1 Corinthians 10:1-13
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 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.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did- and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did- and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did- and were killed by the destroying angel.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 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.
I know it's a lot of reading but I think that it's important in understanding this passage that you read Exodus 13 through 14 or at least skim through it as a reminder if you've already read it before. Also Exodus 16-17:7, all of Exodus 32, Numbers 21:4-9, 25. Again, you can just skim through them if you're familiar with the stories to remind you of what Paul is talking about when he talks of the Israelites in the desert and the different things that happened to them there. I assure you it will help in understanding this.
This was taught in order to teach us the fear of God, to understand that He will punish us when necessary to turn us back to Him and His ways. We may not understand idolatry in the ways that it was practiced in their culture but we can make idols of things in different ways. Really anything that takes the place of God in our minds and in our hearts is an idol. One that I frequently deal with in my own life is the idol of other people's approval. I desperately need other people's approval and really I should only need God's approval. I deal with this daily in my relationship with my parents and their disapproval of the lifestyle that I have chosen for me and my family and with people in my church and other Christian circles that I really want to like me. It's been a hard lesson for me to learn that others may not approve, including family members, but I have to do what God has called me to do regardless of how others may feel about it. Most of my family do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or at least are not following Him and trusting Him on a daily basis and I realize that in pursuing a writing and teaching ministry most of my family is not going to approve and are probably going to shun, but I have to go ahead and do it anyway, and still be able to face them and love them without turning hard and cold. It's going to be a difficult balance to find, but it's something I realize is probably going to be a reality in the very near future. They will not approve of the things I say and do as an openly Christian “fanatic” in their way of thinking. I hope you all will pray for me as I go forward in what I believe God has called me to do. I am desperately going to need it with my need for approval being what it is. It's sin and I have to ask for forgiveness frequently. It's definitely an idol in my life. Yours may be different. It may be a television show or a career you're working towards or maybe you're a workaholic. No matter what it is, if it gets in-between you and God it's an idol that needs to be removed. Now I think you understand that I am not talking about your spouses or your children. We can't just do away with the people God has put in our lives to care for and honor appropriately. But if we relying on them to fulfill us instead of God, we need to put them in their proper place as well. God must be #1 in our lives.
Verses 12 and 13 are commonly quoted and appropriately so I think. Verse 12 tells us that we need to not think that we are beyond falling to sin. We need to be continually on guard, not paranoid, but aware of our surroundings and the temptations that we could encounter and pray against those always. Verse 13 tells us that we are not facing anything that no one else has faced. We can trust that if it's a temptation for us, it probably is for others, too. It's important to share with others when we feel tempted, so that they can pray for us and so others know that they are not alone as well. We don't need to share details, just enough to stay in genuine fellowship with other believers and so you don't feel so alone. Isolation has nearly been the death of me so much more than any of the sins I was actually tempted in. It was probably the #1 cause of my being suicidal in my past. No one could possibly understand, so I could not live with myself. No one is as bad as me. Such lies that Satan has put in my head, and I still frequently need to be reminded that those are lies. Also verse 13 says that “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.” Don't believe for one minute that God has put you in a situation where must sin and you can't get out of it. He will never allow that to happen. Pray and look for a way out. There is one. He has promised that to us.
“Dear Jesus, please help me to be honest in my fellowship with other believers when I'm struggling. Remind me to always pray when I feel stuck in a dangerous situation and show me the way out, so I need not sin. In Jesus' Name. Amen.”
Added an image at the top just for fun and because I haven't put one on for a while.