This story was told by a chemistry teacher at school. A female student wanted to make some potassium hydroxide solution (aqueous) and decided to throw a large lump of potassium into a bucket of water.
Out of the corner of his eye, her professor observed what she was about to do and hurried toward her. After confirming what she was intending to do, he asked her to first stir the water in the bucket for five minutes before adding the potassium.
She was puzzled and asked the purpose of this action. “It will give me time to get away,” said the professor.
There are times when running away is the proper response. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said to “Flee sexual immorality” (I Cor. 6:18) and “Flee from idolatry.” (I Cor. 10:14). Fleeing is especially important when we encounter temptation. We sometimes make the mistake of putting ourselves in situations where we are tempted, thinking that we are strong enough to handle it. Sometimes we are, but often we are not.
Remember when Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife? She “cast longing eyes on Joseph and she said, ‘Lie with me.'” (Gen. 39:7). Joseph refused to commit adultery with her, but she persisted to the point that finally Joseph needed to flee. “He left his garment in her hand, and fled outside.” (Gen. 39:12).
There may not be a Potiphar’s wife in your life, but there is likely some temptation which you find difficult to resist. If alcohol is your temptation, flee. Make a decision to avoid people and places where alcohol will be readily available. If sexual impurity with a boyfriend or girlfriend is a temptation, flee. Make a decision to avoid situations where you are alone and the temptation is stronger. If inappropriate use of your money is a temptation, flee. Stay away from the mall!
The worst mistake any of us can make is to think that “I can handle it. I know this is a strong temptation but I won’t give in. I’ll hang around close, but I won’t cross the line.” The real question we need to consider is this: “Who (or what) do we want to stay close to?” Because fleeing is not just running away from something; it is also running toward something.
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” (I Timothy 6:11)
Father, more than anything in this world I desire to be close to you. Help me to flee from those things which tend to pull me away from you, and draw me close. In Jesus’ name, amen.