Today's Devotional: More Than I Can Handle (Part 1)

Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 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. (1 Corinthians 10:9-13 ESV).

I am writing on Monday. I have several readers who have contacted me after some of the recent devotionals dealing with suffering and asked the question: Does God ever give us more than we can handle? Our reading today is often used to offer encouragement when someone is facing life challenges, sufferings, and trials. The general thought is that God will never allow anything into your life that you can’t handle. However, whether that is biblically correct depends on what we mean by “we” and “handle.” At the outset of this little series we should be very clear about one particular truth. If I survive any test or accomplish any work when I am tested, it is decisively grace, not decisively me.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at what does “we” mean in our reading today. Does “we” mean God takes into account our independent possibilities based on our track record of handling trouble and, thus, measures out that trouble to us so that it doesn’t go beyond what “we” independently by our own resources can handle? Or, does “we” mean that we can handle it if we receive it by faith in divine assistance and that God knows what he himself will give us by grace in enabling us to handle what he gives us so he is not thinking of “we” as independent, but “we” as dependent on the grace that comes with the difficulty?

When Paul says he won’t give what is beyond what you are able, he means, not beyond what you are able with God’s help. We know that because of a couple of other things he says. For example, he says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” In other words, in every test or temptation, the question is, “Will I do what I ought to do?” (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:8). And Paul says, “There will be grace,” not just, “I am depending on you to use your resources without depending on grace.” “I am giving you grace so there will be grace to do it. But you are not independent of my powers to help.” And he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10). Let me say it again: If I survive any test or accomplish any work when I am tested, it is grace, decisively grace, not decisively me. That requires trust in the goodness of God toward us. How is your trust? Begin with that answer. We will see more tomorrow.

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