we can overcome it!  That is huge!  But we do have some work to do in this process.

So we think, “What is it that I struggle with?”  Then we try to not put ourselves in those situations.  I think one of the best examples of this is found in the story of Samson.  Samson was given tremendous gifts from God.  Specifically strength, like super hero type strength…yet Samson also had a weakness…and it was really for Philistine women, which eventually led to his undoing as a Judge of Israel.  One of the things that impacts me most about Samson was that he never saw where it was that got him into trouble.  If you read in Judges about Samson, you will see that most of the stories where you see him getting into trouble start with something along this line.  “Samson went down to Timnah.” Then the story would go on from there.  Every time Samson went to Timnah he got himself in trouble.  Now it wasn’t a sin for him to be in that town…but it led to sin in his life.  He just didn’t see it…and eventually it leads to his demise.

We have to see it, we all deal with temptation and we all deal with sin and we need to understand that we can overcome them…but we do need to stay out of our Timnah’s along the way!  No it’s not a sin for someone who struggles with pornography to be alone on their computer…but it leads to a problem.  No it’s not a sin for someone who struggles with alcohol abuse to sit in a bar and enjoy a night with friends…but it can lead to some problems.  No it’s not a sin for someone with lust issues to hang out with people from the opposite sex, but it could lead to some problems if this is your craving…do you see it?  We need to stay out of our Timnah’s!

I feel like this chapter of scripture is such a big deal, because we all deal with sin and the temptation of sin.  Whether you are seeing God move the way they did back in the day, or whether you are in Corinth, or whether you live in our world today.  Paul helps us see that we all deal with this stuff, that God won’t put more on us than we can handle, and that there is a way out of these things that we get sucked into…let’s think this all through.  Be deliberate.  Be intentional.

What is it for you that you struggle with the most?  What is your greatest temptation?  Once you know what it is, you can do somethings on purpose to stay out of your personal Timnah.  You can always justify why it is ok to go to your Timnah, but that is just the craving inside you enticing you to do what it wants, rather than what God wants in your life.

So today I want to leave you with this warning, but also with this encouragement.  Yes we all run the race of life…and no not everyone wins.  So we do need to stay focused and disciplined.  Your enemy will throw everything he can at you, to get you to stop running for that eternal prize in heaven.  There will be plenty of temptation along the way…see it, protect yourself, and keep on running!  But please remember what Paul told us there at the end of this section…

1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV

Listen, if you have fallen to that temptation, remember we have a God who loves us enough to send Jesus to this Earth to take all of our sin for us…past, present, and future sins…so you can give that to Him today.  You repent, confess, and move on running this race, and running to win.  Please don’t leave here today without leaving that mess here with Him!  God is with us.  God has saved us.  God provides enough for us and when it comes to this area of sin and temptation…you can overcome, because God is with you in it!  So leave that burden here today so that you can run free from the weight of that sin today!  Today could be your day, to start running in a brand new way!