“I’m the marshmallow man,” quipped Columbia University Professor Walter Mischel. Over the past 50 years his “Marshmallow Test” has become synonymous with the concepts of self-control, temptation, and delayed gratification.
The test is simple. A child is given a single marshmallow and this choice: Eat this one now. Or wait for 15 minutes and you can eat two! As you can imagine the results are a bit comical as kids twist and turn trying to control themselves from eating!
In his book, The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, Professor Mischel explains the profound implications of this test for predicting behavior later in life. He explains how self-discipline can be taught and applied to breaking bad habits, overcoming challenges, and enjoying a successful life.
The Bible teaches that God created us with the power of choice. We can develop self-discipline, deny ourselves of destructive desires, and conquer temptation. One of the great verses of Scripture says so!
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
There are four things we can learn about temptation from this text.
(1) Temptation is the common experience of all people. We should not feel guilty when we are tempted. We’re all tempted to sin. Even Jesus himself was tempted directly by the Devil.
There is a commonality to our temptations. Just like the Devil tempted Adam and Eve, he tempts us with the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). Time passes, technology changes and the techniques may vary, but the basic temptations are still the same.
Greed. Gluttony. Lying. Lust. Adultery. Fornication. Dishonesty. Anger. Envy. Jealousy. And intoxication. These have been around forever. Whatever temptation you are experiencing is not uncommon. Unheard of. Or unconventional. You are not alone. Others have experienced it too!
(2) God is faithful, even when we are not! What a wonderful assurance and a precious promise! Even when we become unfaithful and are under the influence of sin’s allurement, God is still there. Ever waiting. Still blessing. Ready to forgive. And offering healing and hope for the future.
People may give up on us. Abandon us. Or join us in our folly. But the Almighty is always available. His power is accessible to help us subdue temptation. And his grace and mercy is extended to welcome us home after we’ve succumbed to sin’s seduction.
(3) Your temptation is not more than you can endure. Too often we give in to temptation with the justification, “It’s more than I can handle.” Or the rationalization, “I couldn’t help it.” Or the silly excuse, “Well, after all, I’m only human!”
Yes, we are human beings made in the image of a Holy God. He made us with the ability to choose right over wrong. The resolve of will to engage in good instead of evil. And the strength of character to subdue temptation with the power of Christ in us. You can endure! You can overcome. You can say, “No!”
(4) God provides a way of escape. The way may be different for each of us. The apostle Paul found it necessary to engage in spiritual warfare to fight the wiles of the Devil (Eph. 6:10-17). Jesus put the Tempter to flight with words of Scripture, each time saying, “It is written.” (Matt. 3:1-10). Joseph literally ran from the sexual enticement of Potiphar’s wife.(Gen 39:11-12) And Daniel dealt with many challenges in captivity with a vigorous and vigilant prayer life (Dan. 6:10).
What will be your way of escape from temptation? I don’t know. But I do know that God will provide it.
Oh, and if you feel like you’re safe from Satan’s snare, just remember what Paul said in the preceding verse. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor. 10:12)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman