"Lead us not into temptation ..." --Matt 6:13
It was the worst thing that could have happened. For a major in the US Army to be passed over three times for promotion to Lt. Colonel, stung with a bitterness that was not unlike death. Yes, it was a death, the death mark to a military career that had otherwise appeared quite successful. Everyone who knew him and had worked with him were aghast. If ever there was a major who deserved promotion, it was Major Russell J. Chun.
What no one knew at the time was all that hung in the balance of that promotion. Had he become Lt. Col. Chun, Russell would indeed likely have received the accolades he deserved and completed all the accomplishments he'd planned. But countless lives would have also been left in bleak darkness.
Because he did not make this promotion, he became involved with GoodSports International and began working with orphans in Hungary. As a result I met him, leading to our marriage and the birth of our daughter and the adoption of two children out of the Hungarian orphanage system. But that is only the beginning. His retirement in 2005 led to a consistent presence in the Miskolc orphanage where the children regularly hear and experience the love of Christ. Beyond that, at least four or five other adoptions can be traced directly to Russell's involvement with GoodSports and the Miskolc orphanage. Still more, thanks to Russell's failure to make Lt. Col, one orphanage boy grew up to work with GoodSports where he met his American wife. Her family has so embraced him that he has discovered what family is all about. Moreover, another boy who grew up in the orphanage now attends Bible college in Hungary. And these are just a few of the stories where we've had the privilege to see the outcome. How many more do we not even know about!
Yes, at the time it seemed like the worse thing that could happen to a successful major in the US Army. But in God's economy, it was the best thing that could have happened for countless souls.
When we think about temptation, we think about the lure to sin. But often we limit our scope to sins like adultery, fornication, lying, stealing and cheating. And granted, we need to pray that we are not lured into such sin. By praying this, we acknowledge our weakness. We realize and remind ourselves that we are frail creatures prone to failure in our spiritual walk and we desperately need to cleave to our Lord to make it through the temptation.
But temptation can take many forms -- forms that we are all too comfortable with. And subtle sins can become familiar friends in the landscape of our lives, so much so that if we really understood what we were asking God, our human nature might hesitate to pray this prayer.
CS Lewis explained it well when he said, "'Lead us not into temptation' often means, among other things, 'Deny me those gratifying invitations, those highly interesting contacts, that participation in the brilliant movements of our age, which I so often, at such risk, desire.'"
The prayer "Lead me not into tempation" may well mean, in practical terms, "Deny me success in my career because that success would make me smug and self-satisfied." It could mean, "Deny me marriage, because that relationship would become more important to me than my First Love." It might mean, "Deny me a house or car because having those things would make me materialistic."
In a nutshell, these five simple words can have long-reaching ramifications. It can mean, "Deny me all things that I long for and value most if they, in any way, would draw me into sin"
Because at the end of the day, when all is said and done, God is more interested in our character than our career. His deeper concern is for our holiness more than our happiness.
And so Jesus urged us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation..." So if we are brave enough, if we have faith enough, let's obey and pray it. But let's do so with open eyes, understanding all that it might mean. Because we may well be asking God to allow that which we think is "the worst thing" to actually happen to us.
But we also may well discover, like Russell Chun, that the thing we deemed "worst" by the standard of our frail and fallen desires may actually end up being a better plan with effects far greater than we could have ever dreamed.