I was a seventeen-year-old new convert when, as part of a Monday night class in the Jersey Shore Bible Institute in Asbury Park, NJ, I first read Jay Adams’s Competent to Counsel. That book started me down a forty-year path of biblical counseling study. Along my journey of countless books, conferences, courses, and conversations, one dear friend I frequently encountered more than any other has been 1 Corinthians 10:13. I suspect no verse has been cited more frequently by Christ-centered counselors. I would nominate it as the “John 3:16” of biblical counseling.
Let me model the hope-giving counsel that I might give from this text to “Janet” who has come to talk about her marriage problems and her rising levels of anxiety:
Janet, let me share with you a powerful promise from 1 Corinthians 10 that I think can help you amid the struggles you face. In verse 13, Paul writes, “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.”
(I will number the main points below to highlight my outline and include some additional verses for you as a counselor.)
You will face hardships
1. Janet, the first thing this passage tells us is that you will face hardships and temptation in this life. The New Testament Greek term translated “temptation” can carry the sense of temptation (inducement to sin) or of trial (testing/strengthening our faith). Here in 1 Corinthians 10 the term seems to carry both senses. The difficulties we encounter are concurrently tests from God and temptations from the evil one [consider also 2 Cor. 12:7–10].
Janet, following Jesus does not exempt us from hardships. What you are facing is no surprise to the Lord. How you handle them is what matters.
Your struggles are not unique
2. The second truth in this verse is that your struggles are not unique to you. You are not alone. Others before you have faced trials. The Bible abounds with lessons and stories about people who faced similar problems. Romans 15:4 says that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” [cf. Heb. 11; 12:1; Jas 5:7–11]. The path you now walk has on it the footprints of people who successfully walked it before you.
It’s not only people in the past who have successfully endured such trials but also others around you today [Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26; 1 Peter 4:12–19; 5:8–9].
And, Janet, you also have the God-Man to look at. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was made like us and tempted like us in every way (Heb. 2:10–18; 4:15–16). Your fully-human Savior feels your pain and understands your struggles, because in seed form, he has faced them. He invites you to turn to him, to talk to him, and to trust in him.
God is faithful to you
3. Janet, the third lesson we see in this verse is that your sovereign, faithful, mighty God assures you that by his grace these trials and temptations will not be too difficult for you to handle.
God is faithful. He is with you in the midst of your marriage problems and the other matters we’ve discussed. He will never leave you or forsake you. God is powerful. He will not let your hardships destroy you. As one pastor put it, “God has his eye on the clock and his hand on the thermostat; he knows how long and knows how hot you can stand it.” To quote one translation, “God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”
But, Janet, there is a major assumption that underlies this promise. God will not let your hardships destroy you IF you handle them God’s way. If not, like the Israelites mentioned earlier in 1 Corinthians 13, these problems can take you down—even to the point of turning away from the Lord. But if you deal with your problems God’s way—the way we will lead you in our counseling sessions—you will be able to handle them successfully.
God provides a way out for you
4. Lastly, Janet, there is a fourth truth I want you to grasp. God always provides a pathway so you can escape sin and please him in the midst of these trials and temptations.
In verse 13 God promises—in the midst of your struggle—“a way out.” A way out from what? From the hardship? No, that’s not what the verse says. God promises a way out so that you can endure it. A way out, then, from what? From a sinful response. Notice verse 14, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” This “therefore” connects the two verses. And the preceding part of the chapter records the history of Israel succumbing to their temptations, resulting in disobedience, apostasy, and unbelief (verses 1–12). Janet, we can help you handle your struggles God’s way.
While the above counsel from 1 Corinthians 10:13–14 might come out in various interactive ways in my conversations with Janet, these four lines of truth can bring her timely hope as I begin to enter her world, understand her needs, and bring her Christ and his answers.
Join the Conversation
How have you used 1 Corinthians 10:13 in your own counseling ministry? Which of these four truths are most helpful for those you counsel to grasp and why?