Author: Tony Fowler
Posted: 23 March, 2021
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Several years ago, Linda gave me a birthday card. It pictured an elderly gentleman coming in through the front door, dressed for taking to the hills, wearing a rucksack and hiking boots. ‘I’ve joined the Ramblers,’ he stated to his wife, who’s sitting with her back to him. Without lifting her eyes from her knitting, she replies, ‘Is that walking or talking?’
Well, I’ve started walking, and rambling on about it, again!
On Sunday afternoon, the first mild day after a long spell of wintry showers and harsh frosts, I went out for a longer than usual walk. It took me into Dunnikier Park and around the golf course. It was very muddy, though in places you could see puddles of water with a coating of ice that hadn’t yet melted. There were plenty of people about in the early part of the walk, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t see a great deal of wildlife. On the north side of the golf course, I did spot what I think was a sparrowhawk devouring its prey. If I’d had my binoculars with me, I could have been more certain.
My trainers were getting clarted in mud, so I stopped at a puddle and dipped my foot into it to get rid of the worst of it. To my surprise I found that, underneath the shallow water, there was still a layer of ice. If I’d been walking normally, I could easily have slipped and done myself some damage. It’s often the little things, imperceptible to most, that cause us to fall! I was reminded of a book I read many years ago: Rebuilding Your Broken World by Gordon MacDonald. In it, the author, an American pastor who fell into sin and had to resign from his church, mentions that it was an area of life in which he felt totally safe that was his undoing. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:12 came to mind: ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’ It’s a warning we all need to take to heart. Jesus speaks about the importance of faithfulness in the little things of life (Luke 16:10-11 RSV) if we’re to be trusted with true riches.
I’m glad, however, that Paul doesn’t end with the warning. Important though it is, he doesn’t leave it hanging over us like the Sword of Damocles. He continues like this: ‘No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.’ We’re all in the same boat, effectively; all prone to come unstuck in similar ways. And he adds this wonderful encouragement: ‘And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’ I’ve heard that final sentence interpreted two ways. In one, there’s always a way out of temptation. The Greek word for ‘a way out’ is the one that appears today over every fire exit. When tempted, run for the fire exit – like Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him! There’s always another option instead of giving way to temptation. We can stand firm.
The second interpretation assumes that the believer yields to the temptation, and falls into sin. Is all lost? No! There’s still a way out! God has provided it through the atoning sacrifice of His Son at Calvary. Jesus paid the penalty on the cross for this sin, and every other we’ve ever committed. Our sinful desires may have tripped us up, and brought us low; but we can still get up and carry on again. God’s grace to us in Jesus means forgiveness is always possible. The devil would have us believe that this sin, whatever it is, is the final straw. ‘God will no longer have anything to do with you,’ he whispers in our ear. Don’t believe him! That’s just one of his many lies. I still remember, in a time of deep despair, thinking I could never be of any use to God. Then I heard this quotation from a dusty old commentary: ‘God’s mercy is His steady persistent refusal to wash His hands of His perverse people.’ The minister repeated the words, and they were balm to my soul. I don’t know who wrote them; but they were the beginning of my call into ministry in the Church. God’s amazing grace can cope with our sin! Never forget that wonderful truth, dear friends! No matter how low we’ve fallen, God’s mercy can reach us there!