DEALING WITH TEMPTATIONS
Imagine a beautiful morning in central Europe. You’re out walking the streets of an idyllic village where there are rustic houses scattered among green fields. On your walk you notice a lovely smell reaching your nostrils: the fragrance of fresh bread! Almost without realizing, your feet quicken their pace as you scout the street for the sight of the bakery. When you finally spot it, you hasten to the window and stop to admire the beautiful view of fresh patisserie. Your hand reaches to push the door open when you suddenly recall that you can’t eat anything – not today – you’re fasting!
Temptation is a part of life. We can’t avoid it completely, even if we shut ourselves inside for the rest of our lives! Yet in Hebrews 4:15 it is comforting to read that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” I find it amazing that Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses! He lived a perfectly pure life and yet because He was also tempted on earth, He is sympathetic. He is not cold or distant when we are in situations of temptation. In fact, it is precisely in these situations that we are invited to draw close to God! “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
In the Lord’s prayer we are encouraged to pray that God will not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil one (Matthew 6:13). God is portrayed as such a good Father in this prayer that we find out that He is happy even to keep us from situations of temptation – if we just ask Him to do so! From the Lord’s prayer we learn that He doesn’t just forgive us our sins but that He also desires to keep us from temptation. Using the little analogy above, it’s as if we prayed that we would not even bump into a bakery when we’re fasting!
In his book Stand, pastor Karl Martin explores Jesus’ temptation in the desert from a fresh perspective. According to him, Jesus was tempted in the realm of appetite.
- He was hungry – and the devil suggested fast food (perhaps Jesus thought: no thanks, I’m fasting food)!
- He was called to display God’s power – and the devil asked Him to play with power.
- Jesus was about to receive all authority in heaven and on earth – and the devil offered Him a shortcut to authority on earth (as heaven is out of his reach).
God wanted to fulfill Jesus’ needs and calling. Thus the real test was not just food, power or riches – it was trusting God to fulfill His Word and take care of Jesus’ body, identity and ministry. The temptation was to settle for second-best just to get it quicker: to substitute something for what God wanted to give.
Just as the Lord’s prayer begins with the words “Our Father”, so may we learn to know God as just that. In knowing that He takes perfect care of us and that He understands our weaknesses, we can approach Him in times of temptation with confidence, exactly as the writer of Hebrews invites us to do!