Yesterday, one of my Bible readings concerned Jesus' temptation in the wilderness.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’"Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:1-13
When I was growing up, I viewed this as just one of those pieces of "head knowledge" that Christians were supposed to have: Jesus was tempted, he resisted temptation, he was God.
Then several years ago, I suddenly saw myself in the story too.
• The temptation to turn the stone into bread is the temptation to take shortcuts or do ungodly things to provide for my daily needs.
• The second temptation is the temptation to seek status and glory and recognition.
• The third temptation is a fear for physical safety and the temptation to demand that God protect me from every risk . . . with perhaps a consequent loss of faith if I experience suffering.
Each of those temptations plagues me often, although usually not all at once. Which temptation proves most vexing depends on what is going on in my life.
I was glad to be reminded of this passage yesterday because we are going through uncertain times. I know that I have been feeling a lot of anxiety about the economy and the campaign, and it's starting to pull me down, . . . and from what I've been reading on other blogs, a similar malaise is affecting many others.
In his answers to Satan, Jesus seems to be saying that the solution to the three temptations offered is to remember who God is. Immerse yourself in his word. Remember that God is in charge of everything and worship him. Do not put him to the test by setting up hoops he must jump through before you will trust him.
The following Psalm was not part of the readings for yesterday, but I spent time with it all the same because it reminded me of the same messge:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. . . .
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:1-2; 10-11
If the economy crashes, if I lose my home, if all that I have saved for retirement melts away, God will still be God. I will still have the same choices of whether to love, honor, and obey him or to pursue my own desires and goals.
I pray that I may be found faithful by the choices that I make.