THEN JESUS WAS led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:1-4).
Doubt and desperation can be some strong emotions.
They can lead us into a state of crisis and direct all of our attention on self-preservation.
They can cause us to be emotionally hijacked in such a way that we do and say things that we would otherwise not even imagine.
Just think of the story of the golden calf.
Moses was only gone for 40 days before the people began to panic and throw away everything they knew and believed about God and made for themselves an idol to worship. It didn’t matter that God had displayed His power to them through the plagues or parting the Red Sea.
They flushed the thoughts of how God provided for them every day through the manna or water from the rock. Doubt, desperation and anxiety set in — then the unthinkable happened.
Satan presses hard to have these emotions rule our lives and overwhelm us.
His questions are intended to breathe fear and death into our hearts. He even tried it with God Himself in the wilderness as he walked with Jesus.
“If you are the Son of God …”
The great irony is that Satan knew that He, Jesus, is the Son of God and that Christ had nothing to prove.
Yet, even found in the flesh there in the wilderness, Jesus remained steadfast in His mission. He would not be distracted or swayed.
Being the object of Satan’s attacks and temptations, He was not overcome with reckless emotion.
Being weak and starved, He did not fall into a state of crisis and look toward self-survival.
No, He held close the Word of God.
That Word which is a lamp to our feet, the source of life, faith and the power of God.
It was not Satan’s questions that shaped Jesus’ thoughts and actions, nor the hardships of the wilderness, but only the Word of God.
We find ourselves wandering in our own wilderness, tempted by the world, our sinful flesh, and, of course, Satan and his fellow demons.
Questions assail us. Demands of proof of who we are and whose we are barrage us at times.
We hear the voices in this life question, “If you are the child of God … why is this happening? Save yourself.”
In those times we feel alone, afraid and start grasping at anything that might relieve our fears. We panic.
We throw our hands up, walk away from our commitments, spew hurtful words on those we love and even exchange God as the provider of our life for ourselves.
To put it simply, we isolate ourselves and become inward focused. We choose to become what we fear the most; we are alone.
That’s when we are the most vulnerable as our adversary, the father of lies, prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour.
Jesus walking out into the wilderness, being tempted by Satan, is not the first time something like this happened.
On the first day of creation, when the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.
Then the Word entered chaos with the voice of God, “let there be light.”
At that moment light splintered the darkness and a clear distinction was made.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, once again entered darkness of this world and was used to shatter, yet again, the darkness with His voice.
There is light and darkness, right and wrong, truth and lies, God’s Word with eternal life and the works of evil and death.
What good would a piece of bread be when your body is thrown into eternal hell? No … man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
God’s Word takes our gaze from the momentary sufferings of this life and fixes our eyes on Christ Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
His Word has us look past the grave markers, the medical bills, the shrinking budget, the chaos of change and peer into the eternal home that has been purchased for us by the blood of the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
It refocuses us, not on trying to prove who or whose we are, but on the confidence of knowing who and whose we are.
His word cuts into our darkness like a two-edged sword and exposes the misleading remarks of our enemy.
It gives us the faith to say, “I am forgiven, I am baptized into Christ, I am God’s child!”
With that, His word provides us the freedom from living life in fear, anxiety, doubt or despair.
Knowing that our Lord so graciously didn’t even spare His own son in providing for our eternal life, he will most certainly provide for all my needs of body and soul.
What great comfort comes in knowing that your life is held not in your own hands, but by the hands that bled on Calvary’s mountain.
If you are being drained by the chances and changes of life, if Satan is pressing hard, run to the Word and feast on it.
There you will find life, God-given abundant life.
To Him be the glory.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]