“If You can’t Stand the Heat: then Get Out of the Kitchen”

By Daniel H. King

I heard the phrase that heads this article at a football game a few years ago. It was shouted by a fan (obviously cheering for the winning side) to a group of agitated fans who were bemoaning the outcome of the game. How apropos that little sentence was! Anyone who participates in or watches an athletic contest should be quite aware that both teams cannot win. Somebody must walk off the field a loser. And, if one cannot enter the contest with the intention of being a “good sport” whether they win or lose, then they ought to stay out of the contest. It’s a matter of mental preparation, not necessarily for defeat, but for the possibility of defeat and a resignation as to how one will act when mere possibility becomes reality. To put it in the words of the unwitting sage: “If you can’t stand the heat: then get out of the kitchen.” Kitchens get hot, and games have losers. Those are simple facts of life, and those who cannot cope with reality should not place themselves in positions where their genuineness will potentially manifest itself.

But that phrase has more applicability than just to kitchens and sports. It may also be applied to the Christian life. Many people become Christians thinking that the life of the Christian will be a proverbial “bowl of cherries,” with its, consummation in heaven. And, after a few short bouts with the devil and temptation they go down for the count. When they find out that living the Christian life is, in reality, a daily contest with the devil and evil and that the church is full of fallible human beings like themselves, then they head for the kitchen door- the heat is too much! People need to go into the Christian life with a realistic view of what it is and will be like. The chances for spiritual longevity will be so much better if this is the case. Temptation will not cease when we become Christians, in fact, it may even get worse. I would imagine if I were the devil that I would not spend a great deal of my precious time on the terribly wicked, instead I would center my attentions upon those who spurned my powers. However, the evil one cannot tempt beyond our ability to resist (1 Cor. 10:13), and he will be forced to flee if he is resisted (James 4:7). Instead of despairing at temptation, the child of God ought to heed the advice of James, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2,3). In addition, a healthy view of our fellow Christians will serve to make being a Christian more feasible. Very often we hear of people young in the faith being unsettled or even discouraged to the point of giving up, either by troubles in the church or by ungodly attitudes and actions on the part of those who ought to know and do better. Paul met immorality, hostility, division, hypocrisy, heresy, and personal rejection in the church at Corinth, yet the grand apostle was able to open his epistle with the words, “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4). Paul could have been overcome by the perversity of the Corinthians and thrown up his hands in despair. But he did not. He did his best to save their souls and his own and did not lose heart. Have any of us ever worshiped with brethren as spiritually bereft as the Corinthians? Even if we have, we still have no reason to give up and quit. Perhaps to worship elsewhere, and certainly to raise a cry in opposition to iniquity, but never to quit serving Christ. It is going to get hot in a kitchen, and it is going to be tough being a Christian, but we should neither give up cooking because of the heat, nor give up serving the Lord because it is sometimes hard.

Again, this pointed little maxim has its application for those of us who preach the gospel, as well. How many of us run into a little turbulence in a congregation, face hardship, or fail in some respect or another and throw up our hands in surrender? “I’ll just quit preaching. There are plenty of other ways to make a living without putting up with such and such.” Without mentioning the mercenary sound of such talk, we might simply recollect the veteran preacher Paul’s counsel to Timothy, “Be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). No, preaching is not a picnic, and there are certainly times when the brethren can be a far cry from angelic, but that should not keep us from making due application of this admonition to ourselves. Little confidence should be placed in us as preachers if we are always crying, complaining, quitting, going to quit, or are constantly “on the limb” from trouble in churches where we have preached. If we cannot stand the heat, then we need to get out of the kitchen.

Truth Magazine XIX: 32, pp. 508-509
June 19, 1975