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January 4, 2013 – Matthew 4

Temptation. The bag of Oreos on the counter next to the apple.  The empty country road with nary a police officer in sight.  The Facebook feed beckoning during study time.  The cat a slight foot swipe away.  The last cold soda in the fridge when you and brother both want one.  What to do, what to do.  One of the most quoted verses in the Bible is I Corinthians 10:13: You will not be tempted beyond what you can endure. We tend to think of it like a comforting little blanket; God will always make sure that we don’t have to struggle too much.  Is that really what it means?  Is temptation really just a little annoyance we can push aside with a favorite verse? Or is there more to it than that?

Today’s reading is a familiar passage on Jesus’ temptation.  Notice how Satan keeps raising the stakes in this encounter.  The first thing he offers Jesus is just relief for his immediate suffering.  “Make some food, and feel better.”  When that doesn’t work, he suggests Jesus perform a miracle (saving Himself from a fall), since then all of the Jews would then follow him.  When Jesus again turns him down, Satan plays the ace: the whole world simply for worship him. Satan alway seems to keep the pressure up. As soon you have one temptation under control, he raises another.


On the other hand, God is constantly training us up to stand against those temptations.  How does Jesus respond? He just keeps repeating God’s Word. As the devil’s temptations get larger and larger, Jesus returns to what God has revealed over and over.  Notice he doesn’t use his divine power to turn Satan away, though he certainly could have.  He uses the same tools that are available to us.It seems that rather than avoiding trouble, God purposefully lets us work through it on occasion.  Why is that? Does He just enjoy watching us struggle? Or is it possible that He knows that only through struggle can we grow.  If you’re a weight lifter (and who isn’t in January?), you know that you don’t grow stronger by lifting the same weight over and over.  You have to up the poundage regularly to keep pushing your muscles. Only by facing temptation and overcoming it with His ability in us can we truly grow closer to Him.


Whatever you have dealt with in the past, it’s important to keep in mind that when temptation and trouble come, they will probably be just a little bit more than what you dealt with in the past.  God uses those times to grow us and strengthen our dependence on Him.  You may feel you have spent years trying to get past that addiction, and then when you finally feel like it’s under control, God says “yes, but what about ungratefulness?” You may finally be getting your finances in line with Biblical principles, and God says “what about that pride?”  We are constantly be re-formed into Jesus’ image; there’s a good chance we won’t be complete this side of eternity.  There will always be something new to work on, until the moment we’re in his presence for good.

Final thought: It’s easy to look at others in the Church and feel like “why come my life is so hard? Life is so easy for them.”  We need to keep in mind that God is teaching everyone something different, something unique to their individuality and time of life.  Maybe they are being tempted by something that you dealt with long ago, or something that you will deal with in the future.  We would probably go a long ways towards peace in the Church if we were a little more gracious with others in their struggles, whether we understand those struggles or not.

How is your current temptation making you more like Christ?

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