Hardship (Matthew 4:8-9)

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Jesus has been led by the Spirit into the desert. After He’s fasted forty days  and forty  nights, the tempter comes to Him and begins the trial. Jesus is subsequently tested through temptation to satiate His own very real and very intense hunger. He refuses. Then the devil takes Him to the highest point of the temple and encourages Him to attempt suicide, knowing full well that the angels will protect Him. Jesus sees through the prompt and notes that it is best not to test God, who He knows is faithful.

Hidden within the verses that tell the story are the emotions and mental anguish of the moments they gloss over. For Christ, this has been no walk in the park. Most of us are tempted by the smallest thought of food when we are barely less than stuffed. Most of us would cave, given the force of sudden demonic transport and the prompting of the least of Satan’s generals. But though the chief enemy of God has twice personally approached Him, and though He was even physically manhandled to the temple and brought to its highest point, Christ has stood firm. 

What He has just endured is completely beyond words. Yet when we read in Matthew of Jesus overcoming the second temptation, we find right after it one of the most frightful words one can imagine: “Again.”  

There are times in life when we endure great hardship, and at the conclusion of that hardship we find not the rest and peace of a different season, but a still greater torment of our souls. Jesus knows that feeling, for He endured it also. 

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 

This temptation is not like the first two. Now the devil lays down his cards. The time for wordplay and deceit is over. He flat out offers all he has, which is what he believes Jesus is after. For what more could anyone want than everything? 

To a starving man – tired from the trip to the temple peak, exhausted from the climb up the mountain and no doubt thought too weary to think clearly – it ought to be a slam dunk. Everything – all the wealth, all the power, all the authority, all the honor, all the glory, all the service of every other human being. Everything is offered to Him, and all at Jesus’ weakest moment. 

One imagines there must have been at least the briefest of pauses. But to pause now is to consider, and to consider is to muse on the idea, and to muse on the idea is to flirt with the temptation. Jesus will have none of that. He has trained His mind in the holy Word of God and He has allowed the Spirit to fill His soul. Such practices will not let Him down now, at this most critical moment. The filling of our souls with God’s Holy Spirit and the filling of our minds with His Holy Word are not only infallible defences against the error of satan’s promptings, they are infallible helps to us who are being assailed on the front line of the Holy War.

God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

C.S. Lewis

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How are you training your mind for those moments of weakness? How full is your soul with the Holy Spirit? Will you be ready when the Lord gives you your assignment on the front line of His Holy War?

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