Paul once pointed the Corinthian Christians back to the sins of Israel in their wilderness days. He then applied the lesson: “So let him who thinks he stands be careful that he does not fall. No testing has overtaken you except ordinary testing. But God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your ability, but when he tests you, he will also bring about the outcome that you are able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 EHV).
Paul knows that no one is immune. He once spoke about the danger of getting careless about his own soul, so that after preaching to others, he might find himself a castaway from the faith.
Paul would have appreciated the title of an old German volume found on the bookshelves of many pastors years ago: Kann auch ein Pastor selig werden? – “Can a pastor also be saved?”
The wilderness path is littered with casualties – abandoned baptismal grace, forgotten confirmation vows, Christian schooling that is only a distant memory, childlike trust in Christ long lost, Christ-like living a thing of the past, consciences calloused to the clear commandments of God. Nothing fancy. Just ordinary. Just deadly.
Just ask Judas Iscariot. All for 30 silver pieces. None of us are beyond these common sins. We may wrongly assume that we are unique. But our troubles and our temptations to quit on Christ, to betray Christ, are nothing new. They are, as Paul says, “ordinary.” They are common to mankind.
But God’s uncommon grace is nothing new either. It is extraordinary! God is always faithful, always there in the word, the water and the blood. His promises are unfailing. His everlasting arms always beneath us.
Here on the wilderness path, when other voices serenade us to sell out and counsel us to become careless, He who lived and died and rose again gives us to see the far shore and to say with the poet: “Trusting in my Savior’s merit, safe at last, troubles past, I shall heaven inherit.”