By Charles H. Stalker
Message Delivered at Mansfield, Afternoon Meeting, January 30th, 1919
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
A great many have the impression that when people are sanctified wholly and filled with the Holy Ghost they have no temptation, but that is only a deception, because the most severe temptations come to the people who walk closely with God. The more they know of God the more they feel the severity of the temptation.
A Christian cannot get to a place where he will not be tempted. That is the devil's business, and he has absolutely no other way of reaching the children of God except by temptation. Temptation can never come to anyone until it is permitted by God. The devil is allowed the privilege of bringing temptation, but there is an understanding between God and His children that they are only tempted by Divine permission.
There has never been a temptation that has lasted very long, the longest lasted forty days and forty nights. There is always great victory after every temptation which comes to us, and strength is given while we are going through that we could not obtain in any other way.
A great many think that temptation comes because there is something lacking or because people are not in their proper place, but Jesus came to do the will of God, and He was placed up as a target of hell, and went through the most severe temptation that this world has ever known. Now, we cannot be tempted in all points like He was, but he was tempted in all points like as we are. No one is called to go through the temptation that He went through; He went through all our temptations and more, and He is able to succour them that are tempted
The devil will not tempt very much those who are not doing anything. It is the active agent of God who has the most severe temptations. It is the means the devil uses to try and down the servant of God, but God's purpose in permitting the temptation is to produce a strong character which will be able to endure as well as to enjoy.
There is one consolation we can have in every temptation, and that is the devil s not allowed to stay very long. His temptations may be severe, but he comes with the understanding that he can only touch so far. He can attack people in different ways, but he has never been allowed to take life. God is the giver of life, and He is the keeper of life. Somebody says, "Oh, well, people fall." Certainly they can fall, but God has made provision to keep them through temptation. Take the Bible, look at each person who was severely tempted, look at the people who went through the worst temptations, and there was an understanding that the devil could not touch their lives.
Now, if you get that thought, every temptation will be an inspiration. Before the devil had permission to go and tempt Job, he was told he could take his cattle, he could take his family, but he could not take his life, and there is nothing that amounts to much except the life.
Before the devil is allowed to do anything he has the word from God that he must not touch the life, and not only that, but he is not allowed to tempt you above that ye are able to bear.
Now, the length of the temptation is often decided by the way it is met. If you meet it with the Bible, the blood, and the Holy Ghost, it will not last long, but if you begin to respond it will last longer. The devil cannot stand before the blood, he cannot meet the Bible, and he is ignorant of the Holy Ghost. That is where the supreme victory is guaranteed. Jesus Christ did not mention the blood because it was His own blood which He was going to shed for the redemption of a lost world, but He used the Word. He said, "It is written." He never used another thing on the devil but the Word.
Temptations are permitted for our good and for the glory of God. Everything we endure, everything we suffer prepares us for what is to follow. Temptations magnify God and minimize everything else. People have constantly talked about the trial of Job, but if he had not been so severely tempted he would not have had such a strong character.
Now there are a great many people who think their lot is so much harder than that of others, but millions have passed that way before and have gone through in victory. Nothing has been so severely tested and tried as Holiness, the devil has made a special target of it. If you go to some preachers, they will tell you they are not tempted. I remember speaking to a minister, and he said, "I don't see anything in speaking about temptation, there is not much in it after all." To him, there was no reality in it. When you begin to push forward with the message of Holiness temptation comes.
When temptation comes it is centered on the point where we are weakest, but there is always Divine protection. When the devil came to the Son of God, he did not say anything about clothing or education, but he said, "If thou be the Son of God command that these stones be made bread." Just think of talking about bread after a person has had nothing to eat for forty days and forty nights. Of course, we recognize He was the Son of God, but He was tempted as the Son of man. He was tempted in all points like as we are. He could not have been tempted in that way except as the Son of man, but He overcame as the Son of God. When the Bible says He was hungry, I believe it just as much as when it says "God is love."
The Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. God was with Him before the temptation, He was with Him through the temptation, and He was with Him after the temptation. Some people think it was a promiscuous affair, but it was not. The place was chosen by the devil, and he was there in readiness, but he did not say anything until Jesus had been there forty days and forty nights.
Our first parents were tempted in a garden, where they had everything they needed. They had the fragrance of creation, they had the beauty of Holiness, but the serpent came and tempted them and they fell. The second temptation was out with the wild beasts in a lone spot. The devil watched Jesus for forty days and forty nights, and then, when He was hungry, he came to Him. The first temptation was on God's territory, but the second was on the devil's territory. You can see how God prepared the first place, it was beautiful, pure, and clean. The devil chose the second place and it was the wilderness, the place of hunger, the home of the wild beasts. Some people are tempted about money, the temptation comes when they need money. The devil chooses the place, but God has promised to go with you. He prepares you before you meet the temptation, He prepares you for that condition and He is with you after the temptation is over.
We can never be tempted like Jesus was, but He can be tempted like as we are. He was winning back from the devil and hell all that was lost in the fall, He was planting Holiness, and if He had failed at that point we would never have been saved. So you and I could not be tempted as He was. We may be tempted in a lonely spot, we may be tempted in an extreme way, but no temptation will come to us but such as is common to man.
In the first temptation the devil went on God's territory; in the second, God went on the devil's territory. If you are going to plant Holiness in England, you will have to go on the devil's territory because this old world belongs to the devil. Many people do not recognize that fact, but it is true. He has got a mortgage on it, and he would take it to hell if it were not for the prayers of God's people. The devil went without invitation on God's territory and took from God in the Garden of Eden; Jesus went on the devil's territory without invitation and took back all that had been lost. People say they do not see anything in it, of course they do not. The devil has blinded their eyes.
There is no sin in being tempted, it is a sign that you do not belong to the devil. He tempts you because he wants to overthrow you and get you back into bondage. When he comes to tempt you, he never takes the stand which God takes when He comes to give you victory. The devil says, "If," but the Holy Ghost in you gives reality and certainty.
While the devil was watching the Son of God, God was also watching His Son, but He said nothing until the temptation was ended, then the angels came and ministered unto Him. The baking had been going on forty days, and it was ready for the angels to carry to Him. It is a very clear lesson. Jesus would rather have stayed another forty days than to have taken the devil's food. You will always have something specially prepared for you while you are going through the temptation, and it will be delivered to you after you are through. That was the only time the angels brought food to Jesus, it was the only time they were ever sent to Him.
The devil waited until Jesus was hungry; he was not as hungry in four days as He was in forty, but God did not allow His Son to be tempted above that He was able to bear; and His Son will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. With every temptation is a way of escape. How? Through the Bible, through the blood, and through the Holy Ghost.
Another thing, God did not allow His Son to go through the temptation until after He had received the Holy Ghost. That is a very remarkable thing. He did not receive the Holy Ghost to destroy carnality, because He had none to destroy, He received the Holy Ghost as a preparation for His life's work. We receive Him for the destruction of the carnal mind, and to prepare us for our life's work.
Then I want you to notice that Jesus received nothing after He had received the Holy Ghost. He was then ready for the temptation, He was ready for the persecution, He was ready for Gethsemane, He was ready for anything from the Jordan to the crucifixion. When you think of this being a preparation for the Son of God, you will certainly agree that it is the preparation for His followers. You will see the importance of it. When people See that the great cause of the failure of Christianity is because they have not received the Holy Ghost they will begin to make more of Him. He is more than a manifestation, more than an ecstasy, He is a person. Jesus went through all temptation, through all the miracles, even to the raising of the dead, but He never received anything after He had received the Holy Ghost. It is the same with God's children. They are prepared for everything after they receive the Holy Ghost, until they have an abundant entrance into heaven. Great multitudes live and die and never know that they can have the experience of Holiness, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.
We have come with a message that is worth everything that it costs. You will never be tempted above that you are able to bear. No one has ever found out how much a person filled with the Holy Ghost can endure, and how much they can enjoy. People have endured most severe persecutions and they have simply smiled and shouted their way through the flames and everything else, and gone right through.
They have had more to enjoy than they had to endure. After you have passed through the special temptation you will have a greater joy. That is the way God undertakes today. Always remember that temptation is never an evidence that you do not know God, it is rather the evidence that you do know Him. If you did not, the devil would not tempt you in the way that he does, so you can turn round and defeat him instead of giving any place to him. The Bible says, "Neither give place to the devil."
That which would be a temptation to one, would not be a temptation to another, and the devil knows that, but he does not know how God delivers you from the temptation. He knows how to try you, but he does not know what keeps you from yielding. He knows he cannot get to you as long as you stay with God. He knows that there is absolutely no way of plucking you out of His hand, but by the surrender of your own will. He does not know the power of the Holy Ghost or the power of the blood. He does not know the secrets that come from the broken heart of the Son of God. I am glad there are some things that the devil does not know, and he has no way of finding them out. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." That is why you can have victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
A great many do not see the importance of God's children meeting together, but we do not have enough meetings to talk over the things that are in favour with Holiness. There are people who had better miss a day's work than miss a Holiness meeting. They do not see it, but it is true. They place the value on the things that are seen, and think little of the unseen. At this extreme hour people are driven to their wit's end, and such pressure is upon them that I do not feel like criticizing them, but I wish they would gather in thousands to hear the message of the Holy Ghost.
And so, this afternoon, temptation ought not to be a discouragement. It is a sign that the devil has no place, and he sees that you are valuable to God. Temptations come from the outside. "The devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." Thank God for the secrets of the Holy Ghost that are given to the children of God. I am glad that there is a way of escape, the devil made a way in, but God has made a way out.
After the sinking of some steamers they were more careful about the life-belts; after the burning of the theater in Chicago a law was made that every door should be an exit. One night every exit was closed and hundreds were burned to death. Then they made a strict law that every theater must have a man to see that all the exits are unlocked so that people can get out. There is always a way out of every temptation. There is enough in the Bible to guarantee victory anyway. I want you to know that God knows your condition and that you can get in such relation that He will undertake for you. You can go through and establish a communion with God that the devil cannot find a current of it. Before the Holy Ghost came everything was against me, since He came everything has been in my favour. I could hardly speak, and people said I should never preach. The doctor said I should never speak so that people could understand me, but I was speaking the next day, and people did understand. The Holy Ghost had come and taken possession and changed everything in my favour. I struck the biggest bargain I ever had, and I want to encourage somebody.
I never see a curiosity or a novelty that I do not believe God would use if God could have His way with them. He wants people to receive the Holy Ghost and behave themselves the rest of their days.
Jesus did not stay around with the long-haired Rabbis, but He went to the fishermen, Do not limit God to your condition, or to your knowledge, tradition, or position, let the Holy Ghost come in and adjust you.
Let us bow our heads in prayer.