Welcome, I’m so glad you’re here today! If you’re just joining us, for the past several weeks we’ve been talking about the power of God to help us overcome temptation. Almost all of us battle at one level or another with some unwanted behavior, often something that’s plagued us maybe for our whole life, maybe even been in our family for generations. The key verse that we’ve been looking at every single week is full of so much hope, and builds so much faith. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 10:13, he said “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” In other words, we’re all tempted. To be human is to be tempted. He said, “And God is” … what? Somebody say it aloud. Our God is “…faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” What an amazing promise.
Our God is faithful. He will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, “but when you are tempted,” what will he give you? This is the title of our message here, is our God “will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” No matter what you are facing, no matter how deep the claws feel set into you, our God is faithful, and He will always give you a way out of temptation.
The reality is, you can be strong for a while, you can be strong for a season, you can have the ability to withstand some temptation for a little while. Eventually though, if it keeps coming, and you’re not prepared, and you’re not prayed up and ready, you find yourself at a moment of weakness, and end up doing something that you didn’t want to do. Over time, you seem to become consistently weak to some of the same things. We ask ourselves, “Why am I so weak?” If anybody messes up, they’re going to say something along the lines of, “I didn’t want to gamble again. I know I get in trouble when I gamble, but I just felt so weak.” “I didn’t want to look again. I prayed, I didn’t want to look at the thing I’m not supposed to look at, but at that moment I just felt so weak.” “I’m trying to eat better and there it was. It was homemade, and chocolate layers and strawberry stuff and everything. I didn’t want to eat it all, but I just felt so weak.” Why is it that our spirit can be willing but our flesh so weak?
The reason that we’re often so weak is because we are not bonded with what makes us strong. I’m going to say that again, because somebody missed a chance to write this down. We’re often weak because we haven’t bonded with that which makes us strong. We’re weak and vulnerable because we’re not abiding with the vine where we get the spiritual strength so we can produce fruit that is not of our own power, but is by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We’re often weak because we haven’t bonded with that which makes us strong.
To illustrate, I came across a really interesting study done by a guy by the name of Bruce Alexander, who was a professor of psychology in Vancouver. He did a study on addiction by taking rats and putting them in a cage with water, regular water, and a second bottle of water filled with either cocaine or heroin in the water. He wanted to study what the rats drink. Inevitably, the rats ended up getting addicted to the chemical-laced water, and 100% of the rats overdosed. 100%. He said, “The conclusion is, that we are chemically-biased toward certain things, and the neurological brainwaves make us more vulnerable to this, that, or the other, and we are going to be just naturally more addicted.” We all know that science has proven that to some degree that’s really true.
Then he took a step back and said, “Wait a minute. All I did was gave them two choices. Regular water and this chemical-infused water. I didn’t give them anything else to bond with,” so what he did, is he created what he called Rat Park. Disneyland for mice. He put little balls that rats like to play with, he put tunnels, he put spinny things, he put cheese everywhere. If it was a male rat going in the cage, he blessed the male rat with a female rat so they could do whatever rats do in a cage. He did all of this fun stuff, and then left the regular water up with the chemical-laced water. In the previous study, 100% of the rats overdosed. In Rat Park, not one single rat overdosed on the chemical-infused water.
Suddenly he had what then he considered to be a breakthrough on the study of addictions, which is when we do not bond with that which makes us strong, we are incredibly vulnerable to the wrong desires that we have. On the other hand, when we are bonding with those things that make us healthy, when we are bonded with those things that make us strong, we are incredibly more resistant to the addictions that take so many of us down. I don’t care what it is that you’re addicted to. I have my issues, believe me, when I tell you there are those things, anytime I’m more vulnerable to what my flesh desires, it’s because I’m less connected to that which makes me strong.
We studied last week that whatever you feed, grows. Whatever you starve, dies. We talked a little bit about starving our fleshly nature. Today, I want to talk about feeding our spiritual nature. I want my spirit to be connected to that which makes me strong, because I know my flesh is weak and vulnerable.
I also know I can be strong for a little while, but after resisting and resisting, there’s going to be a moment, perhaps, when I’m not as strong as I was, and weakness sets in. I want spiritually to be at my best, I want spiritually to be connected to the One who makes me strong, because the One who makes me strong, always gives me a way out. How do we feed our spirit and become stronger spiritually so we can withstand the weaker moments of our flesh?
I want to talk today about three things. Admittedly, if you’re not a Jesus follower, you’re going to hear these things and go, “You’re wasting your time,” and quite honestly, if you’re not a Jesus follower, this probably is a radical waste of time and completely stupid.
If you are, though, if you are a committed follower of Jesus, you would have to agree that doing these three things, these three things are absolutely essential for your spiritual strength, and for your survival. Here’s the ground rules. I’m going to only ask you to choose one of the three as your area of focus. One of three. I don’t want you working on all three, because you’re not going to work on any if you work on all three. I don’t even want you being, “I’m one plus one, two, Mr. Man.” No two. I want you focusing on one. At the end of our time together, I’m going to to ask you, “Which one area of focus is the place that you need to most pursue God to connect with Him?” Why? So you can be spiritually strong and able to withstand the weaker moments of the flesh. How do we feed our spirit to be spiritually strong?
Three things. The first, if you’re taking notes, we’re going to feed our spirits with prayer. Feed your spirit with intimacy toward God in prayer. Why? Because just like exercise makes the body strong, prayer makes the spirit strong. Let me say it again. Just like exercise strengthens your body, prayer strengthens your spirit. In fact, Jesus said this in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and… what? Somebody help me out. Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not” … what? That you will not “fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Watch and pray. Watch and pray, watch and pray.
When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, He said, pray this: “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me.” Prayer is a great weapon against temptation that strengthens your spirit. Watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation. Those words are very important.
Fall into temptation. What did you do? “I fell into sin.” “I fell into immorality.” No one ever says, “I fell into righteousness,” right? Have you ever heard anyone say, “I was just going along, I tripped up and became holy.” How did that happen? No idea. Amazing. That doesn’t happen. You trip and fall into temptation, but righteousness is only through an intentional pursuit of the goodness of God. Watch and pray, so that you do not fall into temptation.
Jesus said this when He was in a place known as the Garden of Gethsemane, and this was right before He was going to be going to the cross to give His life. He knew what was coming, and right after He said if you’re weak pray, you know what He did? He felt weak, and so He prayed. He went to God, and He said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” What was He saying? It was a picture of the cup of suffering, that He knew the physical torture that He would endure. “If there’s any other way, God, let’s do it that way.” Then He prayed perhaps the greatest prayer of submission, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Remember, week number two I talked about my prayer of submission. When I’m not submitted to God, I’m more vulnerable to temptation.
When I am submitted to God, my spirit nature is stronger, and able to withstand the temptations that come against my flesh, if You weren’t here I talked about a daily prayer:
God, I submit my mind to You, give me the mind of Christ. God, I submit my eyes to You today, that I would only look on things that are pure and pleasing to You. I submit my ears to You, God, that I would only hear that which is consistent with Your Word. I submit my mouth, that my words would only be used to build others up and give You glory, God. I submit my heart to You which is deceitful, above all things, God, give me a pure heart, pure motives to serve You in every way. God, I give You my hands, they would be used to build Your kingdom, God. I submit my feet to you today, that You would take me to the places that would bring You glory, God. I submit today my whole life to You, that I would be used to lift up Your Name in every way in all I do. Today, I submit myself to You.
Strength in prayer. I don’t know what this will look like for you, but maybe your prayer is this: Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. God, make Christ in me be stronger than the wrong appetites in me. God, may You always give me a way out. Prayer doesn’t have to be you’re down on your hands and knees. A long 45-minute prayer doesn’t count more. It can be a shotgun prayer, in a moment. God, help me, lead me, empower me, God, give me a way out. Just pray, pray, pray. For some of you, this needs to be your one thing (out of the three). You know it right now, because your prayer life is inconsistent, sporadic, not focused toward God. This is your one, and you know it. Some of you, “I need to build my prayer life.” Strengthen your spirit in prayer.
The second thing is this. You need to feed your spirit with God’s Word. I love the question that David asks in Psalm 119 verse 9, he said, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” What a great question. How can a young person stay on the path of purity? He didn’t say by living according to whatever culture says is cool and fun. By living according to what all your friends are doing. By living according to what you see and read on every… No. What did he say? How do you stay pure? “By living according to Your Word.”
He said, “God, I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.” I’ve done … what? He said, “I’ve hidden Your Word in my heart.” Why? “That I might not sin against You.” I’ve hidden Your Word in my heart. The Word of God. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning, through Him all things were made. There was nothing that was made that was not made through Him. In Him was life and in the life, is the light of the world, and darkness has not overcome it. The Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We’ve seen the glory of God the Father through Jesus Christ who came full of grace and truth. In the beginning was the Word, the Word of God is living. It is active, it is sharper than any two-edged sword.
When we talk about the armor of God, the Word is the only offensive weapon. The helmet is defensive, the shield is defensive, the breastplate of righteousness is defensive, the belt holds your pants up, and that’s really important. The shoes are prepared with the Gospel. The only offensive weapon we have is the Word of God. This is how Jesus fought back against the attacks and temptations of Satan after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, when the evil one said to Jesus, “Why don’t you turn these stones into bread?” Jesus said, “No. It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Satan said, “Why don’t you throw yourself off this building and let the angels catch you?” Jesus said, “No. It is written, man shall not put the Lord thy God to test.” Satan said, “Why don’t you bow down and worship me?” Jesus said, “No. It is written, I will worship the Lord my God and serve Him only.”
You hide His Word in your heart so you will not sin against Him. I know somebody will say, “I’m not good at memorizing.” Don’t give me that. Most of you, you know every single line to every song in the new Taylor Swift album, and you can dance with it. You will memorize what is important to you. You feed yourself on the Word, and just as food strengthens your body, the living bread, the Word of God strengthens your spirit.
Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of my testimony. I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. My God is faithful. He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, but every time I am tempted, my God will always give me a way out.
For some of you, this is yours right now. It’s feeding on the bread of life. There’s no excuse. Listen. It’s on your phone. Your phone is with you every minute of every day. You say, “Well, I don’t like to read.” You can listen to it! Strengthen yourself in God’s Word. It transforms your mind. It takes the trash of this world out, and it replaces with the eternal truth of God. It strengthens you spiritually. You need it. It is your sword – your offensive weapon. Some of you are trying to live a victorious Christian life without an offensive weapon. You need to feed on His Word, it’ll strengthen you spiritually, and you can fight back against the attacks of the evil one.
The third thing we’re going to do, is we’re going to feed our spirit with the right people. We’re going to feed our spirit with the right people. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 – Paul was very direct. He’s not pulling any punches here, he’s not being politically correct at all. He says, “Do not be misled.” In other words, if he’s saying don’t be misled, it’s very easy to be misled. Some of you right now, you are being misled by believing the people you are hanging with are not impacting your lives. The reality is, they’re taking you down spiritually. He says do not be misled. “Bad company corrupts good character.” Then he says, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and” … what? Say it with me. “Stop sinning.” Cut it out. Stop it. Don’t go there. Stay far away from it. Stop hanging out with the wrong people, letting them bring you down so you’re doing the wrong things, and getting caught in that which destroys you.
We have to understand this. Being around the wrong people never helps you do the right thing. Let me say it again. Being around the wrong people never helps you do the right thing. Quite honestly, some of you may need some friendship upgrades. You don’t need to go to them and say, “Sorry, you don’t make the cut, I’m upgrading you for somebody else,” but the truth is, you may have to do that at some point. In other words, if you’re overcoming an alcohol addiction, you’re not going out Friday night with the same old group to the bar. You got some different friends, okay. If you’re overcoming a sugar addition, you’re not going to the small group at the doughnut store with those same people. We need to change our friendships.
This is absolutely critical to have truly a victorious life following Jesus. Being around people who sharpen us, who strengthen us, who love us enough to be in our faces is crucial. Who care about us enough to tell us the truth. Who don’t hold back, and will call it like it is. God has blessed me with a lot of people who have cared about me throughout my life and I have come to realize that having the type of friends that you can be transparent with and they will love you in spite of the stupid things you do, yet they won’t let you continue down a wrong path – that is rare! I can think of my youth pastor, Shawn Watson; I can think of the college ministry leader at the church I attended while I was in college, Jeff Story; I can think of a couple of Sunday school teachers I had while I was in college, Michael Sanders and Heather Barron; I can think of a man that taught Sunday school for me when I was a Youth Pastor in Northern Kentucky, Bill Sherrard. And I currently have men here at UBC that will pray for me at a moment’s notice, they have invited me to call them at any hour of the day. And I am meeting with someone on a weekly basis for accountability and encouragement. Every single one of us need people like this in our lives.
But I have learned, that this is actually quite rare. Let me tell you why so many people get in trouble – it’s because sin grows best in the dark. There’s something about, when there’s someone that you can go to immediately and say, “Here’s what I almost did, here’s what I’m thinking about, here’s what happened.” Someone who loves you enough to say, “You know what, that’s twice in the last three months. Let’s make a change in how we’re handling things.” Someone who’s going to say, “You know what, I’m not going judge you, but let’s deal with this severely.” Someone who cares enough to bring some, lovingly, in the name of Jesus, “We’re not going to go back there, God has something better for you, and let’s take it a step up, let’s take it a step up, let’s take it a step up, let’s take it a step up.”
There’s some of you right now, you are lacking the depth of real spiritual community. It’s one of the reasons we’re doing Growth groups, because we need each other. Listen, the church is not something we go to. We are the body of Christ, we are family, we are vulnerable without each other. When we come together, we’re strengthened as we worship together. We are strengthened when we open up and we care for each other in circles, and pour our lives out. We’re strengthened when we do life together.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind. We are all crazy vulnerable. We are a couple of moments away from doing things that are totally destructive. No temptation has seized us except what is common to man. Here’s the deal. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. No matter what it is, no matter how big it seems. When you are tempted, our God will give you a way out. Why do we not take the way out more often? Because we’re so weak, we’re so weak.
Why are we so weak? Because we’re not connected and bonded with that which makes us strong. The reality is, when we are, when we’re in Rat Park, when we’re doing life God’s way. When we’re bonded with His people, when we’re strengthened in prayer, when we’re feeding on His word, then when we’re weak, which is all the time, His strength is made perfect through us.
Our God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. The good news, is our God will always give you a way out.