Our response to temptation reveals the true essence of our character.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
How do you respond when faced with temptation, or, as the Oxford Dictionary puts it, “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise”?
My temptations seem petty compared to the ones Jesus faced. My struggles seem (and are) trivial compared to fasting and being tempted by the devil for forty days in the desert. Jesus stood his ground before the devil, yet I so easily succumb, and take the option which offers quick relief from my discomfort, rather than take the path God would have me take. I look for the instant, feel-better-quick fix for my lack of energy and motivation, my frustration or anger, my sadness or loneliness, my shame or guilt, my worry or fear. The quick fix is at best ineffective at fixing the underlying problem, at worst a path away from God.
God’s solution to our underlying problem – the problem of sin – took many, many years to come to fruition, and came at the incredibly high cost of the death of Jesus himself. God’s solution to the problem of my sin gives me the Holy Spirit himself, who was powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead, to bring new life to me. God’s solution to the problem of sin brings deep forgiveness, peace, love and grace from a Heavenly Father.
The expression of this solution within me is a long process as well. I’m so glad that accepting God’s forgiveness is the first step; otherwise I would have no chance. He forgives me, and then he sets out to restore me to my true, best self. Only by this process of deep change from the inside out will I have any chance at standing my ground and responding wisely and graciously in the face of temptation.
Jesus’ ability to respond to temptation the way he did reflects the very core of who he is. When we read these words, we are not just reading a quick-witted clever argument with Satan. We are seeing into the very heart and character of God himself. What a privilege.
Head: When are you most vulnerable to think, speak or act in ungodly ways? Why is it at those moments particularly for you?
Heart: What do you most long for relief from at this moment? Take a moment to bring this struggle before God.
Hands: What can you do today to give God’s Spirit room to grow you to be more like Jesus as you face today’s temptations?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus’ faithfulness to you as he faced temptation. Thank you that this reveals the depth of who he is. Please be at work deep within me by your powerful and Holy Spirit to grow me to be more like him, so that I might face with courage the temptation to trust in anything other than you, today and tomorrow and in whatever lies ahead.
A song to listen to: Blessed Be Your Name