Does God Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle? Part I
God, Believer, and Trouble: 1 Corinthians 10:13

Introduction: The five-part series: God, the Believer, and Trouble: 1 Corinthians 10:13 answers the question: does God give the believer more than he can handle. Various answers have been given. We need to make sure we understand the question and God’s answer. .

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (1 Cor. 10:13, NIV)

The title is intended to pique your interest. Some have written that God does not give you, believer, more than you can handle; others have said that He does. How do we resolve this seeming dilemma? The statement: God does not give a believer more than he can handle, addresses two players. Do you see them? One is God and the other is the believer. The phrase makes a statement about God, the believer, and trouble. We must remember that trouble refers to God’s providence. The word does not refer simply to God’s passivity and allowing something; rather it refers to God ordaining all things after the counsel of His will.

The statement and question before us is a reiteration of an underlying and non-negotiable truth: God is good, purposeful, and powerful. In a nutshell, God is in control with a purpose – for His glory and for the good of the believer. Because God is sovereign He is trustworthy. He is the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper extraordinaire. From God’s perspective He will never exceed the believer’s spiritual IQ. Too often, the believer may feel and convince himself (think) that God has. When that happens the believer is living the lie. Living the lie is part of the believer’s problem and a residual of his past presence in Satan’s family and kingdom.

A person’s thoughts and desires are linked to feelings and actions. God directs believers to think His thoughts and desire what He desires; right feelings generally follow. Even if they don’t, the believer can be confident that becoming more Christ is the best thing this side of heaven. In reality, the Triune God has provided more than enough of Himself by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the believer’s union with Christ so that the believer never has to be “under the circumstances.” Rather the believer is to use God’s providence (circumstances and situations) as a tool to grow in Christlikeness. That is one of the Bible’s definitions of victory.

As the believer adopts God’s perspective, he will make pleasing God his goal, privilege, and blessing rather than a burden and duty (1 John 3:1-3; 5:3). Paul expressed this truth in our passage (1 Corinthians 10:13), and in such passages as Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9, and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. God always provides a way of escape in every situation (1 Corinthians 10:13). The way of escape is not necessarily out of the situation; often, it is remaining in the situation God’s way. That way is thinking, wanting, and acting according to biblical truth as the believer uses the situation to become more like Christ.

The first Person to be considered in the passage is God. How is it that God will never exceed a believer’s spiritual IQ? God had an original design. It was for His children to be in His presence eternally. In order for that to occur, the believer is to become and to grow in Christlikeness. Remember, Christ is the only person in whom God was well-pleased (Matthew 3:7; 17:5). Growth in Christlikeness honors the Godhead and it is best for the believer. However, the truth be known, too often, relief and happiness is the believer’s main focus rather than growth in holiness.

God possesses personal and intimate knowledge of Himself, His creation, His creatures, and His children. He knows what the believer needs in order for the believer to fulfill the eternal design of the Godhead. From eternity past, God chose people for Himself to be holy and blameless – like Christ (John 6:37-43; Ephesians 1:4). God’s choice means that believers are chosen in Christ though the Holy Spirit in order for them to become more like Christ. The believer is the most changed person and he is to be the most changing person. What God has done in eternity will not be thwarted in time and space by God or the believer. Rather He has ordained all that comes to pass for His glory and the good of His people (Job 42:8; Isaiah 41:10-14; 43:13; 46:10). Therefore, God will not burden His people with “something that they can’t handle.” They may be burdened, but it not something that they, in Christ, can’t respond to in a godly manner.

God’s providential control is geared toward manifesting His glory and achieving the believer’s good. But what does that mean in the everyday existence of the believer? In answering the question, we must ask if God gave Christ more than He could handle. The obvious answer is no. The basis for no is the Intratrinitarian relationship. In the next blog I will consider the second person in the passage, the believer.

1. How do you answer the question: does God give the believer more than he can handle?
2. What is the basis for your answer?
3. What do you need to know about God in order to correctly answer the question?
4. When the tunnel seems long, the mountain so high, and the hole so deep, how does Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5 help bring you back to reality? What was psalmist’s answer?

Does God Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle? Part II
1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (1 Cor. 10:13, NIV).

I continued the series: God the Believer and Trouble. The second person to be considered in the passage is the believer. The question, does God give the believer more than he can handle, moves to the heart of the matter which is the person’s heart, or the motivation center of every person. The question forces the believer to ask himself from whose perspective he should consider the question.

The question of handling or not handling is multifaceted. It addresses God, His providence, control, and provisions and resources. It also addresses the believer’s view of God, self, and God’s providence and control. The question focuses on an issue of theological importance: is there any event in the believer’s life that is too much for him to handle? Before you answer the question, please define handle. What does the term mean? According to biblical truth. to handle something means to use the situation (event) as God intended – to become more like Christ in thought, desire, and action. Biblical handling refers to fruit bearing, becoming like Christ in the situation. Handle is a short, six-letter word but it carries quite a theological punch, even a wallop. It focuses on God and the believer in the midst of troubling times.

God is in the “business” of growing His people. The believer is in the “business” of growing. God expressed His desire and expectation by a vine illustration which goes back to the Old Testament. The house of Israel and the men of Judah were Yahweh’s vineyard and garden of delight (Isaiah 3:14; 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Psalm 80:8-16). In the vineyard was the vine – Israel. Israel was to bear fruit but Israel did not. John 15 picked up the vine theme. Jesus is the true Israel, the true vine. Jesus, the new Israel and the last Adam and second man, was what Israel and the first Adam were not (Matthew 12:15-21; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:44-49). He was the restored Son Israel and the true Vine who bore good fruit (John 15). God expects and equips His people to bear good fruit in every situation.

John wrote that love of God meant commandment-keeping (obedience) and that God’s commands are not irksome or burdensome (1 John 5:3). As it was for Christ, obedience is always associated with trust. Trust and obedience equate with love and love results in trust and obedience. The three are relational, linked, and inseparable (John 14:15, 21, 23). So should it be for the believer. However, too often the believer considers the events of life (actually God’s providence) apart from what he is in Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Such is the underlying dynamic in such states as depression, anxiety, sinful anger, and sinful fear.

The believer feels as if he is on his own, alone and without resources and without God. In contrast, Jesus knew who He was (His identity), His origin (from heaven), and His destiny (to heaven). He had a good handle (no pun intended!) on the big picture. Consequently, Jesus was able to put God’s providence – the events in His life – in proper perspective. He used God’s providence for His own growth as He grew as the Messiah (Luke 2:40-52; Hebrews 5:7-10). He was the true Fruit, the true Fruit-bearer, and the true Vine. So, too, is the believer to bear fruit by staying connected to the true Vine. The believer can always use the events in his life the way God intended.

In the next blog, I will take a closer look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and in particular chapter 10.

1. How do define handle?
2. What does the word handle refer?
3. What does the believer have that the unbeliever does not have?
4. What is the significance of this “having”?

Does God Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle? Part III
Paul’s Theology as a Whole:1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (1 Cor. 10:13, NIV)

In this portion of the series: God, the believer, and trouble  we must consider Paul’s theology a whole. A brief look at some features of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians will help us correctly understand the Holy Spirit’s message to the Corinthians and to all believers throughout the ages. Paul ministered to the gifted but sin-laden, strife-filled, side-choosing Corinthian Church with the full force of biblical truth. The motif Paul chose was one of contrast. He contrasted the theology of the cross with that of the wisdom of the world. His letter spelled out truth applied in the context of a contrast: the wisdom of the world vs. God’s wisdom as portrayed in the wisdom of the cross (summarized in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Paul had ministered in Corinth for some 18 months. He had one major purpose in writing. He addressed the people in order to resolve a number of serious problems that resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, and self-exalting individualism. Many were controlled by I want and I deserve (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; James 4:1-3). Many, perhaps most, of the Corinthian people were convinced of their spiritual vitality. They were proud people. This resulted in factionalism, division, and strife. Sinning sufferers and suffering sinners abounded.

There was no growth in Christlikeness, but there was growth in self-pleasing! God’s honor was at stake and the good of the people was being threatened. Left to themselves, the people were following in the footsteps of their forefathers. The activity of growth in Christ – progressive sanctification – was stilted. In fact, there was growth in the likeness of Satan. In the context of the letter Paul wrote in chapter 10, verse 13:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (NIV)

This passage was intended to be a blessing to the Corinthians. It has been a blessing to Christians over the years. Many have commented on the passage and written on the subject of hope. A logical question arises: why is this passage in its context such a hope-engendering passage? Hopefully (no pun intended!) all would agree that the passage is hope-engendering. We must remember that biblical hope is the only true hope. A succinct definition of hope is found in Romans 8:24-25. Biblical hope is the confident expectation that God says what He means and brings to pass all things for His glory and the good of His people. God makes promises and keeps them. God is trustworthy.

Therefore, He is to be trusted. At regeneration and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, God has made believers His children and fellow heirs with Christ. They were rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom, from God as Judge, and from themselves as rebels (Colossians 1:13-14; Genesis 18:25; Romans 3:19-23). He gave them a new label and a new identity. In principle, believers are God-trusting people. Failure to trust God is a control issue. Everyone is a truster from birth and grows as a truster in something. The issue is the object of that trust. The person trusts God or someone or something else, most likely himself. Only the believer has the capacity and desire to please God.

Hope is similar to faith (Hebrews 11:6). Each is characterized by someone who believes, trusts, and hopes. Each has content. Each has an object. Every person is a truster and a hope-er. The key is the object and content of the trust and hope. In every situation the person expresses his faith, trust, and hope. He will prove himself faithful to and hopeful in God or to self.

How should we understand our passage especially in light of the topic: God the believer, trouble? We begin with the context. Paul ministered to a patterned, proud people. They had experienced hand were experiencing hard times which is actually God’s providence. They had been sinned against and they had sinned against one another. Strife was rampant in the congregation. Sinners and sinning was the environment of the day as manifested by the presence of sinning sufferers and suffering sinners.

Paul opened chapter 10 by calling on the Corinthians to remember God, the believer, and trouble. They were to remember relationships, past and present (v.1-5). He did not want any one ignorant (v.1). Ignorant of what, you might ask. In verses 2-5, Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s supernatural activity in closing down one relationship (Israel’s to Egypt) and opening others (Israel’s to Moses and Moses’ to Israel and Israel’s to Yahweh). Paul wrote that the Israelites did not get it.

In like manner, he wrote that the congregation in Corinth was not getting it. Self-pleasing was rampant. People were hurting. They did not like their circumstances (God’s providence), they did not like each other, and they did not like God. Actually they were living the lie. God was faithful but they were not. Paul called on the congregation to look to the faithfulness of God in their situation and actually do a spiritual inventory (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul was interested in growing a God-honoring congregation. He gave hope as he called on the people to look to God. He made the same appeal as he opened the letter (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).

1. Using Romans 8:24-25, define hope. Compare it to the Spirit’s definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:6. What do you learn?
2. What were the Corinthians to handle? How were they to do it?
3. What was preventing them from handling God’s providence including being sinned against as well as their own sin?
4. Where was their theology incorrect and what did it lead to?

Does God Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle? Part IV
More Theology: 1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (1 Cor. 10:13, NIV)

I continue the series: God the Believer and trouble through the grid of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Verse 13 highlights the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and the Corinthians and highlights the trustworthiness of God. Paul, in no uncertain terms, tells the Corinthians that they were following the pattern set by their forefathers rather than the pattern set by Christ. It has been suggested that the passage applies mainly to those sinning and not necessarily to those who are suffering. I find that an interesting dichotomy. The Bible pictures people as sinners and sufferers. All sufferers are sinners although a specific sin may not have been God’s instrument for the situation the person finds himself (see Job; John 9:1-3; Ezekiel 18). The sinless and non-sinning Christ experienced much turmoil and hard times during His lifetime.

All people live in God’s world and are subject to God’s providence. God is faithful no matter the event or situation and no matter the role of the believer in the event. It is people who prove unfaithful. God is faithful and His providence is the context in which He displays His love, mercy, and trustworthiness. It is also the context in which a person demonstrates His view of God, self, others, and God’s providence. The preceding words seem so strange and counter-intuitive when God’s providence includes a tsunami of unpleasantness and hard times. Even from the believer’s prospective the mountain can seem so high, the hole so deep, and the tunnel so long that there is no hope for relief.

The unbeliever only sees with physical eyes and when he does, he doesn’t see (consider, experience, take all of, and embrace) God or God’s purposes and provisions. He considers himself resource-less and hopeless. The believer is tempted to view things in the same way as the unbeliever. He is in danger of living the lie. The real question is not God’s faithfulness – His power, goodness, and purpose – but the believer’s trusting and trustfulness.

As previously mentioned God’s providence may include events not of the person’s own choice or making. One such example is the patient with various rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. These problems came about in God’s providence without any contribution by the person. Another such example of God’s providence involves the believer being sinned against. However, the person may have originated or contributed to the problem if has sinned against the other person initially or in response. Such was the case in the Corinthian church. Sinners and sufferers abounded. It was hard to tell who was who. No matter.

The question remains: does God overextend His people? Does He go beyond the person’s spiritual IQ and capacity? Sometimes a person may find himself in a situation and attribute it to “life” rather God’s providence and say I can’t. Is that a valid response? When the person cries out that the mountain is too high, the hole is too deep, and the tunnel is too long, from whose perspective is the person speaking? Our passage makes clear that God is faithful. Amen! See Psalms 42:5, 11 and Psalm 43:5 for the psalmist’s response to “hard times.” A person may doubt God’s faithfulness.

However, he should draw strength and courage from the truth about God and about himself. The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Paul wrote that there are things that God will not allow (see the Lord’s Prayer). He will not let any believer be tempted beyond his capacity to respond to Him in the situation in a God-honoring manner.

The word tempted actually refers to an experience which in and of itself may be neutral. Paul’s spoke of the capacity to honor God by pleasing Him rather than pleasing self. The believer is never without the resources that would force him to say he can’t respond in a God-honoring manner. The believer can always please God in every situation. God-honoring thoughts, desires, and actions are possible and even expected by God no matter His providence. This is heavy theology. Therefore, if a believer does sin and functions as if he is “under the circumstances” it is because he failed to acknowledge his identity in Christ and failed to utilize God’s provisions: his relationship with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and saving and enabling grace to motivate him to grow and change in the situation. He has lived the lie. He has separated God, the believer, and trouble.  Wow! Again this is heavy theology.

I often hear a person say: I am not Paul and I am not Christ. Both are true statements but they have no significance when it comes to the believer growing and changing. God in His providence may keep His people in their particular situation. Job experienced that truth until Job understood God and himself (see the blog series on Job and my upcoming book for more information). Such is the picture of our God. Some situations are not pretty and in fact are unpleasant, burdensome, and even horrifying. But our God is an awesome God and He reigns. Take heart believer!

1. Describe your view of God especially His trustworthiness. How does the hymn, It is well with My Soul, fit your view?
2. When you “feel” overwhelmed record your thoughts and desires about God, self, others, and God’s providence.
3. What changes do you need to make in order to be a godly truster and hoper?

1 Corinthians 10:13-14: Part V

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (1 Cor. 10:13, NIV)

This series: God, the Believer, and Trouble: 1 Corinthians 10:13 is designed to give insight into the question: does God give the believer more than he can handle. Basically, we are addressing the issues of God’s providence and trustworthiness and the believer’s mindset and response to God. In the first four blogs I have concentrated on verse 13 of chapter 10 in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

The Corinthian congregation as a whole was proud and strife-ridden. It apparently had lost its first love (Revelation 2:5-6). It was every person for self. It was in this milieu that Paul brought hope as given in verse 13 of chapter 10. The people were hopeless seemingly out for their pound of flesh (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Problems – trouble – abounded. Had they the resources to respond God’s way? The series: God, Believer, and Trouble: 1 Corinthians 10:13 provides God’s answer under the rubric of four promises. God gives every believer all that he needs to use any situation for growth in Christ.

God had not been honored and the Church was not prospering. Paul reminded them that in spite of themselves God had not left them. He summarized Jesus’ words given in the gospels: It is I! Be of good courage. Fear not (Matthew 14:27; 17:7; 28:10; John 6:20; 14:1). God, the believer, and trouble was and is the framework to know the truth and use it so that you are free indeed.

Let’s move to verse 14 of chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians. It is rather simple and direct: flee from idolatry. Some relate the passage to what has gone ahead in verses 1-13. However, if we limit idolatry to the worship of physical objects I think we have missed one of the Holy Spirit’s points. Verse 14 is similar to the ending of 1 John (5:21). John and Paul gave the same message. Idolatry must be considered as self-worship. People are idolaters from birth. Idolatry is manifested as self-worship in both believers and unbelievers. Such is the temptation when any believer is faced with unpleasant situations. John Murray called these God’s frowning providence. In them and in response, the believer’s choice is between pleasing and honoring God and pleasing and honoring himself. Jesus was tempted to place self over His Father thereby pleasing Himself rather honoring and pleasing His Father (Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13; Hebrews 4:15).

Some may think this concept too simple. The truth sets you free (John 8:31-32; 14:6; 17:17). It is not raw truth that Jesus spoke. Rather He speaks of Himself. Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ. The truth as well as faith and hope are relational. Only the believer has saving faith, biblical hope, and the Truth because only he is united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, God is as interested in each of His children as He was concerned for His Son. Jesus lived out of His relationship with His Father by the Holy Spirit. God did not give His Son too much to handle. Similarly, He will not give the believer too much that he can’t handle biblically! That is hope-engendering good news.

Some may say that they are not Jesus. I commend them for their honesty. I asked them the so-what question. They are not Christ but they are becoming like Him. The fact that they are not perfected is not an excuse for their lack of growth. Sometimes it seems easier for a person to live the lie than to change and grow. God, the believer, and trouble form a triad. God’s grace is needed and provided to every believer in order for them to respond in a God-honoring manner to and in every act of God’s providence.

We need to guard against the idea that the problem is too big for the believer to handle. We must guard against the mindset that there are small and large providence and therefore, a person only needs grace when he determines his resources are non-existent or he is overextended. The believer may be pushed but he is never out of resources or the grace to use them. He is united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. Therefore he is never resource-less.

Paul gives a commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 2 which also includes God, the believer, and trouble – God’s providence. . Paul, as did Job, knew God was behind his physical malady. Paul and Job had no doubt that God was in control. However, Paul had the utmost confidence that God was the AND his Deliverer. Paul prayed for the removal of his malady. God said no and God gave His reason (My grace is sufficient for you). Paul was to depend on God and not on self. In effect, Paul was encouraged not to be an idolater. In response to God’s explanation, Paul produced good fruit. He cried out to the trustworthy God that he had described in 1 Corinthians.

It is interesting that after God’s answer Paul did not pray for grace or relief! Moreover, he did not ask for more trouble. Rather, he rejoiced that he understood that he was able to use God’s frowning providence as God intended! Paul was content (Philippians 2:14-17; 4:11-13)! He wanted what God wanted for him more than he wanted out of the situation or relief. Paul wanted what every believer should want. Paul was in hard circumstances. He knew that hard times were a given for him and every believer (John 15:18-21; Romans 5:12-14; James 1:2-4).

The hard times were not of his making except as a faithful follower of Christ. He also knew that he was not alone even if feelings and circumstances tried to convince otherwise. He knew better. He was armed with truth and the grace to use it. Unlike Job, Paul gave God no demands. Paul incompletely and Jesus completely did not divorce God, the believer, and trouble. They are a package!

Paul followed Jesus’ example. Both knew God’s game plan (Paul imperfectly and non-redemptively) and both wanted to be part of it. Wow and amen! The believer is to imitate Christ, and even Paul, in every act of God’s providence. God does not and will not forsake His children. Rather God’s desire is to have the Triune God glorified and pleased as His children become more like Christ of whom God was well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

1. Jesus never handled God’s providence. He used it. He was able to picture the present through the eternal. Read Hebrews 12:1-3 and write out what you learn about you and God.
2. Have you ever felt and thought (the two are not the same) that you were out of resources? How did you change? Read Psalms 42-43 and 73, Genesis 25:29-34, Luke 15:17; Job 42:2-6. What did each person learn and how did they respond? What did you learn?
3. Make a list of your resources: read Ephesians 1:3-14 and Psalm 103:1-5 for help.
4. What is God’s goal for His people and His Church? What is your role in that goal?
5. How does 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 help accomplish His goal?