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Monday, January 14, 2013

In or out of bounds?

Limit:  The final, utmost, or furthest boundary.  We have times when we think we are being "pushed" beyond our limits.  We find the challenge too great - like when we know there is chocolate in the refrigerator, the diet is just two days young, and we can actually hear audible voices calling to us from within the confines of the fridge!  I found it interesting to think of this verse in terms of our "limits".  In other words, Paul is telling us when we are about to reach the very outskirts of our "boundaries" in life, there is nothing strong enough to actually "push" us beyond that limit!  There is no test or temptation greater than God - no pull or push stronger than him.

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.  (I Corinthians 10:13 MSG)

A test is simply something which proves the integrity of something within.  When we go through a test, we determine one of three things: 1) the presence of something within; 2) the quality of what is within; or 3) the genuineness of what is within.  Consider these for a moment with me.  The presence of something within is revealed in the time of the test.  In a purely natural sense, when our teachers gave us a "pop quiz", they were seeing if we were really assimilating the materials we were being exposed to in our lecture and independent study times.  They were looking for the "presence" of the knowledge and our ability to bring it forth when we were called upon to use it.  The quality of what is within becomes evident when we are under pressure, does it not?  When we are under pressure, the "core" of our character traits begin to be exposed.  The test exposes the quality of what is within - sometimes to our chagrin, the quality is not as we hoped.  The test also proves the genuineness of what is within - the stuff we thought we'd be able to hold onto in the time of testing really proves itself to be useless if it is not the best stuff!

A temptation is an allurement or an enticement which exerts some push or pull within, but which may not be the most fulfilling, rewarding, or worthwhile.  We are "tempted" by a good number of things.  They may be physical, such as foods we should avoid to reduce our fat consumption.  They also could be mental, such as resorting to negative and critical communication whenever we feel under pressure.  Still, they could be spiritual - yep, you heard me right.  Spiritual temptation?  Really?  If you don't think Satan has your number, reading you like a book, keeping track of what "triggers" certain actions from you, then think again.  He has a way of creating just the right amount of "pull" to attempt to get us off-course with God - targeting areas we engage in so much negative self-talk about.  For example, if we struggle with trust in God, do you think he will encourage us to read the word?  In fact, Satan will attempt to pull us away from every opportunity to take the word in through every distraction possible!  Have you ever wondered why the phone rings with that telemarketer at just the time you feel like sitting down to read the word?  

The good news is that you aren't in this alone - there are a whole lot of us who struggle with exactly the same things.  Our lives may be dissimilar in so many ways, but the basic struggles (pulls and pushes) are similar enough to be able to say we are not that unique in our struggles.  The promise to us is that God will never let us down.  He is reliable when we our own reliability is not so trustworthy!  The most awesome part of this passage is the part about our "limit" - God not letting us past that "limit".  In other words, when we call out to him, he keeps us "in bounds".  Now, lest we think he will just swoop in and immediately take away the temptation or remove us from the test, think again.  Paul is very clear - he will be there to help us come through it.  Did you get that?  Come THROUGH it implies we feel the push or the pull and then we call out, relying upon him to keep us cognizant of the boundary and attentive to his voice as we plant our feet firmly "in bounds".  

Lest we think our test or temptation is "special", think again.  It is made quite clear in this passage - no one has a "unique" test or trial.  The circumstances may change, but the basis of the test or trial remains the same:  Will we or will we not cross the boundary.  That's it!  The boundary is there for our protection - God is there to help us stay within the boundary!  Just sayin!