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The Way of Escape

Physical safety is a serious concern to all of us. For this reason, any public facility is required by law to have all exits from the building clearly designated by signs. This is to ensure that people can find a way of escape in case of an emergency. In some situations, the ways of escape are also communicated verbally, such as on a commercial airline flight. Similarly, businesses are required to inform their employees of escape plans so that they can exit safely in case of an emergency. Schools conduct fire drills so that students will know how to safely leave the building if there is a fire. Even homeowners are advised to plan escape routes from their homes with their families.

While we carefully and wisely seek ways of escape to ensure our physical safety, do we do the same to ensure our spiritual safety? This world is filled with spiritual hazards that pose constant threats to our eternal wellbeing. How can we escape these grave dangers? The devil himself constantly works to do us harm, prowling about "like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1Pet. 5:8). How do we avoid becoming his prey?

First of all, we must recognize God's guarantee that there is always a way to escape the spiritual dangers of temptation. This guarantee is stated in 1Corinthians 10:13, which says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." In other words, there is always a choice at the moment of temptation. One choice is to indulge the temptation, commit sin, and reap the wages of death (Jas. 1:14-15). The other choice is to find the way of escape provided by God, follow it to safety, and live.

What is the way of escape from temptation? The Scriptures identify several of them. One is found in the very next verse following God's guarantee for a way of escape. Notice 1Corinthians 10:14 -- "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." In the case of the Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul was warning them concerning the sin of idolatry, but the action he commanded is good for all types of temptations. Simply fleeing the tempting situation, place, or person immediately removes the potential stumbling block from the path. For example, 1Corinthians 6:18 commands us to flee from immorality. A very real demonstration of such flight is found in Genesis 39:7-12 when Joseph refused to lie with his master's wife and fled away from her presence.

Physically removing oneself from the temptation is certainly an effective way of escape, but fleeing from temptation is more than simply changing one's location. To have any lasting effect, it must also be a change of heart. If the heart is not changed, then the motivation to flee temptation will not be present, and the tempted person will find himself wandering back to the temptation again and again. For this reason, Paul told Timothy, "But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness" (1Tim. 6:11), and again, "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2Tim. 2:22). Notice that the flight from temptation must be accompanied by the pursuit of spiritual things. The heart is always in pursuit of something, and if it is not the things of God, then it will be the things of the devil.

Another way of escape is resistance. Men have sometimes described the defensive instincts of animals as being either "fight or flight," and our defense against Satan is similar. We can flee as noted before, or we can fight him by resistance. If we do resist Satan, then God has another guarantee for us: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jas. 4:7b). Notice a few points about this guarantee. For this resistance to be effective, it must come in concert with submission to God (Jas. 4:7a). Resistance is not a matter of asserting our own will and power against the devil, but it is to apply God's will against the devil's will. Another point is that the application of this guarantee must be repeated constantly. Resisting the devil one time will cause him to flee one time, but he will be back with more temptations. Even when Jesus successfully resisted the devil, the Scripture says "he left Him until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13). Speaking of Jesus and His resistance to the devil, a third point concerning this guarantee is that we must resist in the same way as Jesus did. When Jesus was tempted, He not only quoted the word of God, but He also acted on it (Matt. 4:1-11). We likewise must take up the armor of God in our war of resistance against Satan and wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:10-17).

One other way of escape is prayer. Jesus instructed us that part of our prayers should be an appeal to God for deliverance from temptation: "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13). Notice how this prayer is given even before the point of temptation as a way of anticipating and preparing for the dangers of the devil. Through His providence, God may answer such prayers in a many ways, including giving us the strength to flee temptations and resist the devil.

Therefore, let us check ourselves. Are we well aware of the God-given ways of escape in case of a spiritual emergency? If not, then we place our souls in great danger. Temptations come to all of us, so if we are not prepared to find the way of escape, then we are likely to fall. Rather than giving in to sin, let us instead escape the danger and live. Certainly, we can succeed, for we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).

Stacey E. Durham




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