When I was younger, I had a really cool sports car. It liked to get up and go, and I had a heavy foot. It wasn’t long before I was caught going over the speed limit. I went to the judge and asked to take defensive driving so that it wouldn’t go on my record. I took the class from a friend’s dad who taught them on Saturday’s. I was embarrassed to be there, but I did it. However, I didn’t learn my lesson. Less than a year later I was back. Over lunch, he said, “Let me tell you a little secret. You need to start looking 30 seconds up the road instead of right in front of you. If you learn to do that, you’ll make better decisions and see things before they’re right in front of you.”
In Matthew 4, we read where Jesus was tempted by the devil. The devil tried to get him to turn stones into bread, to jump off the Temple to prove He was God’s son and bow down to him in exchange for the world’s kingdoms. In each case, Jesus refuted him with the Word of God. Satan was trying to get Jesus to go for things in the moment to satisfy the human nature of wanting things now. Because Jesus knew the Word of God, and was guided by the Spirit, He didn’t go for what was right in front of Him. Instead, He looked down the road at the purpose for which He was sent, trusted God’s Word and made the right decision.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of your Word makes my pathway clear” (TPT). Others versions will say it is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Knowing God’s Word is critical for us believers. One of the ways it helps us is to help us look forward down the path, so we can make the right decisions. It’s light shines on our present situation as well so that we can see what’s really going on and choose wisely. The wisdom and perspective it gives will help us in all areas of our lives. In order to put it in our mind and heart, we must study it, learn it and memorize it. God has given us all we need in it, but it’s up to us to open it up and use it to help us in our present and down the road.
Every one of us are tempted to sin. Because we are unique, we are tempted with different things, but often it’s in the same way. Temptation starts by causing us to doubt what God said and tries to make us think that there is something better than what God has already blessed us with. If we don’t stop those thoughts immediately, we start moving towards sinning. We try to justify why we deserve whatever it is. We then convince ourselves that what we have is not enough. We continue down this road until we give into the temptation and sin. Deep down we know it’s wrong, and so many times the actual sin is anticlimactic because we’ve built it up in our mind so much. The problem then is that we have to deal with the consequences of that sin. Temptation is not a sin. What we do with it could be.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had all they could ever hope for. They were surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and provision, yet they were convinced that what God had given them was not enough. They wanted more. Genesis 3:6 says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise and insightful, she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate” (AMP). They entertained the thoughts of temptation that led them to sin. They bought into the lies that God was withholding something good from them and that they deserved to have more than what God gave them.
Fast forward a couple thousand years to Matthew 4, and as Jesus comes up out of the waters of baptism, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness. He was in a barren place deprived of God’s provision, food and beauty. The same enemy came to Him to create doubt about who He was and what God had promised Him. The difference was that Jesus didn’t entertain those thoughts. He immediately went to what God said as truth, and He trusted the character of a God to not withhold any good thing from Him. He saw temptation for what it is, an attempt to break our relationship with God. He fought back with God’s Word and didn’t try to justify the sin based on where He was in life, what He was going through or what He felt like He deserved.
You and I have a promise we can hold onto during times of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” You don’t have to give into temptation. You have the ability to resist. You are able to endure it and can overcome it. Trust that what God has given to you is enough. If you don’t feel like it is, then be like the two people in the Parable of the Talents who took what the Master gave them and multiplied it. Your future is based on your choices and thought life. Don’t give in to the lies the enemy brings. Trust God and speak His promises, resist the devil and he will flee.
Several years ago, we were in the hospital as my mom was dying. The doctor brought the whole family into a room and explained the seriousness of her problem. He told us there was nothing more they could do, and then he talked about hospice care. After he left, my dad kept us in the room. He said, “I still believe in miracles, but we need to be prepared if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to. You need to each determine in your hearts now that you will not be bitter against God if she passes away.” I thought it was an odd thing for him to tell us until she passed away and bitterness tried to creep in.
Determining what you’re going to do ahead of time is critical. When temptation comes, it’s too late to decide what you’re going to do. Unless you’ve determined in your heart how you’re going to handle it, we usually end up succumbing to it. You can’t just think, “Oh, I’ll never fall for that.” You need to determine in your heart what you will do and say in times of temptation. Jesus had determined to use the Word of God. We on,y have three of Hos temptations recorded in Scripture, but we have His responses too. Each time He was able to fight temptation with knowing what God’s Word says. The Psalmist said that if we will hide His Word in our hearts, it will Nelly us not to sin.
Psalm 119:112 says, “I have determined in my heart to obey whatever you say, fully and forever!” (TPT) That’s a great thing to determine, but it only works if you’ve spent time in God’s Word to know what He says and if you’ve determined ahead of time. Each of us will face various temptations for the rest of our lives to hurt our relationship with God. When you made a commitment to Christ, you committed to following Him for the rest of your life. Shouldn’t you also commit to obeying everything He says? God’s love language is obedience. If you haven’t done so, determine today that you will obey Him for the rest of your life and that you won’t give into to temptation.
One of the game shows I grew up watching was “Let’s Make A Deal”. It’s a fun environment where the audience dresses up in ridiculous outfits hoping to be chosen by the host to come on stage. They can choose to trade what they have for what’s behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3. Sometimes, they would win a fabulous prize, but often they would get a Zonk (a worthless prize). There are a lot of times in life when we make bad trades. We sometimes trade moments of pleasure for a lifetime of regret. We sometimes trade happiness for a better paying job. Life is full of trades.
When Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, just before He began His ministry, Satan met Him and offered three trades. The first trade was to trade spiritual strength for a full belly. We know He was hungry and it must have been tempting to turn those stones into bread, but Jesus knew it wasn’t a good trade. Too often we are tempted to give up our spiritual significance for an insignificant morsel. In Luke 4:4, Jesus said, “It takes more than bread to really live” (MSG).
In the second temptation, Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He would bow to him. The trade here was to displace God from the throne of His life and put Himself there. Satan still tries that with each of us. Our flesh wants to play “King of the Hill” with God for who’s in control. Like Jesus, we need to understand it’s a bad trade. Jesus reminded him and us that the way to a successful life is to worship the Lord with absolute single-heartedness. We can’t give in to the temptation to trade places with God on the throne of our life.
The third temptation of Jesus was to jump off the Temple and let the angels catch Him. Satan was asking Him to doubt God’s protection by testing it. Jesus knew God would send the angels if he fell, but to jump would appear to be an act of faith, but would really be an act of disbelief. That’s why Jesus quoted the commandment, “Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.” Our enemy often masks what you’re really trading to make us think we are doing something spiritual when really, we’re doing the opposite.
The best way to make sure you don’t trade for a Zonk, is to know God’s Word. It’s what Jesus used to look at each trade that was offered. Every one of us are tempted daily to make trades. We need to take a closer look at what we are being offered and what we are being asked to give up. Leading a Spirit led life, immersed in the Bible, will help you to make fewer bad trades. Whatever you’re being tempted with today, I hope that you will take a moment to look at it in the light of God’s Word and ask God to help you make the best choice.
I’m on a trip to Israel. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be sharing some of my insights from going to the places throughout this country that was written about so much in the Bible. One of the first things you notice here in Israel is how tough the terrain is. It’s a very mountainous country, but these aren’t friendly mountains. They are covered in rocks and they protrude from the ground in an unforgiving manner.
As we drive through southern Israel, you can’t help but think how difficult it must have been to travel by foot. Not only is the terrain rough, but this time of year, it’s very hot. As we traveled from Masada to Jericho to Jerusalem, we stopped to look at the Mount of Temptation. It is where it is believed that Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting and was tempted by the enemy. If in fact it was the place, it would have made a difficult fast nearly unbearable.
Matthew 4:1 says, “THEN JESUS was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil”. It’s important to note here that He was led by the Holy Spirit to go into this place. The wilderness is a tough, unforgiving place, but when it is the Holy Spirit leading us, we can trust God will protect us and give us everything we need.
It’s not always comfortable where the Spirit leads us. Sure we like it when God leads us to the mountain top, but that mountain isn’t always a beautiful mountain. The road can be hard, and the mountain can be rough. The Spirit will often take us to seek and to save the lost. In many cases, they are in the wilderness of life themselves living a rough life. To find them, we have to leave the green pastures and endure rough terrain.
With the leading of the Holy Spirit we cannot fail. Of course, His definition of success and failure may be different than our own. We only see in part, so we can only know in part what God’s plan is. He sees the bigger picture and knows what needs to happen in order to accomplish His will. Our responsibility is to follow the Spirit’s leading wherever that may be, even if it’s the wilderness. If we are willing to trust Him, and to follow His leading, we can rest assured He will not let us fail in the wilderness.