Do you remember the time Jesus was lead by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness, for the purpose of being tested? Here is one of the texts we can look at:
The Spirit led Yeshua into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Yeshua did not eat anything for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of that time, he was hungry [meaning that starvation had just begun].
The tempter came to him [Ah-ha! At His weakest point, the “tempter” came. Pretty significant, don’t you think?] and said, “If you are the Son of God, prove it by telling these stones to become loaves of bread!” (Matthew 4:2–3)
That’s kind of rough, don’t you think? I mean, it was okay that the Holy Spirit lead him into the wilderness. Jesus could spend time praying and enjoy fellowship with His Father. But no, He was led there for the specific purpose of being tested. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised about that though. When Jesus first met Saul (who later took the Greek rendering of his name, and went by Paul) while he was riding his horse on the road to Damascus. Saul saw a bright light, fell off the horse and became blind. Later, the Lord instructed a man named Ananias to go and pray for him. But in the instructions he gave to Ananias, He said, “I’ve chosen this man to bring my name to nations, to kings, and to the people of Israel. I’ll show him how much he has to suffer for the sake of my name (Acts 9:15-16) Wow! That seems unfair. Maybe, but later, when Paul was writing a letter from a prison cell in Rome, wrote about the attitude a Christian should have during these times of “testing“:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27)
What he is telling us is that no matter what unexpected disruptions, frustrations, or difficulties we face, we need to respond with the same “Christ-like” attitude. We were talking about that recently, in our weekly Bible Study group. We were discussing how we responded to the difficult situations in our life. I brought up the time when the doctor informed us that my wife had cancer. We didn’t become all anxious, saying, “Dear God, what are we going to do?” Nope. We looked at the doctor and said, “Okay, what do we do next?”
Our Pastor’s wife stated they responded the same way when they were first told she had cancer. This isn’t the reaction the doctor expects, but it is the reaction of someone whose confidence is in the Lord, alone! As one sister said during our discussion, “We can’t choose our circumstances, but we CAN choose how we will react!” Now please understand. Patrice and I, and our pastor and his wife, weren’t forcing ourselves to remain calm and positive. No, we didn’t even think about it. It was our natural response!
Another thing we should notice regarding Jesus going into the wilderness, the text said that the “Spirit” led Him into there. He didn’t go off on his own thinking, “Hmm, I think I going to see what my Father will do.” No! The “Spirit” led him “to be tested,” and the Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, as I said, in a state of starvation, which the Devil took advantage of: “Since you are God’s Son and are certainly in need, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.” Naturally, the devil brought this temptation when Jesus was physically vulnerable.
Here’s the thing: there is no sin in being hungry. So, what was the issue here? Satan was challenging Jesus: “If you are fully God, then you have His power in you. Right now, you are in a very difficult place, why don’t you use the power God gave you to deliver yourself? Didn’t He give you that power to see if you would use it correctly? This seems like the perfect time!”
I’ll tell you what, if you are serious about fulfilling the Lord’s call on your life, you pay attention because you will experience this. And it is one of the most insidious temptations you will face! Yes, you want to honor your Father and display His mighty power. You have set your heart to be completely surrendered to Him. But then the Lord leads you into a wilderness experience. Again, is that fair? Well, yes! You may become dismayed, angry, confused and after a while, you might start asking some pretty hard questions. You start to lose your bearings, wondering about His eternal purposes in your life. While you try to pray and gain the victory, Satan’s temptations seem stronger than ever.
Ah, now this is where you run into the Danger Zone. You see, your enemy wants you to act independently of the Father. The devil says, “Your suffering is unfair. You don’t have to go through this. Through His Spirit, you have His power in you. Just speak the word — free yourself. Satisfy your own hunger.” When Jesus hung on the cross, they yelled, “You were going to tear down God’s temple and build it again in three days. Save yourself! If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
In Jesus’ experience in the wilderness, Satan’s first scheme was to create a power failure. He was hoping Jesus’ Father would never honor his cry for bread if he did ask. If heaven’s power failed, then Jesus might doubt his divinity and turn aside from his eternal purpose on earth. Second, Satan heard Jesus say that he was sent to do only what the father told him. So he was attempting to convince Jesus to disobey for his own welfare. That way, if Jesus did use his power to avoid suffering, he would do the same later to avoid the cross.
Now in Jesus’ situation, how did he answer the devil’s temptation? “It is written, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone but on every word that God speaks” (Matthew 4:4). Essentially, Christ was saying, “My coming to earth is not about my needs, hurts or physical comfort. I came to give to man — not to save myself.” Even during a time of immense suffering, Jesus did not lose sight of his eternal purpose. If our Lord learned dependence and compassion through a wilderness experience, so will we.
To put a finer point to this: if you are facing a “wilderness experience,” of your own, or a time of immense suffering, I want you to stop and ask your Father about it. Go ahead! He doesn’t want you going it alone! Your suffering could be an attack from your enemy, and yes, it might be a “test” you are called to face; it could also be the result of sin or an abuse of the gift that has been given to you. The point is you need to consult your Father to get His take on the situation. Then follow His instructions!
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