A way of escape - the sequel


by James Johnson


In the course of human history, it has often been true that everything that people thought they knew about something was wrong. For example: The earth is flat and the sun orbits the earth.

At the time of Galileo, Church teaching was that the earth was flat. If anyone disagreed, they would be excommunicated and would go to hell. Even, today, in our so called scientific age, some people still believe in the flat earth theory.

Many of us were taught at school that Christopher Columbus was the first to prove the world is round by sailing across the Atlantic in 1492. We may have to unlearn what we learnt at school because the 4th Century BC Greek philosopher Aristotle, proved by logic and practical observation that the earth was a sphere.

That is in the physical world, but are there things we need to unlearn in the spiritual world? Many sincere believers have been puzzled by 1 Corinthians 10:13, which reads in the King James Version:

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will make with the temptation also a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

As it stands, this Scripture elicits two problems; one of logic and one of practical observation. If God produces a way of escape every time, why would He allow the temptation in the first place? It seems pointless. We also know from history that God's people have suffered and have not escaped. For example: Being burned at the stake for teaching from the Scriptures.

To understand the truth, we need to read this verse in context. Paul is showing in chapter 10 that ancient Israel had experienced great miracles during the exodus from Egypt. Yet that did not prevent some of them from committing idolatry and adultery.

The letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12, says that they had a cloud of witnesses, yet they were full of unbelief. Their fathers had witnessed the faith of Moses and seen the signs, but many of them died in the wilderness for their lack of faith in God. They questioned the promises. The trials did not bring them to faith.

This was a warning to the saints in Corinth to learn from that story. The people of Israel had taken their eyes off the Rock which had fed them. They had set their hearts on evil things. What evil things? Verse 14 tells us:

"Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."

Don't think it can't happen to you, warns Paul. Beware lest you too fall. Trials are common to man, and you are no different. But God is faithful; He has not forgotten you. Paul gives us practical advice to help us when we are being tried. We need to learn from the Scriptural examples of people who have successfully undergone a fiery trial.

Daniel 3:17 records what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told the king before they were thrown into the fiery furnace:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O King that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Nebuchadnezzar had to later admit that no other god but Yahweh could have saved the men in the way He had. Yahweh not only rescued the three men from death, He used the event to teach everyone, including us, that He alone is God. God uses trials to build up His people, not to destroy them.

Today, we know something that the three men at the beginning of their trial did not know. We know what did happen in the end - we know the sequel.

I quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 in the KJV, but this is how it reads in the more accurately translated Concordant Literal Version:

"No trial has taken you except what is human. Now, faithful is God, Who will not be leaving you to be tried above what you are able, but, together with the trial, will be making the sequel also, to enable you to undergo it."

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego looked beyond the trial and saw the glorious future. By faith, they saw the sequel and God enabled them to undergo it.

The example of Moses is illuminating. Hebrews 11:26:

"He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward."

By faith he saw the sequel.

A group of Sadducees asked Christ a question hoping to trick Him. Christ was to prove that everything the Sadducees thought they knew was wrong. Christ's reply is recorded in Matthew 22:29:

"You are deceived, not being acquainted with the Scriptures nor yet the power of God."

So it was not only not understanding the truth, but not knowing the POWER of God. In this example, they were talking about the resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, despite the many references in the Hebrew Scriptures. But more importantly, perhaps, they did not believe that Yahweh, the Creator of the Universe, had the power to raise the dead to life.

In effect, the Sadducees were committing idolatry. Paul records in Romans 1:20-21:

"For [God's] invisible attributes are descried from the creation of the world, being apprehended by His achievements, besides His imperceptible power and divinity, for them to be defenceless, because, knowing God, not as God do they glorify or thank Him, but vain were they in their reasonings, and darkened is their unintelligent heart."

It may not be a coincidence that there was a belief that the earth is the centre of the universe. Because that fits exactly the way humans behave. As individuals, we want to believe that the world revolves round us. All our problems can be solved, supposedly, by the power of positive thinking and by human strength and reasoning. But that is idolatry. Only those with God's spirit can understand the foolishness of that way of thinking. The philosophy of the world is idolatry.

The saints at Thessalonica had formerly been worshippers of idols, but now were slaving for the living, true God. Paul turned them to God by preaching the risen Christ. Christ is our Rescuer from the coming indignation.

Paul faced trials because he was preaching Christ roused from the dead. It was not by guile or deception or flattery or greed that they had turned to God. It was by the power of the evangel. Paul told the ecclesia in Corinth, (1 Corinthians 1:18):

"For the word of the cross is stupidity, indeed, to those who are perishing, yet to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

He then said that he preached Christ crucified to those whom God has called, Christ the power of God. Paul heralded the evangel - not with persuasive words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of power. The brothers in Corinth and elsewhere had to unlearn what they had formerly believed.

At this point let us consider a common question: Why does a loving God allow evil and trials to happen? It is paradoxical that God has already provided the answer to the problem of evil, but mankind continues to reject His answer. Most people don't want God to remove evil from this world. All they want God to do is remove the consequences of evil. Not only do people not want Him to remove the evil in themselves, they do not want to acknowledge they need help. But if God did exactly what they want, God would be mocked. He would be sanctioning Sin; He would be immoral. But more than that, the sacrifice of His Son would be meaningless. God doesn't remove the consequences of sin so that we can continue in sin just because grace abounds.

The death of Christ delivers the believer from Sin itself, and through the resurrection, is roused a new creature. But people generally do not want to come into the light, because their deeds are evil. Eventually, though, everyone will learn that salvation only comes through Christ. There is no other way to receive salvation.

Hebrews 11, the 'faith chapter', lists different people over many centuries who were tried in ways not one of us has ever had to face: torture, flogging, killed by the sword, lions, and fiery flames. But these are great heroes of faith; we are just ordinary people. Our trials may not be so dramatic; we may not literally be thrown to the lions, but we will suffer. Yes, trials are common to man, but, especially for the believer, trials are guaranteed. And for a very good reason.

Philippians 1:29:

"For unto you is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake."

Suffering for Christ's sake isn't just suffering external persecution. If Christ is living in us, in our vessels of clay, then the spirit will be at war with our flesh - our old Adam. That's where the problem lies. 2 Corinthians 4:7:

"Now we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendence of the power may be of God and not of us."

We may have Christ in us, but we still have a mortal body, subject to the powerful pulls of the flesh. Paul makes the result of this clear in Galatians 5:17:

"For the flesh is lusting against the spirit, yet the spirit against the flesh. Now these are opposing one another, lest you should be doing whatever you may want."

So we can see that trials are not only external but also internal. Struggles in our fleshly minds are still trials. Being conceited, for example, doesn't sound as bad a trial as being thrown to the lions.

Yet Paul was in danger of becoming conceited because of the visions he received. He tells us he was given a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). Whatever the thorn was, it was a messenger of Satan to torment him. Paul pleaded with the Lord to take it away. God's answer?

"Sufficient for you is My grace. For My power in infirmity is being perfected."

Paul then explains why he delighted in infirmities, in outrages, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. Why?

"For when I am weak, then I am powerful."

The trial forced him to face reality - he was unable to make himself righteous. Good was not making its home in him (i.e. his flesh). Oh yes, he wanted to do it, yet to be effecting it, he could not. What rescued him? Only God's powerful grace!

So we see this trial of Paul was caused by a conflict within himself. And that is true of every believer. We may know theoretically that God's purpose is to be ALL in all. But it is more than a doctrine; it needs to be experienced in ordinary life. So how does God make it real to us? He uses trials to bring us to Christ and learn vital lessons. Of course, it is possible to suffer for our own sins and foolishness. But even then, we can learn vital lessons.

We know Christ died for us. He suffered for us. But now, we will suffer in HIM and with Him, because we have become one with Him. This is explained in 1 Peter 4:1-2:

"Christ, then, having suffered for our sins in flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same thought, for he who is suffering in flesh has ceased his sins, by no means to spend the rest of his lifetime in human desires, but in the will of God."

Suffering is inevitable if we live in Christ and follow Him. Our Lord said so. Matthew 16:24-25:

"If anyone is wanting to come after Me, let him renounce himself and pick up his cross and follow Me. For whosoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be destroying it. Yet whosoever shall be destroying his soul on My account shall be finding it."

This is the only way. The old Adam dominates. I repeat Galatians 5:17:

"For the flesh is lusting against the spirit, yet the spirit against the flesh. Now these are opposing one another, lest you should be doing whatever you may want."

Despite all Paul's suffering, by faith he saw the sequel. What did he think of all the privileges and pleasures of his former life? Let him tell you himself. Philippians 3:8:

"But to be sure, I am also deeming all to be a forfeit because of the superiority of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, because of Whom I forfeited all, and am deeming it to be refuse, that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him."

What was the sequel that Paul saw? Romans 8:16-18:

"The spirit itself is testifying with our spirit that we are children of God. Yet, if children, enjoyer also of an allotment from God, yet joint enjoyers of CHRIST'S allotment, if so be that we are suffering together, that we should be glorified together also. For I am reckoning that the sufferings of the current era do not deserve the glory about to be revealed for us."

Paul isn't just talking about suffering caused by others or Satan. Christ is in the believer, as it says in 1 Corinthians 6:17:

"Now he who joins the Lord is one spirit."

Therefore we need to be adjusted to Him. We need to be brought under the power of the cross. Why? Again, because our carnal body is an earthen vessel. 2 Corinthians 4:7:

"Now we have this treasure [i.e. Christ living in us] in earthen vessels, that the transcendence of the power may be of God and not of us."

The work of the cross exposes our inability to offer anything to God. Then we get the message at last - it is all by God's grace. Paul explains in Galatians 2:20 what happened to him and what must happen to us:

"With Christ have I been crucified, yet I am living; but no longer I, but living in me is Christ. Now that which I am now living in flesh, I am living in faith that is of the Son of God, Who loves me, and gives Himself for me."

Suffering is not the end - it is the means to the end. Yet our faithful God will not be leaving us to be tried beyond what we are able. To do otherwise, would be to defeat His purpose.

Hebrews 12:16 reminds us of the reason for the Lord's discipline:

"For whom the Lord is loving He is disciplining. Yet He is scourging every son to whom He is assenting."

Verse 11 explains the sequel to this:

"Now all discipline, indeed, for the present is not seeming to be a thing of joy, but of sorrow, yet subsequently it is rendering the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those exercised through it."

God is deliberately going to lead us in a way to make us pick up our cross. There is simply no other way for the believer; it is the will of God. But most of us don't understand this. When difficulty and trials come our way, we immediately look for a human way of escape.

It could be that God rather than get us out, has put us in this situation so that we lose our lives to Him. We try to save our lives - but God wants us to lose our lives.

Romans 12:1-2 remains true for us today:

"I am entreating you, then, brethren, by the pities of God, to present your bodies a sacrifice, living, holy, well pleasing to God, your logical divine service, and not to be configured to this eon, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for you to be testing what is the will of God, good and well pleasing and perfect."

Knowing the sequel is so important because it will enable us to bear any trial. Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 could well be our prayer for ourselves, because we need to unlearn error about trials, and to learn the sequel. I end by reading those magnificent words.

"Therefore I also, on hearing of this faith of yours in the Lord Jesus, and that for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may be giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation of Him, the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, for you to perceive what is the expectation of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints, and what the transcendent greatness of His power for us who are believing, in accord with the operation of the might of His strength, which is operative in the Christ, rousing Him from among the dead and seating Him at His right hand among the celestials, up over every sovereignty and authority and lordship, and every name that is named, not only in this eon, but also in that which is impending; and subjects all under His feet, and gives Him as Head over all, to the ecclesia which is His body, the complement of the One completing the all in all."

Amen.


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