There is one thing among others that will shake all that can be shaken in us and confront us recurrently throughout our Christian life. I am referring to this belligerent force called temptation. Even the Lord had to face it time and again as it came against Him in all sorts of disguises and manners.
The temptation of Jesus
To think that Jesus’ temptations were confined to the three classic examples found in Luke 4:3-13 amounts to a belief conflicting with the testimony of the Scripture. Luke makes clear that these three temptations were only the culmination of what had lasted forty days:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil” (Luke 4:1,2).
Only when these forty days of temptations had ended came the three well-known occurrences in which the Son of Man’s holiness was challenged.
It is interesting to notice also how Luke ends the narration of this event: “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). The words “until an opportune time” seem to imply more temptations came afterward. I doubt the Spirit would have inspired Luke to add these meaningful words if such opportune time was not going to come at all.
Be that as it may, one thing is certain: Holiness doesn’t protect a person from temptation.
Now if the Devil believed he could make Jesus fall, what about us frail, vulnerable and helpless mortals?
Happily, there are promises in the Scripture that have the power to fortify us at the point of absolute resistance; promises expressed through words that are spirit and life (John 6:63), for their origin is in God.
I think all of us have read that God’s word works efficiently in those who believe (1 Thess. 2:13), and that faith can be an effective shield for all who trust in Him (Eph. 6:16). All this means there is substantiality in the Scripture. It is not hanging from the clouds. It is anchored in God’s very character at the point of oneness.
God’s promises in the face of temptation
One of God’s promises that should strike the believer is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”. Here we have a well of fortitude. These words are solid, authoritative, and reliable.
This is the sort of scripture the meditative mind should ruminate on, for it imparts expectation, courage, and true grit. It attests that God, in his faithfulness, will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to handle, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape to make sure we are able to bear it. This promise is as true as God Himself. It is more solid than the rock that has survived the clashes of the ocean waves for millenniums. It is trustworthy, and as such, should fill our hearts with hope.
Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses
As I have already mentioned, Jesus was in all points tempted as we are. This particular aspect of His life makes Him apt to identify Himself with our state:
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
This divine commiseration should comfort us and assure us of His present help, for He doesn’t look down on our weaknesses as the devil wants us to believe. Instead, he sympathizes with them.
Actually, the difficulties we face in time of temptation move our High Priest with compassion to the point of intervention. As the psalmist declares: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13,14). Understanding that the Son of Man is emotionally involved in our struggle should motivate and strengthen us.
These wonderful truths seem to have gotten lost in several evangelical milieus. Many seem to believe that the sheep should fight with the lions and bears at the best of their ability as if the Good Shepherd would be on a sick leave. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Shepherd who keeps us doesn’t slumber or sleep (Psalm 121:4). He is on the alert 24 hours a day and is eager to assist those He loves dearly.
Hope in the midst of suffering
“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb.2:18).
True temptations always entail suffering, for they reach the deepest fibers of our humanity. It is precisely this characteristic that made an impression on the author of Hebrews. His observation should engender hope in us, as well as a vivid sense of expectation.
Yes! The One who has undergone the sufferings of temptation has the ability to aid us. Let us proclaim it from the pulpit and from our rooftops. For in the heat of the storm the glorified Son of Man is at our side. He is not passively here as a mere observer, but He is here with might to shame the devil now as He did in the wilderness more than two thousand years ago.
Indeed, He is our shield, our glory, and the lifter up of our head (Psalm 3:3).