Thanks for all the feedback and comments… This devotional will be a work in progress just like we are! Gleaning from your feedback, I think I will do a combination of both.
The Digging Deeper section will have a bit more in depth study for those who want it, while the first part will focus more on story and application. Again, your feedback and what YOU are learning is so important to me! This is a growth journey we are taking together!
Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. The devil comes to him 3 times with temptations that we might classify today as “shiny objects, doubting the goodness of God and worshiping idols”. In each of these instances Jesus responds with the Word of God. A good way to handle the fiery darts of the evil one!
This single lesson is monumental. How often do we try to battle the trial and temptations of the evil one on or own strength and then wonder why we fail? Honestly, I do this far more often than I like to admit. There is this myth that “I should be able to handle it.” When in reality I am ill equipped to do so.
The devil taunts and tests Jesus when he is tired, weary and hungry. Isn’t that when we are the most vulnerable to the lies of the evil one? I know he rarely tries to get me off course after an incredible worship service or quiet time! Usually it is when I am at that end of my rope, weary and worn…
My modern day take on these three temptations- see if you can relate:
1- When we feel like we are missing out, hungry and longing for more of something in our lives… we seek to fill it with “shiny objects,” or in other illegitimate ways?
2- When life is difficult, tragedy strikes, or we face inexplicable evil… we are tempted to question or at least wonder about the goodness of God.
3- When we are feeling envious of those who have power, prestige , influence, respect or even friends that we wish we had… we can worship idols as we give preeminence to people and things other than God.
These are real temptations for us as believers in this day and age.
What they look like for me. (as you read these, think about what these temptations look like for you.)
1- I have filled the emptiness or disappointments in my life with “shiny objects” like shopping trips, bigger and better ideas, things, adventures, even volunteer /church work anything that will keep me from feeling the hunger of my soul…all of which do not quench this hunger that Only the Word of God, both literal scripture and Jesus -The WORD made Flesh, can fill.
Jesus knew the Word of God like any devout Hebrew male and that is where He turned for strength, power and answers when He was tired and hungry and tempted .
Studying this passage challenges me to evaluate how much of the Scriptures, I can actually call to mind at a moment’s notice. Do I need to spend more time in the word instead of my new favorite TV show? I am not slamming some good TV, just asking myself if I need to spend more time hiding God’s word in my heart so that I too have a ready rebuke for the fiery darts of the evil one.
2- I have lived through some very difficult things in my life. As a counselor I have heard, carried and wept over the stories others and have concluded that life is filled with brokenness, pain and disappointments. After a few years in private practice, I remember coming to a place where I was wrestling with the goodness of God. I had heard stories of abuse, violence, death, trauma, sorrow and struggle that when coupled with my own story had rocked my foundation.
I wanted God to show me He was good, trustworthy and faithful in of evidence to the contrary. After wresting for months, I was sitting alone one morning, steaming coffee warming my hands and staring in to the fire with tears in my eyes… praying… where were you God in these terrible moments, why didn’t You stop the harm? How can these things work together for good?
How could I reconcile all that was in my heart…
I began to sort out what I knew to be true. (One small step of obedience.)
In the midst of trials, sorrows, trauma, struggles, pain, death…God says:
- He is there. He will never leave or forsake us. (Deut 31:6-8, Josh 1:9, Hebrews 13:5-6))
- He is good, (Psalm 34:8)
- He loves us ( John 3:16, John 14:21-23, John 15:9)
- He is our help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1)
And I got these images of God…
- holding His hand over my heart and soul, protecting me and weeping when I was abused as a child…
- wiping the tears away of the mother whose baby had died just before birth…
- weeping with the son who was deserted by his earthly father…
- withholding His vengeance and wrath against the man who beat his daughter, in the hope that he might one day repent and return to God…
- comforting the woman whose husband was unfaithful with the reassurance of One who had felt betrayed as well…
And it dawned on me… that no matter what else is true… the TRUTH is -God is good.
Jesus’ reply to the devil was “you shall not test the Lord your God.” This means that we must claim and cling to what is true about who God says He is and not demand that He prove it, or orchestrate our lives in a way that shows us… Instead… We must Choose. to. Trust. Him! (period-end of sentence.)
Without denying the realities of life – I could affirm each day that I KNOW God is Good.
3- Idolatry today looks very different from bowing down before pagan idols. We don’t do THAT!! So we have this one covered… right? Hmmm… what if we define idolatry as anything we value more than we value God.
The things that consume our mind, attention, priorities can all become idols if they are number one in our hearts. (Consider these: family, gadgets, sports, work, money, position, influence, fitness, relationships, dreams and goals.)
Part of my story is a wounding where people of position are afforded respect and opportunities while I have felt like I have my nose pressed against the glass looking in and longing to seen, heard and chosen.
This can become a form of idolatry when I live from a wounded place and am preoccupied with trying to prove myself worthy by pursuing position, academic degrees, and acceptance from people, rather than finding my security and identity SOLELY in Christ and trusting that He will use my life to bless and benefit others, regardless of my “status, position, connections, or credentials.” When I worship God first and foremost, all of these other seemingly important things fade into the background and I can live with freedom to just BE instead of trying hard to make life work my way.
Every day we live in a spiritual battle… for our minds and hearts. Yes, our eternity is secure in Christ… but do we live each day with such security and confidence of who we are in Christ that we seek the Him to fill our hunger, rest in the Truth of His goodness and heart toward us, and flee from whatever idolatry tempts us to turn from worshiping God alone?
This is a daily battle for me. When I try to fight it on my own, I often fail… but when I cry out to Jesus to help me, I am infused with the power of the Holy Spirit, who has already definitively defeated the evil one and will strengthen me to stand firm as He battles on my behalf.
Jesus demonstrates this in the wilderness. The Son of God dealt with the fiery darts and taunts of the tempter with the Word of God, the Truth of God and the choice to Worship God alone. Can we survive on any less?
- Think about what these temptations look like for you.
- What do you do with your hunger and longings?
- How do you handle your disappointments?
- Have you ever wondered or struggled with the goodness of God when life devastates you?
- What are the idols in your life?
Please comment below or email me your thoughts and reflections. Feel free to respond to one another’s comments as well.
Together We Grow, Susie
Digging Deeper: (for those of you who want more)
Matthew 4:1 says that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted. This was a purposeful time and I believe imagine Jesus went through this to teach us how to deal with temptation as well.
“to be tempted (peirasthenai ) by the devil” – tempt : entice a person to do what is wrong; test : give a person the opportunity to choose what is right. To tempt is to hope for failure; to test is to hope for success. Testing has precedents in the Old Testament (see Genesis 22:1-19; Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
Matthew 4:1-11 shows a progression of the way the Satan interacts with Jesus. It is clear and unfiltered evil with intent to harm, distract, and destroy Jesus and His mission. Isn’t this the same agenda the evil one has for us? (John 10:10)
he is called:
- the tempter (4:3) peirazo- test ones faith, virtue, character by enticement to sin, to craftily put to the test,
- the devil: (4:5, 4:7) diabolos –slanderer, accuser, defame
Matthew 4: 7
“test” (ekpeirazo ) the Lord your God- put to the test’ to put to proof God’s character and power (Deut 8:2), Jesus references when the Israelites tested God in Massah (Exodus 17) They had been wandering in the wilderness , complaining, quarrelling, remembering Egypt with foolish and unrealistic nostalgia, and basically questioning God’s Presence, care and goodness.
“worship” (proskuneo) the Lord your God alone- to do reverence to, literally to fall down prostrate, to adore, to respect, pay homage, show deference
Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness BEFORE the tempter came. What do you think this wilderness time was like for him as a man, fully human. He had just been baptized and the heavens opened and God said ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Talk about a mountaintop experience…. and then he was led into the wilderness.. on purpose… by the Spirit of God!
Clearly wilderness times can be purposeful and intentional in our lives.
- What wilderness times have you gone through? What was the Spirit of God teaching you?
- What trials and temptations did you face? How did you handle them.
Daily Lectionary readings:
Genesis 2: 7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51: 3 – 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about ½ hour a day)
Read on Day 5: Matthew 19-24