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Practicaly Holy Blog

Helping people help others in the name of Jesus Christ

Trial by fire

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 4:1-4 – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Fellow follower of Jesus Christ I must confess…I hate this part of the story. Mainly because it leaves me with no self-justifying excuse when I sin against God. Jesus followed the certain direction of God and the place God led him was far from “blessed “. Jesus was in a dry, desolate, lonely place, fasting and waiting on the Father to reveal Himself. For forty days he heard nothing. Then, when someone did show up, it was the Devil.  It was not until after the time of testing by God through the temptation of the Devil, that Jesus was ministered to by the angels. Only then, did he experience God’s immediate blessing.

Fasting demands that we focus more purposefully upon God and meditate more deeply upon His word to us. In the process we become more sensitive to our need for God and hopefully, more grateful for His presence with us. Yet, the overwhelming majority of us, myself included, are more inclined to question God when He leads us into situations where our fundamental weakness is exposed. Just beneath the surface, our primary preoccupation is with our physical circumstances, material security, and social status. If any of that is jeopardized we practically turn our backs on God, rather than focusing more purposefully upon God and meditating more attentively upon God’s word.

The other part that troubles me about this passage is that God led Jesus into this desperate situation. When I think of God leading me I think of fulfillment, success, and accomplishment. I think of a life where all of my needs are comfortably accounted for and all of my desires are satisfied. But this sounds more like Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This is the psalm that starts with “The Lord is my shepherd.” Shepherds lead their flock from the front. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit of God. He was not alone. Jesus fasted and prayed and meditated on the scriptures for forty days and nights. He was alone with God and his human weakness for forty days and nights. He faced the depth of his human limitations for forty days and nights. He humbled himself before God for forty days and nights. He was exposed to the elements for forty days and nights. And God was with him the whole time. 

As followers of Jesus Christ we do not have easier lives than people who do not follow Christ. We do not escape the experience of tragedy and loss. God does not keep us from experiencing the shame and despair we feel in the face of our weakness and failures. God does not shield us from betrayal, mockery, and disappointment. 

The difference is God leads us, stands with us, and embraces us through our times of confusion, grief, disappointment, and despair. In moments of crisis our temptation is to take our lives into our own hands as if God is no longer with us and no longer faithful. Will we trust in God to our last breath, or will we look to ourselves? Will we continue to live for God, no matter what it costs us in status, time, or treasure? Or will we give in to our fears and spend our lives covering ourselves no matter what it costs the people around us?  If Jesus had given in to the temptation to cover himself, no one would be writing or talking about him today.

Part of our testimony as Christ followers is that God’s grace through Jesus Christ frees us to live for God without fear of loss or death. We can only fully experience this truth when no one but God can help us. So rather than wringing our hands when we face desperate circumstances, let ‘s remember that God is with us. We are not alone. Let’s commit to drawing closer to God in prayer, and accepting more fully our essential dependence upon God and stay true to God through the hard times. 

In response:

1. Meditate on God’s word. Keep it simple. Consider what your immediate circumstances look like in light of God’s presence and glory.

2. Remember you are not the center of God’s program. You are a part of what God is doing for the glory of his name and the redemption of his creation.

3. Wait faithfully for God to answer your prayers while you continue to honor the depth of his love for others.
4. In all humility, thank God for his faithfulness in continuing to guide you into all truth and equip you for his work. Especially in the face of temptation.

Isam Itson

Practically Holy is a mentoring community dedicated to empowering people to help each other as a practical and sustainable expression of their faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what Practically Holy is all about. Pursuing our common humanity in Jesus Christ by honoring our God-given purpose and boundaries, as we follow Jesus Christ together, and help others do the same, as dedicated members of our communities, from generation to generation.

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