A Forty Day Battle
by Rev. Randy Brown
Have you ever had the experience of, at the same time being on a high and then being on a low at the same time? That you have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and it happens in the same day or week period? I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of that, in different folks that I have been their pastor through the years.
I remember a time when I was down in Georgia and I was called to this families house. They had just lost the patriarch of the family. He had lived a long life and had come to the end of their life. And, I got the call that he had passed away and all of a sudden I’m there and I’m thinking about what all I’m going to say and how I’m going to try to comfort the family. Then I get there and there’s a joyful feeling among the family members because in between the time they called me and the time I got there, they got another phone call that the first long awaited grandchild had been born. Happened on the same day. I’ve seen that more than once. It’s kind of a weird thing to go through but they were at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Have you ever been like that? Been through an experience like that?
I think that similar experiences is what Jesus must have felt like because as Mike read a moment ago. We’re told, we’re in the last part of the chapter three of Matthew, “Jesus had been baptized, He finally talked John into doing it and as He was baptized, as He came up out of the water, the dove descended, the voice boomed ‘this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’” So it was a coronation, it was God putting God’s stamp of approval on who Jesus was. That He was the son of God. And then all of a sudden the scripture tells us that He’s led into the wilderness, into the desert to do battle and to be temped for 40 days. We don’t know exactly what that temptation was, although we know some of them, but the war was raising and there was a battle going on with the enemy.
Jesus passed the test, we see that at the end of verse 11. There’s a thing about temptation that we need to realize, we have a negative connotation when it comes to temptation. We say “well I’m tempted, I’ll just give into it” or “I never do well with temptation.” But temptation is an opportunity to rise above something, just as it is as much a temptation or opportunity to not rise above. We can fall to temptation, or we can rise above the temptation. It’s up to us, it’s our mindset. But there’s a positive thing to temptation that we can rise above what we’re tempted with. We don’t have to eat that last piece of chocolate cake, you with me? To say that we have to, that we don’t deal with temptation. We want to give into it. But it’s just as much an opportunity to rise above something, as it is to not match up to the temptation. Jesus knew that.
There’s a scripture, there’s a word that’s the enemy of uses, IF you are the son of God, placing doubt. The dove and the booming voice had just been there, had just declared, “this is my beloved son in whom I’m well pleased.” And then all of a sudden, the next thing we read is Jesus being tempted. If you are? You see, that’s how the tempter comes to us. To place doubt in our mind.
There’s another translation that says, “since you are.” And I think there’s a validity to that. Where if you are the son of God says places doubt, since you are, maybe gives us a false pride that we don’t need to have if we’re going to deal with temptation. Since you are this, then as if to say, “well, you deserve better. Just come on back to the other side because you don’t deserve to be treated like this.” You see, there’s a difference between ‘if you are’ and ‘since you are’. Both of them place a doubt in our minds and we need to be careful because we know by example that the enemy uses both of those to get at us and cause us to stumble when we’re tempted. Just like Abraham in Genesis chapter 22, “He showed God his obedience and he showed God that he was committed to do what God had called him to do no matter what.” And if we do not come and succumb to temptation, then we do that as well.
There used to be the question throughout the church and throughout society, “Can you trust God? Is God worthy of your trust? Can you trust God?” I humbly submit that that is the wrong question for today. The question for today is not ‘can you trust God?’ The question for today is, ‘can God trust you?” Can God trust us? He’s made it plain what He wants us to do, but can he trust us to do it? And, throughout these 40 days, when Jesus was in the wilderness, that’s part of what he had to go through, getting him ready for his ministry on Earth, and He proved that he could be trusted.
Now what other enemy would hit Jesus with ‘if’, or he would hit him with ‘since’. ‘If you are’ or ‘since you are’. Jesus hit back with one particular phrase. The phrase that Jesus used to hit back the enemy was this, “It is written.” If you and I are going to stand in the face of temptation, we’ve got to hit him with the same words, “It is written.” To fall to temptation is to let the enemy control us. To rise above the temptation is to allow us to live out our commitment to Christ.
Now, in one sense, let’s go back to that “since you are” for just a moment. Because in one sense that’s very important because it reminds us of who we are. I remember time, after time, after time, my father telling me before I would leave home, whether it was for the day or the weekend, or for good. He would always say, “son, remember who’s child you are.” He didn’t want me to embarrass the family name. But he didn’t want me to embarrass the Heavenly Father as well. Since we are, then we have to… we’re called to a different standard and we need to be reminded from time to time of what that standard is. I want to look very, very quickly at the three things.
First of all, you see in verse three, Jesus was tempted to look to himself. You ever done that? Been there? Take things into your own hands? Try to control them? I don’t know about you but it doesn’t work very well for me.
Don’t look to self. Jesus is the bread of life and He gives living water. He was tempted to do things for Himself, and to do things on His own. Never did He give into that temptation. What He did was never about himself: it was always about others. For Jesus said “I’ve not come to be served, but to serve. I’ve come to seek and to save that which was lost”. He’s always doing it for others, and not for Himself. That gives us an example of the way our lives should be. We’re tempted to do things for ourself and to look to ourselves, and be the center of our universe, and the God of our lives. Jesus knows what that temptation was like and He said “no, not gone do that.”
The second temptation was, we took up on a high pinnacle and said “jump off and they’ll catch you.” I like to say it like this, “he was tempted to play games with God.” How many times have we played games with God? I heard this story about a man who was on a diet and he done fairly well but you know, sometimes temptation comes your way and he decided, he woke up that morning and he was craving Krispy Kreme donuts. Now, stay with me. He said, “Lord, I sure would like to have a donut. I know I’m not supposed to, but Lord, I sure would like to have some donuts. Lord, if you want me to have a donut, then have a parking place in front of the donut store when I drive by.” And sure enough after 12 trips around the block, there it was. Do we play games with God?
Jesus never performed a selfish miracle. Never. They were unselfish, they served only for the good of others. We’re going to play games with him?
Then, thirdly, he took Him up to the high pinnacle and he looked out across all the land and he says that, “if you bow down and worship me, I’ll give it to you all. I’ll give it all to you.” The first thing that strikes me with being wrong with that is, it wasn’t his to give. This is my Father’s World. He was trying to give something that wasn’t his to give. How many times do we look in the wrong places for success, for fame, for feeling good, for fulfillment, and you finish the list on out. And we look to things to fulfill us and they can’t, and they don’t. Why is that? Because they, it’s not theirs to give. It’s not theirs to give. It’s only God’s to give. He said, “I’ll give it to you all.” Jesus says, “It’s not yours to give.”
Then the scripture says, “then Satan departed”, now hear this, “for a more opportune time.” We have to be careful. Now the Bible says, “resist the Devil and he’ll flee from you” and I believe that, and I’ve experienced that, but that don’t mean he won’t come back around at some point. He’ll come back around either when you’re really low, or when you’re at a high and he’s gonna catch you off guard.
Jesus was victorious over the enemy because he stayed with God’s word. And you and I can be victorious over the enemy the same exact way. His victory over the enemy is based, is the basis of our victory over the enemy, as followers of Christ.