It’s interesting that even when we follow God’s leading, we are not guaranteed safe circumstances. As we let God’s Spirit lead us, indeed, as we let Jesus lead us in places that we need to go, we may find risk and danger. In fact, on a Spiritual level, I believe that we will be tempted by pride to do whatever it takes to succeed (by the worlds standards), not even realizing that succeeding by God’s standards brings true and lasting fulfillment, indeed, a daily inner joy of being.
I love what Ralf Waldo Emerson said, “We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.” Yes, I believe that as we resist temptation we gain strength to resist!
This joy, I believe is not dependent on outward circumstances as much as it is on understanding God’s deep and abiding love for us and holding close to the promise of the future glory that we as followers of Jesus will indeed experience.
I want to point out that in verse 12 and 13, the temptation of Jesus, the temptation is right after His baptism. What I want to point out is not always the case, however, I have found that it is often the case. Often, when we make the right decision and an important decision to follow God, indeed, follow Jesus, there are forces that wouldn’t want that decision to be made. I do believe in Spiritual warfare.
I often counsel people that are making the decision to follow Jesus, especially as they prepare to be baptized, that afterwards they might find strong temptations to rescind their decision. As I mentioned, it is not always the case, but I have seen it enough to counsel this way.
When LifePoint Christian Church was in its infancy, meeting at the Seminole Town Center Movie Theater, I remember a young lady, Ashley, that made that decision to follow Jesus and to make a change in her life. As I recall, I hope I get all the details right, a week or so after her baptism, she came back upset telling me that everything was going wrong in her life: she lost her job, the car broke down and she split with her boyfriend. Whew, what’s this Christianity all about! I counseled her to stand strong in faith and all this would subside because not even these powers can trump Jesus!
Well today, she is married to the young man she split with and loved, they have a beautiful family and a beautiful little girl. I would say that she stood strong, withstood the temptations of Satan and Jesus never left her side.
The devil often tempts us when we are most vulnerable — when we are under physical or emotional stress, when we are tired, lonely, faced with uncertainty and when we are faced with big decisions. BUT ALSO, we find ourselves tempted, in fact, just as much so, when things are running along smoothly in our lives…when we feel strong! It is in these times that we are most susceptible to our pride. WE MUST ALWAYS BE ON GUARD!
In the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:6, Jesus shares with us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” ALWAYS hunger and thirst to do the right thing over the easy wrong. Don’t give in to the temptation to lie, cheat, steal, or to seek those pleasures that ultimately rob our lives of fulfillment (alcohol, drugs, maybe food if you eat too much, sex outside of marriage….you know the deal). Jesus tells us that if we “hunger and thirst” to do the right thing that we will indeed be filled! That is a blessing and a promise.
I would note that to be tempted is not a sin. However, tempting others as well as giving in to temptation…is sin. We should not hate or resent times of inner testing because God works through those times to create strength, joy and fulfillment in our lives.
James 2:1-6 (TNIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
When faced with temptations, remember Jesus! When the turmoil begins, immerse yourself in God’s wisdom (the Scriptures as well as prayer). Jesus used God’s Word against Satan and so can you.
Temptations will come……every day……Jesus promises that as we seek to do what is right, that we will be filled in our hearts. We will not be hungry. When temptations come, be ready for it. Remember that your strength is most evident when you are under pressure.