When we’re going through really difficult times, it’s sometimes hard to believe God’s Word that our trials will result in something good (Romans 8:28). We wade into deep waters and fear that God’s grace will not be enough. Part of this fear may be because we’re in uncharted waters. We never thought we’d be in the position we find ourselves in. We desperately search the Scriptures, we pray fervently, we cry out to Him in faith, but we don’t see any rational point for the darkness that’s settled over our lives. It’s times like this that we should learn from Jesus how to handle the fearful times we face.
In Matthew 3:13-17 we read that Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan river to be baptized by John the Baptist. When Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove. Then God made a public proclamation:
And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
God publicly proclaimed His love for His Son and that He was well pleased with Him. Immediately after this we read:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
To a lesser extent, we can relate to this too. After a period of closeness with the Father, we sometimes find ourselves in a desert of our own. Yet, it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into a desert to be tempted, so this wasn’t a surprise to God (just like our difficult times are not a surprise to Him). On the contrary, this was God’s plan for His Son. Even though God was pleased with Jesus, He required Jesus to be tempted after Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. This seems a little counterintuitive to us. If God were really pleased with Jesus, why lead Him into a desert to be tempted? Because God has a good plan, and He knows absolute best.
We read that Jesus was hungry, and probably very weak. At this very vulnerable point in His life, Satan shows up to tempt Jesus three times. Even though Jesus was hungry and maybe weak, each time He responds with clear thinking, and faith and confidence in the Word and character of God.
Temptation #1: Fulfill Your Desires
Satan tempts Jesus to usurp God’s authority and take matters into His own hands.
The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3
Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
Sometimes our desires like to disguise themselves as needs. Although Jesus was hungry, He understood His stomach wasn’t His god. Comfort wasn’t His god. His life was more than food. His life was for the glory and honor of God and the fulfillment of His Word.
Temptation #2: Questioning/Challenging God’s Love for Us
Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Matthew 4:5-6
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:7
Once again, Jesus responded with the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God. He shows us that we are not to put conditions/demands on God’s love. For example: “God if you really loved me, you would give me __________ (fill in the blank with what your heart desires).” Who are we to test God’s love for us? Wasn’t the cross enough proof of His love?
Temptation #3: Worship the Created Instead of the Creator
8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Matthew 4:10
Jesus resisted the temptation to look for fulfillment in this created world. He had no intention of being distracted by lesser gods. He knew that true fulfillment and satisfaction are found worshiping the Father and finding our ultimate satisfaction in our relationship with Him.
Lessons to Learn and to Remember
So, how do we apply all this to our lives? In difficult times we would do well to remember the foundational truths upon which our faith is built. As time goes on, we tend to either forget or overlook them, or think they are too elementary.
- When going through trials and when thoughts and doubts about God’s care for us start creeping in, we need to remember the cross. Our greatest need has been met at the cross when God gave His Son to redeem and rescue us. God promises to meet all our needs (not all our wants) (2 Peter 1:3, Romans 8:32) and we have to believe by faith that He will. We need to believe that Gods’ grace will indeed be sufficient.
- God’s love never changes—it doesn’t increase or decrease. And God’s love cannot be measured by how well or how difficult our circumstances are. God promises that He will complete the work He started in each one of us (Philippians 1:6), and that work will include trials and temptations (1 Peter 4:12-13). If Jesus was tried and tempted, we will be too. And because He was tried and tempted while on earth, He understands what we go through and is now our sympathetic and merciful High Priest (Hebrews 4:15). He knows our pains and sorrows, and that gives us great comfort to know that Jesus is not asking us to go through anything that He hasn’t gone through on our behalf. And He also knows what those pains and sorrows will produce in our lives—perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5). God loves us and will protect us as He chips away whatever in our lives/character doesn’t look like Jesus. And beware—chipping hurts!
- The enemy of our souls would love for us turn to things rather than to God and believe that the created will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Jesus demonstrated a life-changing truth for us: this world will never satisfy. Never. The lesser gods that this world offers make big promises, but they will always fail us. Only our Creator’s promises will always be fulfilled, and He alone can and will satisfy our deepest longings. We have to set our hearts and minds on the things above and not the things of this world (Colossians 3:1-4). This world is full of glitz and glitter, but it’s all a cheap imitation compared to glories that await us in the world to come (John 14:1-4; Revelation 21:1-6).
Let’s take our cues from Jesus as we learn to work through our own personal pains and sorrows the way He did—putting our confidence and hope in God’s Word, trusting Him that His grace is sufficient to meet our needs, believing by faith in His unchanging and everlasting love, and finding our satisfaction and fulfillment in God alone. As we learn these lessons and take them to heart, we will be better equipped to help others do the same.