Keys to Overcoming Temptation
Picture this. You are stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. It is mid day and extremely hot outside. There are no trees nor places to find shade. It has been hours since the last car or truck passed by. You have run out of water and you have no food. You are getting hungry and desperate. With each passing hour, it is becoming clear that you are going to be stuck here for the night with no guarantee that tomorrow will make any difference.
At the moment that all hope seems lost, someone suddenly appears with what seems like a back seat full of your favorite meal, plenty of water to drink, and best of all, an opportunity to get out of this hot and miserable place. At first glance, you begin to experience feelings of having won the lottery! You are excited and begin to think that this person had been sent by God to rescue you. After all you have been through over the last 24 hours, there is no other way to explain this sudden appearance of provision and hope.
However, there is a catch to getting in the car. You see, this "God-sent" man also happens to be a drug dealer and needs someone to help smuggle some of his merchandise past a stop point about 150 miles down the road. For you to enter the car, eat and drink all you want, and return to civilization all you need to do is agree to help him. You know deep down inside that what he has asked is going to get you in deep trouble, but you have not seen a single car pass by for over 24 hours. You are hungry, thirsty, sunburned, and very tired. You are desperate. What are you going to do?
In Matthew 4, Jesus went through a somewhat similar experience just after having been baptized by John. The Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting both food and liquids. He is tired, hungry, and thirsty when the devil appears with what seems like some good solutions. Jesus already knows His life will end in a horrible death at the hands of man. But He also knows that the death He will face will bring restoration between God and man. However, the current circumstance and the cries of His flesh were likely beginning to tell a different story.
So how did Jesus respond to this crisis moment? How did He respond to satan and the longings of His flesh? I believe there are 3 keys that we can learn from Jesus in overcoming the temptations of the enemy. The first key to overcoming temptation is to dive into the Word of God and believe that the Father will make a way when there seems to not be one. Jesus referenced Deuteronomy 8:3 which says "People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." All throughout the gospels we see Jesus using scripture as His source of strength in His life and ministry and He taught His disciples to do the same. As His disciples today, we need to follow this pattern for life by daily spending time studying, meditating, and memorizing His word.
The second key to overcoming temptation is to remain faithful to the path God has put you on and do not accept any 'shortcuts'. The second attack on Jesus was really more about His identity and escaping the temptation through a "shortcut" than anything else. Jesus already knew it was not time for Him to die, so jumping off the highest point of the temple would not only provide an escape, but prove again that Jesus was the Messiah. Instead, Jesus chooses to respond by repeating Deuteronomy 6:16 to satan "You must not test the Lord your God". He remained faithful to the path that the Father had laid out for Him. There are many occasions where we too have an opportunity to take a shortcut to our calling and with each one of those "shortcuts" we will be tempted to think that God will work it all out. However, as Jesus pointed out to satan, we must not test the Father. We must stay on course no matter how difficult the struggle may seem.
The third key to overcoming temptation is to focus your worship on the Father and serve Him alone. The death of Jesus was the path for Him to restore the broken relationship between God and His people and satan offers Him a shortcut to avoid that horrible death He would soon experience. Of course, Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 "You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him". All throughout the gospels we see Jesus going off to spend time alone with the Father. It was in these times of worship and prayer that Jesus would receive direction for His ministry, which of course, was the key that He taught His disciples who would later plant the 1st century church.
Notice in all of these occasions Jesus was able to not only speak scriptures towards the temptations, but live them out as well. This is where our challenge comes. Joshua 1:8 says “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." This is the battle we must win each and every day. Many of us have spent hours in the Word and we know the truth. But do we let it guide each of our daily decisions? We know not to get into the car with that drug dealer as we know the story will not end well. But under difficult circumstances, when our flesh is getting desperate, are you going to let your flesh decide or hold firm to what the Word is guiding us to do?
What we likely won't see in that moment, or at least what the enemy will try to keep us from seeing, is that there is another car coming down the road. This one driven by Jesus himself. This one full of everything you need to live and enjoy a successful life. All you need to do is overcome the enemy's offer and wait a few more minutes. Of course, your flesh is desperately crying out for relief and you just cannot see that car coming. You are blinded by your own needs. What will you do? In whose word will you trust? How will you overcome this temptation to please your flesh?