Week of April 19

God’s Provision in Life’s Temptations

Read: 1 Samuel 19; 1 Chronicles 7; Psalm 59; Matthew 4

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1, ESV


Mature Christians will know that temptations provide them with crucial preparation for service to the Lord. Have you ever viewed temptations in this way? Jesus encountered temptation right on the heels of his mountain-top experience of God’s affirmation at His baptism and sets a wonderful example for us to follow (3:16-17). We will often reach crossroads where we must decide whether to pursue God’s path or bypass His way to follow a different one. Let’s learn from Christ’s example how to overcome temptation by following God’s principles.

A Biblical Lens

I need to clarify a troubling statement in chapter 4, verse 1. The Bible states that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be “tempted” by the devil. The word “tempted” means “the act of leading somebody astray.” The aim is to cause them to commit an act of wrongdoing. The Spirit definitely did not lead Jesus to commit an act of wrongdoing, nor was God in cahoots with the devil. The Bible teaches us that God is in no way evil, nor does He tempt us to do evil (James 1:13). Instead, the Spirit leads Jesus to the place of temptation, but he does not cause the temptation. We may be encouraged by this event and learn from it. There are several lessons to keep in mind.

First, Jesus, our Savior was tempted, yet without sin. His humanity is in full view, and he provides us with an example to follow (Hebrews 4:15). Secondly, we need to see that the Spirit is in charge of this event and not the devil. There is not some cosmic duel going on between God and the devil with an uncertain conclusion. There is absolutely no doubt that God prevails over evil (cf. Job 1:6; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Thirdly, we may learn a lesson about mountaintop spiritual experiences. They show our maturity, but they also are often followed immediately by valleys of testing! (cf. 1 Kings 19:1-18; Romans 7:14-25; NAC). You and I will be tempted, but this does not mean that we must fail and fall into sin. There is another point to consider.

Jesus shows us how to respond to the devil and his temptations. He was “led by the Spirit,” which is critical to gaining the victory over temptation (4:1). The Savior always relied upon God’s word in the trial (4:4). Notice that He did not whip out his King James Bible in that moment. Instead, the Savior quoted the Scriptures (4:4, 7, and 10; Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16, and 6:13). There is much to be said about reading and memorizing the word of God! Now, let me widen our view for just a moment longer.

Please slow your minds down for just a moment. Jesus’ response to the tempter was based solidly upon Biblical principles and teaches us a key moral lesson about how God’s world operates, and how his children follow him. A recent Pathway Devotional on Matthew 1 reminded us that we are children of God’s family, so our faith-walks will resemble the same type of commitment that believers have exhibited through the centuries. They followed God’s principles, so we may be encouraged by their examples (cf. Hebrews 11). That’s the big family picture, but we need some practical direction. The Lord has provided it in Matthew 4.

The first principle teaches us that God knows our needs and supplies them for us (cf. Matthew 6:31-33). God fed Israel in their wilderness wanderings, and he will feed you, too, so trust him. We need to take care, in the age of coronavirus when we lose our incomes and in the age of plenty when we have an abundance, not to give way to the temptation to place physical needs over spiritual ones (cf. NAC; cf. Philippians 4:11-13; Matthew 6:34).

The second principle teaches us not to put God’s faithfulness to the test (cf. Psalm 91:1; NAC; EBC). In other words, we must not place ourselves in situations where we force God to act in certain ways (see Moral Pathway below). Sometimes our actions indicate our rebellion and not our dependence upon God! (cf. Exodus 17:1-7).

Thirdly, worship of God must be evident in our daily lives, or it is false worship (Exodus 20:1-3). The allure of power, authority, and wealth will surface again and again in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but He overcame each test and earned the victory (cf. 16:21-23). He was tempted to take an easier path than the “cross-walk.” We also must remember that earthly charms are tied to false worship (4:8-10; cf. Matthew 6:24). Let’s apply one of these principles in real time.

A Moral Pathway

A minister in Virginia recently led his church to ignore social distancing requirements. He had declared in a March 22 church service where 185 members were assembled, “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus.” I hasten to write that the pastor was not intending to show “disrespect” for officials but was trying to support members of his church who were afraid of the coronavirus. However, he contracted the illness and, tragically, died. It was reported that he said, upon being wheeled into a hospital operating room, that God is still a healer (Washington Post). I grieve for his wife, family, and church.

The news account illuminates a common temptation that many sincere believers face. I agree wholeheartedly with the pastor that God does heal, and that he does control the forces of nature, but I also know that we must take great care not to put the Lord to the test. Compare, for example, Luke 8 to see ways that Christ demonstrates the proper use of His power. We must take guard against the temptation to make even a subtle demand for miraculous protection as a proof that God shelters us. God’s principle of care must be applied properly in our day-to-day lives when all is going well; and, in times of great crisis.

For Your Journaling

1. Take time to recall a recent moral failure on your part. Review the principles and examples as stated above to see where you may have failed. Ask God to strengthen you for the future.

2. Church leaders do well to consider how they are leading their people not only in this period of pandemic but on a regular basis. What decisions are being made currently and how may God’s principles ensure success?

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock