“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert 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.’ ”
Matthew 4:1-3 (NIV)
I have a habit of falling asleep with the TV on. The silent dancing pictures on the screen have become my ten little sheep that I count before my eyes close for the night. To avoid wasting electricity, I usually set the sleep timer, but last night, I forgot, and I awoke this morning to the television broadcast of a local church.
I usually don’t watch church broadcasts on TV; I’m always skeptical of the message— are they really preaching the gospel, or are they trying to get some money out of me? This preacher, however, made me pay attention. His sermon was about the temptation of Jesus, and after reading the scripture, he opened his lesson by saying, “How close were we all to going to Hell.”
His words took me by surprise, and I was reaching for the remote, ready to turn it off when he clarified what he meant. If Jesus had not resisted the devil with the Word of God, if he had allowed himself to succumb to the temptation, he could not have been the Savior of the world. We were that close to losing everything.
But thank God that Jesus IS God, that he knew the Word (he should know it, he wrote it), and that he remained free of sin. He was tempted, but he did not bow down to it.
So why is it so hard for us to come to Jesus when we are being tempted, when we are struggling with sin. He understands what we’re going through. He’s been there! We don’t know what state of mind Jesus was in when the devil came and tempted him, but the Bible says that he fasted for forty days and forty nights, and he was hungry. Now I don’t know about you, but I get delirious, moody, cranky, etc., when I go without food for several hours. Not eating for a day is hard enough, not eating for forty days… some of us might call that torture. Jesus not only did that, but when the devil came to him with the simple, seemingly innocent, suggestion that he make himself some bread to eat, he resisted, saying that the Word of God was sustenance enough. How many of us can honestly say we’d do that today?
We are living in a battlefield. We are tempted daily, and while some of us resist successfully, others allow the worst to happen, and then blame the devil, but the devil can’t make you do anything. Just like God can’t make you do right, the devil can’t make you do wrong. You may think he has control, but his power is limited on this earth. At the end of the day, we are the ones who make the decision. Many Christian bashers like to question why we serve a God who would curse his own people, but God doesn’t curse us; we curse ourselves when we sin against him.
The Bible says that God “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bare. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Matthew 4 tells us that way out is his Word. We have that in our possession at all times, the Bible. We have the Holy Spirit within us. We can pray to Jesus Christ, and he will answer us. There is no reason why that ol’ pesky devil should ever get the best of us. So the real question is will we say yes to temptation, or will we be like Jesus and say, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (Matthew 4:10)?