Day 3: Denying Temptation

Read Matthew 4:1-4
Read Luke 4:1-4

I’m consistently tempted by food. I know eating another Oreo isn’t good for my health, yet I find drawing another cookie from the package. Similarly, as I peruse our refrigerator full of good food, my mind wonders and I suddenly crave a $25 pasta dish at a favorite restaurant.

Temptation abounds in this world, and it corrupts our minds with far more than food. Our sinful brains are constantly bombarded by opportunities to do things we know take us outside God’s law… but in the moment, they seem impossible to resist.

Jesus knows the feeling. As we discussed yesterday, He spent 40 days in the Judean wilderness without food or water and became quite hungry. Satan showed up to taunt and tempt Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus was challenged to use God’s gifts for a selfish purpose, which would’ve been sin. It also would’ve defeated Jesus’ purpose of testing Himself in the wilderness in the first place.

Jesus knew that Satan was right; He could conjure enough bread to satiate His ravenous appetite with a simple thought. At this point, He was literally starving. He needed food to carry on. He resisted (we’ll touch more on Jesus’ response tomorrow), but there was surely some small part of His mind that wanted to take the devil up on his suggestion.

This is why Satan is so dangerous: he knows how to hit us when we’re at our weakest. He strikes when we’re feeling hurt, vulnerable, desperate, and low, and he’s a brilliant strategist. Thanks to a lifetime of observation, he knows your unique weaknesses.

That makes him a terrifying enemy.

Even after Jesus fended off Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, Luke 4:13 says, “he left Him until an opportune time.” Even when you momentarily defeat the devil’s attacks, you know he’ll be back, and this time with a new and improved game plan.

Here’s the good news: He ultimately only has power if you choose to give it to him. Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Notice this verse does not promise protection from temptation; rather, it ensures temptation will come (“when you are tempted”, not if). But you will never face a temptation you’re not capable of handling. If you turn to God, He’ll help you find a way out. It won’t necessarily be easy, but the devil can only tempt you. He cannot control you. In the end, no matter how strong the temptation, the choice is yours.

You’re not always going to reseal the package of Oreos. Sometimes you’re going to succumb and enjoy the momentary pleasure, only to deal with the consequences (an extra five minutes on the treadmill or weight gain) later. But I pray that, more often than not, you’ll take James 4:7 to heart:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

The devil eventually fled from Jesus, and tomorrow we’ll dig into why.