Resisting Temptation

Back in the 4th grade, we temporarily moved to one of the, er, interesting parts of California: Bakersfield. I started at a new school and had some very typical problems fitting in: I was from out of town, the Big City, everybody else seemed to know each other already, it was a very different kind of place than I’d come from, and then there was the problem of The Bully.

But I digress. I became friends with another boy whose name was Teddy. Teddy and I discovered we had similar interests and outlooks on life. His family was from the Philippines and I remember being amazed at their hospitality, generosity, and friendliness. To this day, I have a particular affection for Filipinos. So Teddy and I became thick as thieves, as they say, and we would look out for each other. Teddy knew who was who and what was what at the school. I was a tall kid so probably provided some cover for Teddy. Anyway, Teddy and I, with a few others, ran in a small pack: call it a mutual defense association.

At this point in my life, I can’t remember the boy’s name. But he was a sixth grader and apparently had as his Personal Calling Statement the purpose, value, and vision to make sure that all the students in our school were intimidated by him. When he saw me – remember, I was tall for my age – I popped up on his radar as an unidentified “bogie.” And his mission was to seek and destroy.

So one day, he confronted me during the recess period and uttered those words that an extremely insecure boy does not want to hear: “After school, I’m goin’ to beat you up!” Again, he wasn’t noted for his subtlety.

So for the rest of the day, Teddy and I planned our strategy to deal with this threat. It went something like this: “Wadda we gonna do?! Wadda we gonna do?! Wadda we gonna do?!” Now, and don’t miss this, there was never any this from Teddy: “Dude, that’s bad. Sure isn’t good to be you now. See ya later!” Teddy was my friend. My problem was his problem. Right there we could stop and this will be a great illustration.

But it was better than that. We realized that there were two exits to the school. One was the front and the other was the, er – yes – the back. So we made this plan. Once school got out, I’d hide – I’m not too proud to admit this – in the boy’s room. Teddy committed to going out and scoping the exits. If BullyBoy was in the front, we’d skedaddle out the back; and if he was in the back, we’d make our escape out the front. Notice, “OUR escape;” My problem was his problem.

It turned out that this plan worked very well. Teddy did an effective reconnoiter and located our threat force near the front exit of the school. We then executed a tactical exit strategy egressing from the rear of the school, suitably camouflaged by buildings, vegetation, and other terrain features. The extraction maneuver was successful and based upon our well-executed plan, we were able to successfully leverage our success when it came time to engage in diplomatic negotiations.

Here’s the point: Teddy helped me escape. He took my problem on as his own. He helped me find a way out in a very practical way.

So I think of God in that way. Temptation is my problem – God didn’t cause my temptation. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Yet my temptation is a problem that God takes up as his own. God, even more so that Teddy, is my friend and wants to help me in very practical ways. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1Corinthians 10:13). God, not only looks out for another escape route like Teddy did for me, but this verse says that God will “make” or “do” a way of escape. I take that to mean that if way is not already there, “providentially,” then God will just create a way miraculously.

Of course, most of us don’t have the faith to look for that way when we are tempted. That assumes that we are actually looking for a way out of temptation. But that’s another conversation.

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