“But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV).
Some years ago three Americans, including myself, were sitting in a restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal discussing our experiences. One of the others told of a congregation he had visited which had difficulty meeting on Sunday for worship because Nepal considers Sunday a weekday, with all offices and schools open. He said he had told them “not to be legalistic” and to meet on whichever day they found it most convenient. He then asked what I would have done.
My response was simple: “First I would make sure that there was no possibility of meeting on Sunday.” Many churches in South Asia meet early in the morning (7:00 a.m is a popular time) or after work time in the evening (e.g., 6:00 p.m.). They seem to have no trouble meeting this schedule. My response ended the discussion.
The fact is that many moderns mistake convenience for necessity. If we can’t meet at our preferred time on Sunday, then let’s find a day when we can. They argue that “God will understand that we have to accommodate our culture.” But the Bible shows no evidence that our convenience or preferences have a big priority with God. When we consider his revealed will essential, we can normally find a way to follow it, even if it requires a little extra effort on our part.
In a meeting in east Nepal during the dry season, a teenage girl asked to be baptized. There was no water in the riverbed, nor were there pools, ponds or other available places. What were we to do? Many might have said, “We’ll just wait until the rainy season (four months away), and if anything happens to her God will understand.”
Our brothers found an empty plastic barrel or drum of about 50 gallons capacity. They filled it half-way, the girl got inside, and a man pressed slightly on the top of her head and she bent her knees and was immersed completely. Granted, an older, larger person may not have been able to use that particular method, but it was more than adequate for her.
We know the proverb, “Where there is a will there is a way.” That may not always be true of human will, but it certainly is true of the Divine Will. Just as God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our power to refuse, so he does not command anything of us which we are unable to perform.
Jesus spoke to that principle in his message to the Twelve on the night of his betrayal. “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus overcame all obstacles and barriers to our faithfulness, therefore we are at peace (contentment) knowing, as did the apostle Paul, “[We] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]” (Philippians 4:13).
Obeying God is not legalism. It is faith. God’s commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). That is that they ask no more of his people than God finds reasonable and good. They are certainly not impossible to obey. But they may require effort, or incur consequences such as persecution. That they cause us difficulty is no excuse for refusing to obey. After all, consider the difficulties endured by Jesus so that we may have the opportunity to obey God. Our troubles pale by comparison.