No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
What does a way of escape look like? This is obviously the question we are asking when we find ourselves on the wrong end of a pursuit. Something or someone is breathing down our necks and we look in every possible direction for a way out. But God’s definition of escape is usually entirely different from ours. I would prefer escaping from the lions’ den, not from the lions’ mouth. I would not consider being hurled into a fiery furnace an escape, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. I would not have considered being arrested and thrown into prison for a crime I didn’t commit acceptable, but Joseph accepted it as God’s course.
Our flight from trouble is somewhat like speeding down a highway in heavy traffic and missing our exit. We get so focused on the traffic around us that we have forgotten where we are. God has promised us an escape and He places the exit signs of that path clearly but we are missing them.
In the book of Acts we see that Paul had many travel plans on the day that he was attacked by a mob in Jerusalem, but God’s travel plan was to a room in the Roman jail. While in captivity over the following years Paul wrote several of the books of the New Testament,one of which is Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon.
While in prison Paul had met an escaped slave named Onesimus. Onesimus was a lot like you and me. He didn’t like the position that he had in life. He was enslaved to another man and had very few choices which he could make for himself. His frustration grew over time till he devised his plan of escape. One morning, Onesimus packed his belongings and ran away from his position and his obligations. Then Onesimus was arrested and he found himself as a cellmate of the apostle Paul. Paul befriended Onesimus and showed him that the true freedom in life was not in running away but in finding Christ.Humbly Onesimus received the message and became a Christian.
How amazing that of all the millions of people in the Roman empire, Onesimus had been a slave of a wealthy Christian who was also a friend of the apostle Paul. Even more incredibly, Philemon, Onemsimus’ master had also been led to salvation by Paul. So, when Onesimus was being readied to be shipped back to his master, Paul sat down to write what we would call a letter of recommendation. That letter, which we read today as the New Testament book of Philemon was also the key to Onesimus finally realizing his dream of freedom. Listen to the words of Paul,
For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bond-servant but more than a bond-servant, as a beloved brother— Philemon 6-7
This ancient story is absolutely current and in touch with our 21st century world. We are slaves of so many things- slaves to our jobs, slaves to the approval of others, slaves to our past, and like Onesimus, slaves to sin. Only when we humbly accept the place where God has put us in can we finally and truly be free. God does have the best plan for our freedom. There is an exit sign for us to escape from our temptations.
In the concluding lines of his poem “The Collar” George Herbert echoes the same cry.