Last week, in The Wilderness Experience, Part 1, we discovered that the wilderness experience marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry for a reason: He needed that time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord, and He needed to experience God’s power in overcoming temptation in order for Him to become “empowered” by the Spirit of God! But the story has much more to teach us . . .
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 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. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.'” (Luke 4:1-3)
The first interesting point to be made today has to do with the timing of the temptations: “He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”
Isn’t it true that the devil always waits until we are at our weakest? If you are trying to quit smoking, for example, the devil waits until you are around your smoking friends to tempt you, or he waits until coffee break, when you have programmed yourself to go out and have a cigarette. If this seems unfair, then remember, Jesus went through the same thing. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for 40 days, and that’s when the devil hit him with this temptation: “Tell these stones to become bread!” So when you’re weak and the devil hits your hard with temptation, take courage! Recognize the tempter for who he is, and let God give you the strength to overcome!
The next interesting point is found in this phrase of the verses: “The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God . . .’“ (Luke 4:3)
If you read through all of the three major temptations, you will note that the devil starts each temptation with the same words. Is it possible that the devil didn’t know that Jesus was the Son of God?
Not likely. The demons cast out by Jesus were constantly calling Him God’s Son: “. . . An evil spirit . . . Cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!'” (Luke 4:33-34 NIV).
No, when the devil said, “If you are the Son of God . . .”, it had nothing to do with disbelief. The devil was simply trying to get Jesus to doubt. If Jesus had doubted who He was, even for a second, then the devil would have had a foothold on His life. The same goes for us today. If the devil can make us doubt God’s power, for even a second, then he has a foothold on our lives as well.
The third and final point to be made in today’s lesson stems from the following phrase: “. . . Where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:2) Although we are only specifically told about the three major temptations, turning stones to bread, throwing Himself off of the pinnacle of the tabernacle, and worshiping the devil to gain the world, this text seems to indicate that Jesus was tempted throughout the forty days as well.
I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in this. In my own personal experience with temptation, I find that I am continually tempted, and the temptations come one after another, each one taking a slightly different twist, each one working to break my resolve. It helps to know that Jesus went through the same thing!
One big difference, however: Where I so often succumb to temptation, Jesus overcame! Why? Because Jesus was taking the time to strengthen Himself in the Holy Spirit. He was putting on His armour. He was fastening on the breastplate of righteousness and His helmet of Salvation, He was putting on His belt of Truth and allowing His feet to be shod with the preparation for the gospel of peace, and He was taking up His shield of faith and His sword of the Spirit, the Word of God! When the cumulation of the devil’s temptations came along, He was ready!
We, too, are called to be ready: “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13). Let’s follow Jesus’ example. Let’s bask in God’s presence. Let’s allow Him to clothe us with righteous, faith, peace, salvation, truth, and the Word of God!
Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: The devil will always hit us up with temptation when we are at our weakest. He generally badgers us with one temptation right after another, and one of his favourite, most powerful tools, is doubt. Let’s learn from this story to be ready, by continually refreshing ourselves in God’s presence where we can allow Him to prepare us to withstand the temptations of the devil. Let’s learn to stand firm in our faith and to stand on Truth, so that we will not give a foothold to the devil!
Join us next week, for The Wilderness Experience, Part 3: Tell These Stones to Become Bread!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org
(To access the entire “The Wilderness Experience” mini-series, please click here.)