By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
When my little brother was in first or second grade, he began playing with matches and once singed most of his curly blond hair. Thankfully, he never was badly hurt, but it was obvious that all the Smokey Bear commercials he’d watched had not had the desired effect. Fire was exciting, playing with matches was fun, and the temptation to go against the rules was strong.
Every person encounters temptation, usually right after resolving to live right, so each of us needs help in resisting temptation. Generally, there are three traps which can ensnare us, but the good news is there are three answers provided for dealing with temptations.
A high point of Jesus’ ministry occurred when he was recognized by John the Baptist, the onlookers heard the voice of God, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him as a dove. The fourth chapter of Matthew begins with a key word: “Then” and immediately the wilderness temptation experience began.
The first test offered by Satan was in the area of physical need. Jesus was hungry after fasting, and it would not have been wrong to satisfy that need. The subtlety was that if he had turned stones to bread, he would have taken a shortcut out of God’s will. The answer to waiting to meet a legitimate physical need is to develop a new appetite. Anyone who seeks God with his whole heart will be satisfied even if physical needs are not immediately and completely met.
Next, Jesus endured a test of presumption when Satan suggested he do a big showy thing, throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Though the divine plan was that Jesus would demonstrate who he was, this was not God’s time nor His way to let the world know. Jesus’ answer to presuming on God’s deliverance was, “’You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” – in other words, don’t play games.
In the final test, Satan offered Jesus great wealth. Sometimes things we think we possess have a hold on us. The root of the problem is that the drive, the addiction, the person who provides those also requires our worship and devotion. Achieving wealth without learning to sacrifice is bowing down to the provider of our things. Jesus’ last answer was that we’re to worship only God, and serve Him.
Babies can’t wait for their needs to be met – when they need fed, changed or comforted, they make that clear to everyone around. Teenagers sometimes do risky things and think they’ll get away with them. Most of us as American adults have not endured real sacrifice, and we never outgrow temptations.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of temptation for Jesus. “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Throughout His public ministry and culminating in the Garden, Christ “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The end result of yielding to temptation can be ruined marriages, damaged health or peace of mind, destroyed reputations and influence. But those who overcome are able to realize their mission and purpose in God’s plan.
Looking at the temptation of Christ and His responses to Satan, we should note that Jesus quoted scriptures each time. In our weakness, and even in His strength, all of us must learn to rely on God’s authority, the Bible to counter temptations which surely will come.
“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).