In high school and college, I was very athletic; throughout my 20s, I was an avid runner. I burned so many calories each day that I never had to think about making healthy food choices. However, since I’ve gotten older and my children keep me busy, this is an area I now have to consider. The problem is … I absolutely love sweets. I find myself leaning toward Little Debbie rather than listening to the advice of Dr. Oz.
My family and friends laugh at me because every Monday I start “my diet.” So, that means on Sundays I eat what I want since it’s “the last time” I can have those delectable treats before I begin my hardcore diet. Monday rolls around, and I do a great job depriving myself of all things sweet. Tuesday comes and I am tempted beyond measure as my children eat their snacks or we drive by Sonic and see ice cream advertisements.
By Wednesday, I feel as though I’m having withdrawals. Thoughts of donuts and cookies consume my mind, and finally, when no one is looking, I tell myself that I can have just one Oreo because I deserve it. I hide in the pantry with the intentions of eating just that one cookie; once I realize no one saw me, I have another. By that time, I’m convinced that since I’ve already had two, I might as well have several more.
Full of shame since my diet was sabotaged, I normally continue in my old habits and wait until the next Monday to start my diet fresh once again.
Although this is a light-hearted example of temptation, it’s absolutely true and a realistic representation of how we are all tempted by a similar pattern. The temptation to eat the Oreo is not wrong. The sinfulness is the action that occurs as we listen to the lies that “we deserve it,” or “no one will know,” or “since we’ve already messed up once we might as well jump in with both feet.”
I can remember hearing the story of Jesus’ temptation as I grew up in church. To be honest, this account never felt personal to me because I only saw Jesus as God, not man. In my mind, He was much like an indestructible superhero that could not be tempted in any way because in His perfection, He was just too powerful. But as I’ve studied His temptation throughout this year, I have learned countless lessons and discovered how flawed my view was.
Lesson One: Temptation can come at any period in our lives.
In my ignorance, I never stopped to see the significance in the timing of Jesus’ temptation. The point in Jesus’ life when this took place is highly important because it comes immediately after one of the most glorious days of His life. The day His Heavenly Father began to prepare Him for his earthly ministry. He had just been to the Jordan where He had been baptized and heard His Father’s proud voice boom from above with affection.
Luke 4:1 tells us that Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, was then led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days. Although God was truly pleased with His beloved Son, He purposefully led Jesus to the lonely, miserable desert. He knew that in order for Jesus’ earthly ministry to be successful, He had no choice but to allow Jesus to face the Devil head-on.
Many times, we also see that our greatest temptations come after blessings or spiritual highs. God also fills us, His children, with the same Spirit that was in Jesus and allows us to be tempted and tried in order to prepare us for our earthly ministry, as well.
Dr. Adrian Rogers says the timing of temptation should not surprise us because, “when a Christian has the approval of heaven, he should also be ready for the assault of hell.”
Lesson Two: Temptation can occur at any place.
I grew up thinking that if Jesus were isolated in the desert, there would be no way for the Devil to truly tempt Him. But being that He was fully man, not a superhero, it made no difference that He was perfect when tempted by food. The Devil knew all too well that Jesus was human and knew exactly what His body desired and needed. Though sinless as He was, He was still hungry.
In my illustration, I admitted that I normally cave into my cravings after a day or two even though my body is not even close to starving. I just selfishly want to fulfill my fleshly desires. Jesus, on the other hand, was literally starving since He had fasted for 40 days. He was tired, vulnerable, and weak. He was physically at His lowest point when Satan tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. Yet, He did not put His desires above the will of God.
It makes no difference where we are, the Devil will always know where to find us and what our physical weaknesses are. The first Adam was tempted with food in a beautiful, lavish garden. The second Adam was tempted with food in a barren desert. Whether we are in a crowded room or completely alone, the Devil knows the environment in which we are most likely to fail.
Lesson Three: Temptation also comes to every person.
I was also deceived by thinking that Jesus couldn’t possibly relate to my temptations because He had not been tempted in the exact same ways as I had. But this is untrue as well. Jesus was tempted in three ways: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).
Although we may not be tempted to throw ourselves from a high point and have angels catch us, we have been and will be tempted in these same three areas. We deal with sins of the flesh when we are tempted by food, drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence. We face the lust of the eyes when we covet others or look at images or people with sinful desires. The pride of life entraps us when we want to “make a name for ourselves,” receive the glory or credit for things, or think of ourselves as better than someone else.
There is not one human, not even Jesus, who has ever been exempt from temptation.
In many ways growing up, I overlooked many details of Jesus’ temptation, but one detail I knew for certain: Jesus was victorious. Though God did not deliver Him from this trying time, He did empower Him, just as He will empower us.
My favorite part of this story is revealed in Luke 4:14 when we’re told that Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. He entered the desert full of the Spirit, endured a face-to-face battle with the Devil himself, then returned in the power of the Spirit. This gruesome wilderness time was to test Him to see if He had what it took to be the pure sacrifice, to train Him for ministry, and ultimately to prepare Him for death. But as we see, His trials actually led to life! It was only then, by the power of the Spirit, He was able to drive out demons, heal the sick, make the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead to rise!
If the Devil had enough audacity to approach the Son of God, how much more will he pursue us? We must follow Jesus’ example as children of God and be submissive to our Father’s will. We must also know the Scripture and be ready to use it in battle as He did. God’s plan is not for us to be defeated. He wants us to also be victorious in the power of the Spirit as we fulfill our ministry.
Will you be overcome or be an overcomer? Will you be a victim of temptation or live as a victor?
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4, NIV).