Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.” Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him (Matthew 4:1-11, Common English Bible).
Sometimes I think all of us feel like the guy in the picture above. We’ve got the devil sitting on one shoulder whispering in our ear and absolutely nothing on the other side. We are left feeling completely alone. It’s not a place any of us want to be.
When temptation shows up, it can be something difficult for us to deal with. I personally think it is even harder to deal with temptation when we are all alone. After all, there is no one there but us. No one will know the difference. It becomes easy to justify. It becomes easy to rationalize.
Wouldn’t it be so easy if we could copy Jesus’ words and say, “Go away Satan…” and we would be relieved of our temptation? I don’t know about you, but it rarely happens that way for me. The temptation might be there in the beginning but it isn’t really strong. Yet the longer I sit with it on my mind, the more difficult it is not to fall victim. Oh, but if I could just say go away and the temptation would be gone from my heart and mind. It would make life so much easier.
I have a few suggestions that might help here. When I quit smoking more than 30 years ago, while watching television or some other thing that occupied my mind but not my hands, I found things to do with my hands other than smoke. Unfortunately one of them was to eat and I am still dealing with the consequences of that temptation. Still, in the evening I try to keep my hands busy in order to not eat. I do find it effective.
If what you are dealing with is more of a mental temptation or something that might not be a temptation with your hands, take your mind somewhere else. Watch a movie. Read a book. Play with the kids or the grandkids. Whatever it might be, get your mind off of what tempts you. It may not last forever but it might just get you through.
In the end, however, temptation is a spiritual problem. Keeping your hands busy or getting your mind on something else might be helpful but in the end, you will have to deal with the temptation on a spiritual level. In our lesson today, Jesus dealt with temptation through His knowledge of Scripture. For every temptation Satan threw at Jesus, Jesus had an answer with Scripture. Another way to overcome temptation could be that book you read in the example above, make it the Bible. But in addition, having Scripture readily at hand comes down to studying Scripture during times when we are not being tempted. In so doing, when temptation comes at us, we are prepared.
One other help I would mention is prayer. God may not take the temptation away, but God may well help you find a way to endure.
In closing out today’s post I would also like to remind you, temptation can come, perhaps even at its strongest, when we are on top of that spiritual mountain. Remember, in the chapter we just finished yesterday, Jesus was baptized. We turn the page and find him being tempted. We should never think that once we become Christians or once we find our way to the mountain-top, that we leave temptation behind. It would be nice if it worked that way. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t.
What tempts you most? How do you overcome your temptations.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved