Lead Us Not
In 1919, a big hit song was "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?)." It was a time in the United States when the country was experiencing growing pains of a new kind. The soldiers who had been in World War I were now coming home to the farms and rural lifestyle they left behind. Sure, they were different people from before they left—the horrors of war change people—but this was different because men who had come from small farms and lived a quiet country life had gotten a look at the big cities of Europe. No longer was their life merely the world around their small communities.
This subject came up in family discussion the other day when our son was talking to us as he was heading to an appointment for work. He has a Bluetooth on his phone so when he has a long drive, he likes to call and talk to Mom and Dad. As he was listening to us talk, suddenly he burst out: “Wow! Look at that! Boy, I wish I could send you a photo. That’s just awesome.” Straight ahead in his windshield, he could see the New York City skyline as he drove along the banks of the Hudson River.
He could see not only the skyline, but the George Washington Bridge and some of the sites that tourists talk about. It was a big deal for a kid from small-town Ashland. Like those returning veterans of WWI, he was taken with the big-city sights. It’s always a temptation to put behind the quiet and serenity of the farm and look to the big city for excitement.
Our lives can be like that. Our worlds are safe and as long as we never look beyond the confines of our quiet lives, we lead pretty innocent lives. But as soon as the world opens up to us, we are tempted by the “big-city lights.” We see and hear things we’ve never seen before; there are people doing things and people thinking and saying things we had never before considered.
I saw this in college with some of my fellow students. Many had come from small rural communities and fresh out of tiny high schools, they moved to a huge multicultural university in a major metropolitan city and were exposed to things they had never seen. Most handled it well but others became the biggest partiers and several of them flunked out because of it. It was a matter of discipline. They couldn’t handle a world they had been sheltered from in their growing-up years—they had never learned how to handle temptation. But before we judge them, I think it is important we take a look at our own world and the temptations we fall to.
Yesterday at Maple Grove, we were in the book of Ephesians and the Apostle Paul was writing warning them about the things that could tear the church at Ephesus apart. He cautioned them against lying, anger, stealing, and foul language. These are not only the things that can tear a Christian community apart, but they are at the base of the temptations that can lead us away from God, sometimes before we even realize it.
I can’t imagine what Paul would think of our world today. Not only are temptations everywhere but they are well marketed and advertized to our children before they even leave the shelter of their homes. What would he say to the way the electronic media promotes lifestyles he couldn’t even dream of? My guess is that Paul would tell the people of the 21st century the same thing he wrote to the people of his day.
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote: “No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, CEB).
He says that temptations are common for people—but there is Good News. God is faithful. We don’t have to deal with these temptations alone. God is there for us. His Spirit dwells in those who have chosen to follow Christ as Lord. This IS good news because in our human frailty, we don’t have what it takes to resist temptation but with God’s help we can. With Him, nothing is impossible. This week I pray you will not be tempted by the big-city lights of the world but rather spend more time with Jesus. Determine what tempts you and carry those temptations to the Lord in prayer. Ask for His help.
Remember: God is faithful, all the time.
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