Have You Felt Like You're In The Wilderness?
“Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. ... We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Forty. The number of days it rained as Noah and the animals waited for it to end. The number on Marshall Plumlee's basketball jersey. The number of years I've been on the earth (with maybe a couple more).
So, during Lent, what’s 40 days all about? It’s about the 40 days Jesus was in the wilderness. It’s the 40 days he fasted from food, drink, his family, and crowds of people. It’s the 40 days he was all alone. It’s the 40 days he was tempted with sin by satan. It’s 40 days he was vulnerable to being attacked.
All of us at least one time has been in the wilderness or desert. And during that time, it's easy to feel defenseless to all sorts of sin. We’re vulnerable when we’re physically and emotionally drained, when loved ones are battling a disease, when relationships are rocky, when life is uncertain, and when our culture dangles hundreds of idols right in front of our face every day. Satan will to do everything he can to distract or turn our back on Jesus.
The same devil who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden tempted Jesus in the wilderness and tempts you and me today.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV)
Jesus was tempted with food, strength and power. Isn't that what we're tempted too? Y’all. Satan is REAL, not symbolic, and is constantly fighting against those who follow and obey God. I think in today’s time, Christians focus on God’s grace, faith, and love, along with personal struggles and how God is always with us. While those are certainty and truth, it seems like we ignore the reality of the devil and his evil doings in this world. It’s not something to constantly focus on to cause fear, but it is something we should not ignore and should be more aware of. Temptation is real. Satan is real.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Jesus knew all about that. When he was in the desert, he experienced every temptation we do. Even though Jesus didn’t know the shame we experience of personal sin where we have temporary pleasures, he did know the shame of bearing our sin while being misunderstood, tortured, and then hung naked on a cross.
Jesus was tempted his entire life on this earth. He had to walk against the current of the world’s draw toward sin without any rest or relief. Because of satan’s evilness and increasing anger, he tempted Jesus like no other.
God allowed His Son, Jesus, to be in the desert for a long and difficult time of testing, and He may also lead us into difficult situations. In those situations, we have the choice to cling to God or give into sin. I read in my Bible that when facing trials, first make sure you haven’t brought difficult times on yourself through sin or unwise choices. If you find no sin to confess or unwise behavior to change then ask God to strengthen you for your test. Finally be careful to follow faithfully wherever the Holy Spirit leads.
When in times of desperate temptation or need, we need to pray. God, Your Name is great and powerful! Your Name is above all names! I need You, and I call Your Name out loud – JESUS! JESUS! Take me away from this temptation! Do not let me give into this sin! When I call out Your name, satan will flee! He has no power over You. You have overcome darkness and sin and saved my life. You’ve redeemed me! You deserve to be honored and praised. No one is greater than You! Forever You are glorified! Amen!
When we’re struggling with temptation, remember this promise in Hebrews 4:15-16,
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”