Facing Temptation

Matthew 4:1 tells us that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” While there, Satan tried hard to get Jesus to go “off script,” to take the easy way out, to place His own physical and emotional needs above His mission. You can read about it in Matthew 4:1-11. Take a few minutes to read that before you continue. Let’s look at facing temptation.

Now, here’s what is intriguing to me. In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey says, “As I read the Temptation story it occurs to me that, in the absence of eyewitnesses, all details must have come from Jesus himself. For some reason, Jesus felt obliged to disclose to his disciples this moment of struggle and personal weakness.”[1]

Now, why would Jesus do that? Why would He expose His possible vulnerability? I think there’s at least one very important reason, and that is found in Hebrews 4. This chapter describes Jesus as our “Great High Priest,” and explains, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, emphasis added).

You see, Jesus knows that we will also face temptation. In fact, over in 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

One of the things Jesus did during His own temptation was to give us an example of “a way of escape, something we can do as well that will allow us to rise above the temptations that come to us. Let’s go back to Matthew 4 to see how Jesus responded to temptation:

  • Matthew 4:4: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
  • Matthew 4:7: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
  • Matthew 4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Do you get that? Jesus responded to each temptation by quoting Scripture.

My takeaway? Spend time in God’s Word. Prepare yourself now by memorizing key verses that speak to areas where you personally face temptation. Ask the Holy Spirit to make those verses very real to you. Have regular conversations with God where you confess your sins and your struggles, and where you listen for His voice to give you direction. 

In the Psalms we read, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). 

Now, mind you, knowing God’s Word, hiding it in your heart, relying on the Holy Spirit, and praying regularly doesn’t mean you can just do as you please. It doesn’t mean you can put yourself into situations you know are triggers for you, assuming quoting a verse will “get you out of trouble.” That’s not how it works. But keeping close accounts with God will help keep your conscience tender so you become aware of temptation when it come. Keeping God’s Word in your heart should give you the strength to turn away from temptation. And, if you do find yourself inadvertently in trouble, it will surely give you a rescue rope to help you find your way out. 

Remember, we have God’s sure promise that as we “draw near to the throne of grace,” we will “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Go Deeper on facing temptation:

  1. Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, Kindle Edition), p. 70, emphasis added.

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