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Worship Message - "Watch Out for Orange Peels"

Watch Out for Orange Peels

On July 25, 1911, an Englishman named Bobby Leach, age 53, became the second person - the first man - to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

After going over the Falls, Bobby Leach spent half a year in a hospital, recovering from injuries, including two broken knee caps and a fractured jaw, but he survived.

Fifteen years later, after having quite a bit of success doing vaudeville shows and lecturing throughout Canada, the U.S, and England, both the shows and lectures about his Niagara Falls feat, and then opening a pool hall, Leach traveled to New Zealand for a publicity tour. 

While there, the man who survived going over one of the most rugged, most dangerous waterfalls in the world, slipped on an orange peel and injured his leg. The leg became infected. Eventually gangrene set in. The leg had to be removed. Two months later - April 26, 1926 - complications from the surgery resulted in Bobby Leach’s death.  

Isn’t that amazing? Bobby Leach survived Niagara Falls and succumbed to an orange peel. I wonder if the difference was that he was prepared for the Falls, but was not concerned about what he must have considered a very insignificant threat, that being the orange peel. Which leads us to the passage for this message, which is I Corinthians 10:1-13. In the passage, Paul addresses the issue of over-confidence. 

Most Christians in the Corinthian church had been baptized and therefore knew they were one with Christ. Those people - those Christians - celebrated Communion and therefore knew they were of the body and blood of Christ. Because of their relationship with Jesus, they felt quite safe and knew they had no problem eating meat sacrificed to idols. Nothing to fear from anything they might do wrong. They were confident they could avoid all sins. In today’s passage, Paul warns against over-confidence about those things.

In the passage, Paul gives some historical evidence of what can go wrong with people who have been blessed with great spiritual privileges. The examples Paul gives come from what happened to the people of God who were wayfarers in the desert early in the Old Testament. Those people, wrote Paul, did indeed receive great things from God. What Paul mentions are things that came following the people’s escape from slavery in Egypt.

For instance, God provided a cloud for the people as they traveled away from Egypt. 

The cloud was bright on one side to guide the people forward. On the other side it was dark, causing the people of God to be invisible to any Egyptians who might be following them. The cloud was over the people of God, thereby shielding them from the burning hot sun of the desert.

At night the cloud became a pillar of fire, providing light for the people of God, at the same time blinding the sight of Egyptians on the other side of the pillar, thereby still hiding the people of God them from their enemies. 

The cloud was a benefit of God as His people began their journey, but soon, the people came to the Red Sea, which was a very critical time. The Red Sea was wide. It would have taken a long time to build either some sort of bridge or enough boats to get the people across. Time they did not have because the entire Egyptian army was approaching from behind. 

The people of God were, it seemed, trapped. The uncrossable Red Sea was before them. The Egyptian army was behind them. There was no shelter on either side of them. The shore on their side of the Sea was flat and treeless.

The people of God were in trouble until God told their leader Moses to stretch out his hand over the Sea. When Moses obeyed, suddenly the water of the Sea parted, creating a path from where the people were to the other side of the Sea.

That happened sometime during the day. All that night a strong wind blew, drying out the path. The next morning the people started across the Sea on the dried path. All of them crossed safely between two walls of water.

All the people of God crossed safely, after which the Egyptian army started across. God clogged the wheels of the Egyptian chariots, slowing them and the horses. Then God instructed Moses to again stretch out his hand over the Sea. When he again obeyed, the walls of water suddenly went back together, drowning the entire Egyptian army. Soldiers, chariots, and horses were all destroyed that day.

That was a benefit of God, but soon there was another problem. The problem was lack of food. 

That bothered the people of God, which I think is understandable. I mean, I can get kind of cranky when I’m hungry. So, too, were the people of God cranky. They went so far as to become very angry at Moses, their leader. They shared with him how they fondly remembered how much food - how much meat and bread - they had had back in Egypt. They accused Moses of leading them away from Egypt so they would die from hunger. 

They seem to have forgotten the travails of slavery. They were hungry. They blamed Moses for causing their hunger.

Being without food was of course a serious problem. Once again, God provided for their needs. He did that by giving His people what is known as manna, described as a flake-like substance, as fine as frost. It had a sweet taste.

Year after year, as the people of God continued in the wilderness, God provided manna. Each weekday, enough for that day was given. The day before the sabbath, there was enough for two days so no work would need to be done on the sabbath.

Manna was a benefit of God, but soon after that, there was another problem. There was a shortage of water. The people were thirsty, which again caused the people of God to murmur, again accusing Moses of trying to kill them, this time by thirst.

Once again, God provided for His people. He did that by instructing Moses to go to a certain rock and strike it with his rod. Which Moses did. Whereupon water came from the rock. An abundant amount of water, enough to satisfy people and cattle alike. A flow of water that continued on and on.

By the way, in verse 4 of I Corinthians 10, Paul wrote that the rock followed the people of God. That is not in the Old Testament account of God providing water, but it was part of Jewish traditional thought at the time of Paul. I do not see that as a contradiction. It is simply two different ways of stating that throughout the wandering of God’s people, God provided them with the water they needed.

All those benefits - the cloud, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna, the water. All those benefits were given to God’s people. What a privileged people they were. However, Paul continues in I Corinthians 10, those people failed miserably. 

For instance, after a time of wandering, the people of God arrived near the border of the land promised to them by God when they left Egypt. 

The people should have eagerly crossed the border, especially after all the benefits God had shown them. However, they thought it best to first scout out the promised land, I guess to make sure they thought it was safe enough to enter.

Twelve spies were selected to do the scouting, which they did for 40 days before returning with their report.

The report? The promised land flowed with milk and honey. There was fruit, some of which the spies had brought back with them. It was a single cluster of grapes so big and heavy it took two men to carry it on a pole. It was a wonderful land.

However, the people there were very strong and extremely big. They lived in cities that were very large and heavily fortified.

Following the report, two of the 12 spies - Caleb, with the support of Joshua - gave their advice. “Let us go up at once,” Caleb said. “Let us go up and occupy the land, for we are well able to overcome it.” 

However, the other 10 spies had different advice. “Let us not go into the land,” they said. “We are not able to go against the people in that land. They are stronger than we are. By comparison to them, we felt like grasshoppers.”

The opinion of the 10 was heeded by the people of God, so strongly that the people wanted to have a vote for a new leader who would take them back to Egypt. Again, the people forgot the problems in Egypt. At that moment, they simply wanted security, along with adequate food and water.

The vote did not happen. Moses remained the leader, with help from his brother Aaron. But God reacted. He decreed that no adult male, with the exceptions of Caleb and Joshua, would ever be allowed to enter the promised land. The people of God would have to continue wandering in the desert until the last man had died, a process that would last until 40 years after the people first escaped Egypt.

The people who had seen the pillar of cloud and fire and been rescued at the Red Sea and been given food and water - the people who God had blessed over and over again - slipped.

Which happened again, in the list provided by Paul in I Corinthians 10, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

It was while Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the commandments, that the people of God went wild. They ate too much. They drank too much. They began cavorting with one another.

And they produced a golden calf. Aaron - Moses’ brother - did that with golden earrings given to him by the people. He was talked into it because Moses had been gone a long time. Some of the people of God apparently figured Moses had died and was not going to return, so they wanted a new leader. 

Producing a golden calf to be the new leader makes no sense to me, but apparently it did make sense to the people of God. However, making such an image and worshiping it, which the people did, was against God’s law. The very God who had helped them over and over and over again, which caused Moses to be very angry when he returned from Mount Sinai.

I always chuckle when I read Aaron’s response when confronted by Moses. Aaron said he did not know what had happened. All I did, he claimed, was put the gold into the fire. It just happened that a golden calf was formed. Aaron claimed to have no clue how that was the result.

What happened was another example of people who had been very blessed by God slipping.

In I Corinthians 10, Paul lists three more examples of the people of God slipping.

One place on their journey through the desert, the people were guilty of fornication with pagans. Physical fornication, and spiritual fornication as the people of God worshiped foreign gods. Think of that. Their God - the one, true God - the God who had blessed His people over and over and over and over again - was ignored as other gods were worshiped.

Those who did that died, but another time on their journey in the wilderness, the people grumbled. It has already been mentioned the people had grumbled about the need for food and water. This was one of the other times grumbling happened. Even after God provided for His people, they still complained, at least one time getting cranky because they were tired of manna all the time. Talk about whining.

Yet another time, there was a revolt against Moses’ leadership, which was a serious thing since God is the one who chose Moses to be the leader of God’s people.

Those who led the revolt were killed. Again Moses retained his position as leader. But the point of Paul in the first part of I Corinthians 10 is that people who enjoy the greatest privileges of God are far from being safe from temptation.

For the people Paul listed, let’s think about descriptions of what they slipped on. And let’s listen to see if any of these might apply to any of us. Again, the theme is that we not be over-confident. So confident we get to thinking we would never slip on any of these orange peels.

Let’s be careful, including about the temptation to never be satisfied with what God provides.

Or the temptation to idolatry. Another god might not be a golden calf. It might be something else, defined as that to which a person gives all his or her time, thoughts, and energy. That can include work or sports. It is anything that interferes with a good relationship with God.

How about the temptation to follow immorality? Impurity?

That, by the way, was very relevant to Corinth. Remember it was Christians in Corinth to whom Paul wrote today’s passage. Corinth was the site of a temple dedicated to Venus, a Greek god representing lust. A temple that employed over a thousand priestesses, all of them prostitutes. Many other gods in Corinth were represented as patterns of lewdness and involved lewdness in worship.

Of course, it was not only people in Corinth who faced the temptation of immorality. We certainly have that in our own society today. We see the messages on magazines and in movies and on TV. We hear the messages in music. The temptation is there for everyone.

We can feel good when we seem to not be affected by all that is around us, but again the point. We must not be over-confident. We must instead continue to pray for protection from even the orange peels of not being satisfied, idolatry, and immorality that are on our paths. We need to continue to rely on God, not ourselves, for the strength to stay strong in our faith.

How about the temptation to test God too far? Meaning, for instance, to have the thought it is OK to do bad because God will forgive. Such a temptation - such a thought - is dangerous because, while God is loving, He is also holy, and cannot abide what is bad.

How about the temptation to grumble? To greet life with a whine, rather than with cheer? Remember the Old Testament people of God murmured against Moses. Grumbling and murmuring happened in Corinth as well with some of the Christians there criticizing Paul, the one who had established that congregation. They thereby criticized Jesus. The Christians in Corinth had gone so far as to set up other teachers who would preach what the people wanted to hear, rather than the word of God.

There are temptations today, as there always have been. Temptations faced even by those of us who have been blessed by God in so many, many ways. Therefore, we must take seriously the point of Paul in I Corinthians 10, which is the need for vigilance. A need expressed this way in verse 12. “Let anyone who thinks that he or she stands secure take care lest he or she fall.” Put another way, let anyone who thinks he or she is immune from a certain kind of temptation be on guard. 

As Paul wrote, others have fallen. We know that is true today as well. Others have fallen. So can we, which is most likely to happen if we are confident of our own strength. 

That is not meant to be a negative statement. it is simply a call to do what we are supposed to do in every situation of life, which is be dependent on God, who is the best - the only - security we have against sin.

And verse 13. What peace and hope this verse has. 

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” 

That does not make it any easier to face temptations like never being satisfied or idolatry or impurity or testing God in ways He should not be tested or grumbling. It is just that it should be comforting to know you - we - are not alone. Others are struggling with things, too.

“God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength.” I read this about that part of the verse. Either our trials will be proportioned to our strength, or strength will be supplied in proportion to our temptations.

“God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

temptation will come. Like it did for the people of God in the Old Testament, so does temptation come to us, His present-day people.

Remember that temptation means a special kind of test. A temptation is designed, not to make us fail, but to work with us so we may emerge stronger than ever.

But we can fail. That can happen if we rely on ourselves rather than on God for the strength to stand firm against any and all problems we face.

So let’s trust God to get over any spiritual waterfalls we encounterL Let’s also trust Him when we come across any spiritual orange peels along our way. Both are dangerous. Let’s rely on Him for strength to survive both.

T0day’s closing song speaks of relying on Jesus in all parts of our lives. It is the hymn ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. We will sing verses 1, 3, and 4.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just to take Him at His word,

Just to rest upon His promise,

Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more!


Yes, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,

And from sin and self to cease,

Now from Jesus simply taking

Life and rest and joy and peace.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him.

Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that He is with me,

He’ll be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more!

Lord, there are many temptations, even today. Temptations to do things and think things and say things that are displeasing to You. Help us to stay strong enough - in Your strength, not ours - to not succumb to any temptations. Help us to do differently than Your Old Testament people. Help us to remember Your blessings and respond to them by trusting You. Thank You for the privilege of trusting in You, this day and always. Amen.

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