Do we believe God keeps all His promises to us—or do we think He occasionally lets one slip? This might seem like a silly question, but in reality, do we really believe God completely?
1 Corinthians 10:13 promises, “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 with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
When we look at this subject rationally, at a safe distance from any temptations, we may accept that. But in our life experience, in the thick of battle, it can be a different matter. It can seem at times that God has failed to keep this promise. We can get embroiled in temptations that lead to sin. The temptation comes, we struggle, we pray earnestly—yet we are overpowered by the temptation. We can’t seem to find that promised escape. What happened?
A way of escape is a promise from God. Do we believe Him? What do we have to do to find that promised deliverance?
How to Overcome
Here are additional promises God gives us. In Hebrews 13:5, He says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” In Matthew 28:20, Christ promised, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And in Romans 6:14 we read, “For sin shall not have dominion over you.”
If these statements are true, why then do we sometimes find sin does have dominion over us? Maybe we have gone so far as to cry out to God with tears streaming down our face—yet we fail. Has God broken these promises?
Herbert W. Armstrong addressed this question in an August 1985 Good News article, “How to Be an Overcomer.” He explains why we can’t seem to resist the temptation and find that way of escape: “Why? What is wrong? Simply that we have not known how to receive, apply and use the faith God promises to give!” So the problem is not with God, nor His promises. The issue is our application of the faith God promises us.
God makes promises to us, but there are conditions. We have our part to play.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “Some go to one extreme and try to do it all. Others swing to the opposite extreme, plead with God, make little effort themselves and expect Him to do it all.” He then quoted James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Submit—resist! These are active words, not passive. They require effort on our part.
How are we to resist? 1 Peter 5:6-9 instructs, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith ….” We must do our part to resist Satan—and we must do it steadfastly,in the faith. Not our own faith, but the very faith of Christ living in our lives!
Practically speaking, how can we do this? The answer was back in verse 8.
“The key to it all is ‘be vigilant,’” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Be on your guard! Be ever watchful! Be prepared! That’s where we fall down! It takes constant, continuous, vigilant effort, never letting down!”
Being vigilant means keeping awake, being watchful. When Mr. Armstrong says being vigilant is “the key to it all,” that is worth paying attention to!
Have you ever driven your car down the road and been lost in your thoughts, letting the car “drive itself”? Perhaps you are driving and dozing at the same time. What can happen when you are not vigilant, or awake, when you drive? You might be so distracted that you miss your exit or your turn. You might be in the wrong lane and realize it is too late to get over. Now you have to continue on the freeway until the next exit, where you can turn around. Or you could try some high-speed maneuver that stunt drivers pull off in the movies.
You would acknowledge that this is a dangerous way to drive. Yet at times we still muddle through our daily commutes without being as vigilant as we should be.
What about our spiritual journey? Are we vigilant? Or are we in a bit of a daze, a spiritual stupor—on auto-pilot or cruise control—not really paying attention, just going through the motions of a Christian life?
There are a lot of moving parts when we are behind the wheel of a car. It can be a weapon if used improperly. Isn’t running our lives infinitely more important? A car will get us from point A to point B, but our spiritual journey will transform us from a “clod” into a God—if we are vigilant! We must exert effort!
“Unless we, ourselves, had to put forth some effort we could not be overcomers!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “But if we had power to do it all, we should not need God!
“So it requires our effort—our continuous, watchful, ever vigilant effort—empowered by God’s Spirit!”
Draw Near to God
James 4:8 reads, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
This amplifies our understanding of why we can fail to find God’s promised way of escape: We are not near enough to God.
“When temptation comes, we are too far from God—and we are then unable, suddenly, on the spur of the moment, to get close enough to Him to get the help and the deliverance we need!” Mr. Armstrong explained. “It sometimes takes time to get close to God—into that intimate contact with Him so that we can draw on Him for the power we suddenly need!
“In other words, when temptation unexpectedly has come, we have found ourselves caught off guard—out of prayer—out of contact with God—out of spiritual training!”
This is why God’s Church teaches that it takes 30 minutes of prayer each day just to survive spiritually—and 60 minutes daily to thrive. The same formula applies to our Bible study.
When we are tempted by Satan and drawn away by our own lusts, and we are losing those battles, where is the problem? If we cannot find the way of escape God promises, whose fault is it?
Are we as spiritually vigilant as we need to be? Are we spiritually awake and on fire? Or are we out of shape—spiritually flabby?
With Satan and his demons confined to Earth, we must not take these daily battles casually. It is a matter of eternal life and death! We cannot enter a contest against Satan on our own; he is too powerful for us. We cannot afford to be out of spiritual condition and lax in training. We are in a war, and we must march in lockstep behind the Captain of our salvation!
“All spiritual power and strength must come from God,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “We can drink it in from Him only when we are in contact with Him—close to Him—in communion with Him!
“Otherwise, when the temptations suddenly assail you, no matter how hard you then try, or cry out to God for help, you are simply too far away from Him to get help!
“Spiritual training, to get and keep in constant vigilant condition to meet the foe of temptation and sin, requires continuous, earnest, persistent PRAYER! That is why we are commanded to pray without ceasing! To keep it up!”
To find this way of escape, as God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13, we must draw near to Him. When we do, we will have the faith of Christ living in us to resist the devil—and he must flee. When we are close to God, He is close to us, and we will be filled with His Spirit, His power to overcome.
To win this war, one battle at a time, we must be ever vigilant, drawing on the faith of Christ living in us and using it powerfully. Then we will find that way of escape God has promised.
Be vigilant—and find that promised way of escape! Your eternal life is worth it!