I arise today...
Through God’s host to save me
from temptation of vices...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
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, ESV
Paul does not say that we will never be overwhelmed by difficult circumstances or suffering, but he does say that we will not be overcome by temptation. When we talk about salvation we often think of God’s forgiveness and mercy. We imagine being saved “from the fires of hell” by the grace of Jesus given freely through the sacrifice of his blood. While this may be true, salvation implies a lot more than a “free ticket” to heaven. God not only saves us from the “punishment” for sin, at least in an eternal sense, but from the “power of sin.” We read over and over again throughout the New Testament that in Christ we are new creations, that we are no longer slaves to sin, and that God gives us the strength to resist temptation in any form (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6, 8, and 12; Ephesians 6:10-12; Galatians 2:20; James 4:7; etc.)
There are some who find themselves in various recovery programs because of addictions and other such vices that have taken a significant and painful toll on their lives, but for many of us, the temptation of vices is not so clear. A vice doesn’t have to be an extremely harmful addiction. It may simply be a habitual failing or shortcoming which we easily overlook because, after all, we are only human. Just because we do not participate in what we would consider moral depravity or wickedness does not mean that there are not faults and even idols in our lives which turn our attention away from God.
I confess that it is much easier in the morning to open my e-mail or social media feed than my Bible app. It feels more productive to jump straight into the workday than to set aside intentional time for prayer. Would I rather relax in the evening with a good TV show to unwind or sit down with my journal and the Daily Examen to reflect on how I responded or failed to respond to God’s presence throughout the day? Again, I think the answer is obvious.
What makes vices so tempting is that they are not always “bad things.” Merriam Webster’s dictionary notes that vices may be trivial, using the example, “suffering from the vice of curiosity.” Curiosity may indeed be a strength until it leads us into places we don’t belong. It is not the severity or immorality of the vice that makes it so harmful. It is the habitual way in which such vices, no matter how small, begin to consume our lives and distract us from that which is most important.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul this way when he talks about the failures of God’s children throughout the Hebrew Scriptures:
These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
1 Corinthians 10:11-12, The Message
The NIV translates verse 12 this way:
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
1. Name the three most common temptations, no matter how small, that distract you from keeping God central in your life.
2. How have you tried to be self-reliant rather than relying on God to overcome these vices?
3. What steps will you take to daily put yourself in the path of God’s grace so that you may have the strength to resist such temptations?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
... I arise today, through God’s host to save me
from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near…