Ready. Set. Fight.
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
There is so much to learn from Jesus’ time in His own personal wilderness, a parallel to Israel’s wandering in the Old Testament. He was tested in an undoubtedly weak state (due to his lengthy fast), and was able to withstand the temptations of the devil.
Because of the Holy Spirit within each saint, we are able to stand strong in the face of vigorous adversity and overcome any obstacle put before us. All of us face trials. In John 16, Jesus clearly states that tribulation is a given. He could’ve ended His statement there, deflating the apostles even further after foretelling His imminent death. However, he gives them hope – “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
James actually encourages his readers to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2).
Testing is good. Those of us who have gone through any education system should understand this. Just as scholastic testing assesses how well one understands the material and can apply it, spiritual testing exposes the effect of our faith. Tests bring about results, and those results are always earned based upon the degree of preparation.
With that said, let’s backtrack to Matthew 4 to evaluate Jesus as He was faced with opposition. What can we learn from Him that can prepare us to thrive under spiritual pressure?
#1: Follow the leader (wherever He goes).
As we discussed earlier, trials cannot be avoided. God ordains them, and we must merely obediently follow Him into the pressure cooker. His goal is not for us to fail (although many times it is necessary), but to grow to trust Him and follow Him more closely from then on.
#2: Know the leader (before, during, and after the struggle).
Jesus was fasting before he was confronted with the temptations that are recorded. Biblical fasting is a twofold process – (1) an emptying of something carnal, AND (2) a filling of spiritual nourishment. During His time in the wilderness, Jesus (who we must remember is the Son of God and of Man) was feasting on the Scriptures, as is evidenced in His interactions with Satan. He knew the Father well, and this empowered Him further to defend Himself, even during a time of physical weakness.
We must cling to God. To know Him is to cherish Him, and to cherish Him is to ward off anything that could prove detrimental to our relationship with Him. Spiritual battles never end in a draw. If you know Him and trust Him, He will win the battle for you.
Notice that Jesus fought off the enemy with Scripture. Because He knew the Father and was empowered by His divine Word, He was able to defeat Satan. Jesus didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He was ready to face His opposition head-on.
Satan is a powerful enemy. He knows our weaknesses, and has a battle plan in place to destroy us. In our own strength, we are unable to come out victorious against our foe. BUT God equips us for the fight when we press into Him.
Ephesians 6:10-11 reads, “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” It goes on to describe in detail the spiritual armor that God has for us, and how each piece is advantageous in the battle.
God knows the enemy’s tricks and wishes to equip us with the tools to stand strong as we journey through life’s hardships. Our God is a Mighty Warrior, who is eternally victorious. Stand with Him, and He will prepare you for the fight…and the victory!
When we trust Him and know Him intimately, we are prepared for the trials that come our way. The fight is coming. Be ready for it ahead of time.