The Lenten Season is a time when traditionally Christians work intentionally to strengthen their faith and grow in their walk with Christ Jesus. This is accomplished through living out special spiritual disciplines such as fasting, abstinence, and reserving time for prayer and Bible reading and study. This year Lent begins on Wednesday, 22 February and ends on Thursday, 6 April. Perhaps this is a good day to prepare ourselves for the Season of Lent. A key way build faith is thru successfully dealing w/temptation. As you become more disciplined in your walk with Christ Jesus, you will strengthen yourself against temptations that come your way. Is there anyone who has not been tempted? Dealing with temptation is part of living. Everyone deals with temptation. The big issue is not whether we are tempted but whether we pass the test of faith when we are tempted.
Jesus dealt with temptation. After the spiritual high point of his baptism and the voice from heaven honoring him as God’s beloved Son, the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness of Judea for a time of preparation which included fasting and prayer. Matthew writes that the Spirit led him into the wilderness. Jesus begins his ministry with a long period of fasting and prayer in the rocky desert of Judea. Matthew tells us that the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Jesus begins his work with a time of hard testing and his tester is the Devil.
He fasted forty days and forty nights and he was famished. After such a long period of fasting, his body is craving nourishment. Jesus was in a vulnerable position. What happened to him in his vulnerability? Did angels bring him food and water? No, the angels did not come until later. However, Satan came with a proposal. He came to tempt him where he was most vulnerable. In the Judean wilderness one finds round rocks shaped like loaves of bread. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” There is no question about Jesus’ identity. At his baptism, the Lord God honored him as his beloved Son. However, Satan challenges him to give up his fast and miraculously transform stone into bread. What is Jesus’ response? He quotes Scripture: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He is in the wilderness to be nourished by the word of God, not bread. Jesus resisted the first temptation.
Satan then took him to Jerusalem and placed him on the very top of the temple. He told Jesus to jump off and said that God would send his angels to catch him so he would not be hurt. This temptation was one which challenged Jesus to create a spectacle that people could see and admire. If someone jumped off the pinnacle of the temple, hundreds of people would observe him. He would have developed quite a following if he did something that spectacular. However, he responded to the evil one with Scripture: “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Satan took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor. The world’s kingdoms were splendid. Imagine the wealth that existed in Rome, Greece, Persia, Egypt, China, India and elsewhere. Jesus saw the spectacular cities and palaces. He saw the abundance of the wealth of nations. Satan said to him: “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” He offers him all the wealth and power of the world. Of course, there’s a big “if.” To possess all the kingdoms, Jesus would have to fall down and worship the Evil One himself. There is always a price to pay for wealth and power. Jesus again responded with Scripture: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Nothing is worth the price of idolatry, of worshiping anyone other than the Lord God. Jesus resisted this powerful temptation and Satan left him. Only after he passed Satan’s tests did angels come to take care of him.
Temptation is a part of life. You are guaranteed to have temptations. Satan will come and test you. The Greek word we translate temptation also means testing. Times of temptation are times of testing. There is value in testing. One of the marks of entering a profession or learning a trade is passing a competency test. When one passes the test, one is certified as competent, an expert in one’s field. A couple of weeks ago I read a small history of the Renascence. It was a period of learning and of the arts that began in the late 15th century. Various professions formed guilds. One might enter as an apprentice then move to become a journeyman. The highly skilled journeyman could seek to become a master. They were put to the test and had to produce a product that was exceptional. They had to create a masterpiece. Other master craftsmen would judge his submission and either reject him or honor him as a master. When one passes a vocational test, one is certified as competent, an expert. Would you like someone working on your car that took an auto mechanics test and flunked it? Would you like a surgeon who flunked his board certifications to perform surgery on you? Of course not. In the same way, as we are tempted we are being strengthened in our walk with Christ. The issue is not whether we are tempted or not. The issue is resisting temptation and passing the test. Jesus was vulnerable and was severely tested by Satan. People have sold out for less than a loaf of bread. Jesus resisted temptation and passed the test.
In what ways are you tempted? One of the stongest ways we today are tempted is when we take out a loan in order to possess something. Recently I heard a woman who called into the Money Matters Moody Radio program. She purchased an automobile and was committed to making a payment of well over $500 per month. She wanted to get out from under the loan but her car was worth $10,000 less than the loan. She had a problem. We Americans are tempted to take out big loans for autos and other things. Getting in debt is one of the big temptations everyone faces. Wednesday, I read a report that the credit agency Transunion said that total credit card debt in America reached a record high of $930.6 Billion in the 4th Quarter of 2022. That’s a jump of 18.5%. The writer of the book of Proverbs tells us, “… the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7b).” The temptation is to become a slave to a lender. A wise person avoids getting in debt. Hopefully, most of us older people have learned to live without debt. One of the best things we can do is teach the younger generation the wise use of money so that they will not become slaves to lenders.
It is sad when we see people rejecting God’s best or settling for less than God’s best. Instead of accepting a good quality of life that God offers us, many become slaves. God offers us a banquet and many settle for a few drops of drink and some crumbs. Instead of enjoying life, we rush here and there. We only have to drive on the highways to see how people are in a rush. The other night a driver did not like me driving 34 in a 30 mile zone and passed me on a double yellow line. It is unreal that people disregard the 45 mph speed limit in construction zones. Have you ever had a person pass you then meet them at the next red light? People are in a terrible rush and are willing to endanger themselves and others. We are under great temptation to follow the crowd and rush here and there. The Psalmist tells us: “He (God) says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10).’” Resist the temptation to accept less than what God wants to give you. God offered Jesus the greatest of glories, but Satan offered him a loaf of bread.
There is an easy way to resist temptation. Do you remember the story of David and Bathsheba? The Bible tells us, “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful… (2 Samuel 11:2).” Here we have King David who the Bible tells us is a man after God’s own heart taking an evening break on the roof of the palace. He looks down and sees a woman bathing. This is a temptation situation. David had two options. He could have shut his eyes, turned around and gone back into his palace. That is the wise decision. But instead he sent messengers to bring her to the palace and they had an affair. David took the second option which was the wrong option. He gave into temptation and that led to a murder and all kinds of family problems that he could have easily avoided. The easy way to resist temptation is to get away from the tempting situation. If we do that we avoid all kinds of problems.
Jesus went into the wilderness of Judea for the express purpose of being tempted by Satan. As Jesus was not immune to temptation we too are subject to such times. I guarantee you that every time you take a stand for Jesus the Devil is going to come your way to tempt you. As we approach the Season of Lent, if you decide to practice a special spiritual discipline such as abstinence or fasting, I guarantee you that the Evil One will come and test you right at your place of vulnerability. If you give into temptation, don’t say, “The Devil made me do it.” Satan cannot make you do anything. His only power is to deceive you with fancy words. The only power he has is to lie to you and try to deceive you. You have the power to resist him. Remember the words of John: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).” When temptation comes, recognize that God gives you the power to resist and to pass the test.
The big issue in our walk with Christ Jesus is not whether we have temptations but how we live when we are confronted by a tempting situation. You will be tempted. The more you walk with Jesus the more Satan will come to try to tempt you. However, temptations are tests which can strengthen you. But you cannot resist temptation or pass the test on your own power. You need the power of the Holy Spirit so you can resist temptation and pass the test. Only through the power of the living Lord can you have what you need to live victoriously. Accept God’s best—ask to be filled again with his Spirit so that you can walk with your head high with confidence, peace and the satisfaction that comes from walking in victory with Christ Jesus. Let us Pray…