Choosing the Way of Escape
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
I Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)
In the allegorical book The Shining Sword, a young knight by the name of Lanus asks his sword master, Jamin, why a particular evil one from the enemy’s army seems to single him out in their recent skirmishes. No matter how hard he’s tried, Lanus has only been able to drive him back and wound but not kill him.
Jamin responds, “Many of the King’s soldiers have a single evil one which pursues them. The name of your enemy is Besetting Sin. And what the weakness in your life which he attacks may be, only you know. You may wound him often and you can always, if you use your sword and shield aright, beat him in each encounter, but you may never succeed in destroying him.
“He is not an adversary to be despised. He will grow more skilled in attacking you as you grow skilled in defeating him. He will learn your own strokes with the sword and use them against you. Only rarely does one of the King’s soldiers completely succeed in ridding himself of a Besetting Sin, and that after years of effort. So watch for him; don’t be afraid of him, for through the sword of the Spirit you can win the victory.”1
The Shining Sword is one of our family’s favorite stories. This scene in particular has helped me to better understand temptation and to look for God’s way of escape. I should say “ways.” I don’t have just one besetting sin, I have several. Like Lanus, in the book, I suffer from a deplorable laziness that I combat every single day. (Those battles are vital because I see that streak in one of my children and desperately pray for God’s help in role modeling a better way.) Another of my pursuers is worry. Early morning, an hour or two before I need to wake up, I’m often pulled out of deep slumber. This semi-sleepy state allows time for all sorts of thoughts to run amok over my brain. Questions, concerns, problems, schedules, shortcomings, needs, people, situations all parade through my mind as I lie in bed. Often I frantically dwell on each – only succeeding in waking myself up more.
Throughout this week’s lesson, we have many opportunities to see how temptations can overwhelm and keep us from the victory God wants us to have. It’s His will that we have victory – choosing His way of escape will assure it.
A. In today’s lesson, we begin with my fellow, sleepless worrier, Ahasuerus. (And no matter how I try to justify my tossing and turning, worry is not a spiritual gift.)
1. Read Esther 6:1-2; Matthew 6:31, 34, 10:19, 13:22; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11, 22, 36; I Corinthians 7:21. Many of these “worry” verses are familiar. Read the Scriptures as if for the first time, savoring every word, listening to God’s voice in how it can apply to you. What circumstances discussed in these Scriptures give cause for you to be tempted to worry?
2. What do you do when you can’t sleep? Why did God wake you? Perhaps there are specific physical reasons that periodically interrupt your sleep. Even so, God can mightily use the night hours. Pray. Intercede. Lift up who and what is on your mind. Ask for guidance. Read the Word. Right now, read Psalm 1:2, 16:7, 17:3, 42:8, 63:6, 77:6, 88:1, 92:1-2, 119:15, 148. How can you change your perspective for restless nights?
B. The king just heard an amazing, powerful story featuring himself as the central character. Two palace eunuchs, an assassination plot, discovered by … what was that name again? When Ahasuerus hears nothing was done for Mordecai, he determines to remedy the situation. The story needs a happy ending. It’s like a missing page from a novel.
1. Read Esther 6:3. The word for “honor” here in Esther means “preciousness, costliness, dignity” and even “magnificence.”2 Some forms of honor imply weightiness (both good and bad). Often it means “beautify” or “adorn” as with glory.3 Read Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:32; Deuteronomy 5:16; I Chronicles 17 and 29:12; Psalm 149:4. God honors people and requests that we honor others, as well.
2. Is there anyone in your life you need to honor? Has there been a deed or action done for you that deserves acknowledgement? What can you do to honor that person?
A. When our focus is on self, we will not be able to see the way of escape. It’s like putting blinders on so that all we see, all we comprehend is the temptation right in front of us. I usually picture the way of escape as a window on my right. The door before me is so enticing – like that old TV game show where contestants could choose what was behind door number 1, 2 or 3. Yet, in my periphery, there is a window, wide open and big enough to climb or even jump through. But, the blinders of self completely block my peripheral vision.
1. Read Esther 6:4-6. We talked about pride versus humility last week. But this action of Haman’s goes beyond pride. Haman is a megalomaniac – one who finds “excessive enjoyment in having power over other people and a craving for more of it.”
a. James 1:13-14 gives us a clear understanding from where temptations arise. Is there an area in your life where your lust – whether it’s lust for control, lust of self-promotion, any area you can think of – is becoming a source for temptation in your life? The Phillips translation of II Peter 2:8a says, “You may be absolutely certain that the Lord knows how to rescue a good man surrounded by temptation…”4 We are only good due to the righteousness of Christ. How does knowing there is the way of escape, even from ourselves, help or comfort you?
B. The fact that Haman walks into the court at the very moment Ahasuerus asks for someone is amazing – God’s timing, of course. It must have been morning because the narrative takes us directly from the king not sleeping (when sleeping is in order), to reading-in-order-to-lull, to wanting to fix a problem immediately. The king doesn’t seem surprised at Haman’s early attendance in the palace. Perhaps punctuality and availability were some of the reasons Haman climbed so quickly up the courtier ladder. But his motives for being there that morning have nothing to do with serving the king.
1. Read Proverbs 16:2 and James 4:3. Do you come before the Lord with motives apart from serving Him? During prayer? As you reflect on His Word? In the use of your spiritual gifts and talents?
A The way of escape comes in many forms – obstacles, hints, Scripture passages, experiences of others, even complete changes in our hearts and schedules. And they could come even after you’ve given in to the temptation.
1. Read Esther 6:7-10. For the sake of argument, I’m going to say Haman ignored the signs. He wasn’t a God-follower in any sense of the word, but I do believe God warns even non-believers through conscience, through cultural mores, through circumstances. That the king chose to honor a loyal Jew who sacrificed in order to learn of the truth of the assassination plot should have been a clue to Haman to back off and lay low. It was also his first glimpse at the futility of his genocidal plan.
2. How often do we ignore God’s signs pointing us to the way of escape? So often Scripture urges us to watch and wait. Read Psalm 25:5, 21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 106:13; Psalm 119:147; Psalm 141:3; Psalm 147:11; Proverbs 4:23, 26; Micah 7:7; Nahum 2:1. How do these passages help you to watch and wait for God’s way of escape?
B. It seems we as humans tend to think of the way of escape as an unpredictable option. Despair may have us thinking that the window may or may not be open. Pride makes us think it may not be the best solution. I want to encourage you – and myself – that even if you pull down the mini-blinds or close the drapes due to doubts from the enemy, God’s window is still open. The way of escape is always there. Period.
1. Skim Judges 13 to 16 for the story of Samson. Time after time we see this judge of Israel giving in to temptation. Through the account we can see what his different ways of escape were – the paths he chose not to take. What a different story it might have been had Samson acknowledged the open window. With what in Samson’s story do you most identify? To what – or whom – do you have the most trouble saying “no!”?
DAYS FOUR AND FIVE
A. When we choose the way of escape, we’ve kept our eyes open to the reality of our importance here on earth.
1. Read Esther 6:12-14. The whole business of riding through the streets on the king’s horse, wearing the king’s robe, being looked at and cheered on by those lining the roadway appeared to be no big deal to Mordecai. Once the procession was finished he went straight back to the king’s gate. No prima donna attitudes, no resting on his laurels. The king’s gate was where he belonged. It was a work day, after all.
a. Let’s look at this idea of work. God’s plan for people working is mind-boggling – the word “work” is used 386 times in the entire New American Standard Bible, 420 in the King James Version.
b. Whether we obsess over doing and perfecting, or whether we go to the opposite extreme of putting out as little effort as possible, watching the clock to fulfill the required quota, our work can be a huge temptation trap. But God insists our work be done for and through Him. Constantly, laying our work before Him with that thought in mind is our way of escape. Read Proverbs 21:25, 22:29; John 17:4; Acts 13:2; I Corinthians 3:10-15, 15:58, 16:10; Gal. 6:3-5; Colossians 3:23; I Thessalonians 4:11-12; II Thessalonians 3:6-12; I Timothy 5:17 (see Day 1, B on honor). What motivates you in your work?
2. Conversely, for Haman this procession had been an abysmal, humiliating ordeal. Haman, hater of Jews, spent much of the day hailing Mordecai’s greatness in the king’s name. Verse 12 says he rushed home mourning and covering his head.
a. For the opposite viewpoint of work done in man’s own strength, and for man’s own glory, read Job 34:11; Psalm 9:16, 28:4, 5; Isaiah 2:8, 65:6-7; Lamentations 3:64-66; Micah 2:1. This is just a sampling of verses that show the vileness of man’s true work when left to his own sinful desires – selfishness and idolatry.
b. Read through and meditate on Romans 8. Verse 13 says, “… if you are putting to death the deeds of the body …” (emphasis mine) Battling the flesh and the temptations of selfishness and idolatry are a daily “work.” Yet, again, the Lord promises victory. In your own words, read verse 37 as a prayer of thanksgiving.
B. Even for believers, though forgiveness is guaranteed, there are sometimes consequences of giving into temptation that must run their course. For unbelievers, the ultimate consequence is bleak, indeed. (Philippians 3:18-19)
1. In verse 13 and 14, we see Haman’s counselors – his wise men and his wife – backpedaling on their earlier advice. They seem to suddenly fear Jews. (One wonders where this advice was when Haman decided to erect a law annihilating all the Jews.)
a. Read Joshua 2, 6:23-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25. Rahab, and all of Jericho, knew of the power and might of the Hebrew God and what greatness He had accomplished through His people – prior to their coming to their city. Throughout history, God’s work in preserving the nation of Israel is evident to all humanity. Unlike most, Rahab chose to join with His people and was greatly rewarded – even to being part of the lineage of Christ. Jericho, on the other hand, perished.
b.Think of someone in your life who disdains the evident work of God. Pray right now for their eyes to be opened. How can you help them find the ultimate Way of escape?
Choosing the way of escape forces us to confront the source of our temptations – our own sinful nature – and flee from them. It is not easy. Therefore, I want to conclude this lesson with one final encouragement – our besetting sins that we battle daily will one day be gone forever, thanks to the amazing love and grace Jesus Christ offers. As Jamin finished his monologue we began reading in the introduction, he said, “And at last, when the King comes again, your adversary will fall forever in that final battle, for so has the King promised.”
1 Charles G. Coleman, The Shining Sword, (Loizeaux Brothers, Inc: New Jersey, 1956 & 1984) p. 120.
2 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for yĕqar (Strong’s 03366)“.(www.blueletterbible.org, 1996-2008) 9 Sep 2008.
3Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for ‘honor’ in the NASB”. (www.blueletterbible.org, 1996-2008) 9 Sep 2008.
4 J.B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches: A Translation of the New Testament Epistles, ( Macmillan Company: New York, 1956) p. 211.
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