Did you watch VeggieTales growing up?
If you’re my age and grew up in the church, I’d bet that you’ve seen your fair share of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. They taught us life lessons through the lives of fruits and vegetables, funny stories, letters from viewers and of course, silly songs with Larry. If you have never seen this, just search “The Cheeseburger Song” on YouTube to get an idea.
I remember one episode where the writers of VeggieTales tried to personify temptation. You know, the desires within us or from external sources that lead us to do things that might seem good at one point but end up being destructive. They used an apple, an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis 3. Of course, it was the serpent that tempted them to eat the apple, but the image of an apple has become a pop culture icon representing evil, malice, and desire. The Bad Apple was the villain who tempted fruits and veggies to follow their secret and selfish desires. It was up to Larry Boy to save the day and destroy the Bad Apple by resisting temptation.
As a kid, the Bad Apple from VeggieTales served as a good enough explanation. I got the point. Sometimes we are tempted to do bad things that hurt God and other people. Sometimes those desires to be selfish crome from within, and sometimes we hear the voices of friends, media, or our favourite celebrities telling us what will truly make us happy. Whatever the case, we should say “no” to temptation.
But as I grew older and life became more difficult, so did temptation. Life’s issues were more complex. The risks and consequences of sin skyrocketed. With more responsibility come more ways to mess it all up.
I thought life would get easier. I thought I would outgrow desires within me that I knew would not lead to a God-centred life. But that never happened. After going to Bible school, getting married, buying a house, or following my call into ministry, the dark sides of my life did not automatically light up.
I often identified with the way Paul described himself in Romans 7:15, when he said “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Temptation was no longer as simple as Bob or Larry tried to explain. Giving in to temptation led to guilt, shame, fear, and lasting negative consequences. I don’t remember hearing many silly songs about what to do when your selfish actions lead to feelings of never being welcomed back into God’s family.
I believe that everyone has at least one temptation or desire that they struggle with more than any other. For some it may be the desire to watch pornography; for others to over indulge with alcohol. Some may lack self control when eating; others may incessantly seek attention or notoriety. Some can’t help but try to make as much money as possible at all costs, and others continuously feel the need to spend that money on themselves. Whatever the case is, temptation, especially when we give in to it, can make us feel alone in our battle to do right and please God.
It’s in this exact state that the words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 have spoken to me over the years.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.”
This has been my favourite Bible verse for many years because of the truth and hope that it shares. I have taken it as promises upon which I can rely in times of trial. The three promises within the verse have given me much hope through seemingly hopeless times.
Firstly, there’s nothing that we go through that no one else has experienced. Because we often keep sin secret and hidden, we feel like no one else could possibly understand or accept our struggles. but when it comes to our experiences of temptation we are never alone.
I have learned over the years that we have much more in common than we realize. The main reason why we think we are alone is because we often feel the need to put up a facade, pretending we are perfect, especially in the church. But if we had the vulnerability to share and be open with one another about our struggles, we will quickly see that others go through the same things we go through.
Now I’m not suggesting everyone post or share all of their dark secrets with the whole world. I don’t think that would be helpful. For me it had meant finding a few people with whom I can be totally honest and held accountable. And in doing so, I’ve experienced the truth that I’m not alone in this fight.
Secondly, there’s nothing that we go through that we can’t endure. Desire is a powerful thing, but never too powerful for us to overcome. This is a difficult one for us to believe, because temptation is simply really hard and we often give in out of habit more than anything. We sometimes don’t know that there is another way.
Thirdly, and most importantly, God not only prevents us from going through things we can’t bear, but He also provides a way out for us so that we can conquer the temptations that try to bring us down. This has been the most powerful thing for me to realize, especially when I am feeling disconnected from people. God has not left me alone.
When it comes to temptation, there is always a way out. No matter how isolated or trapped by sin we feel, God has provided a way for us to overcome it. Sometimes we don’t see the way out until after, but as we continue to believe His promise, we will learn to stop and look for the ways out before it’s too late.
And let us not for a second forget that God is with us through our trials, often giving us exactly what we need in any given moment. It’s the Holy Spirit who works in us to transform us and continually shape us into the image of Christ. It’s not as if knowing this truth will suddenly make us perfect. But knowledge leads to learning when we surrender our lives to God
I’ve mentioned this repeatedly, but let me do it one last time: I don’t know what temptations you struggle with or how it’s going for you, but please remember that others have lived through your experience and God has not abandoned you without a way out. You are never alone.