By Ndidi Ngwuluka
The temptation of Jesus as a case study for overcoming temptation
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e are told by the scriptures we will not be tempted beyond our limits and even in the temptation, God gives a way of escape. I have yielded to a number of temptations that have come my way. Afterwards, I cast my mind back to remember the ways of escape that God provided which I did not take. Recently, God has made it clear to me he is dealing with flesh in me. Truly, I yield to temptation to satisfy the yearnings of the flesh.
Self or flesh is like a pampered child. A pampered child is allowed to have his way at all times even when the requests are not profitable. His parents imagine granting the child his requests will show the child they love him and also ensure his comfort. However, they get to know too late that the child’s character building is heavily hampered. The child may even turn and make life miserable for them. So when we continue to yield to the flesh, the spiritual part of us which should be our true identity is suppressed by the flesh.
Sin first comes as a temptation. The devil does not force anyone to commit sin. He entices, dangles sins and exhibits pleasures of sins but we can choose either to resist or yield to them. He did same with Christ but Christ chose to resist him.
As I studied the temptation of Christ, I realized we face similar situations:
The devil takes advantage of our weak moments
Jesus was hungry having fasted for forty days and nights and the devil took advantage of his hunger suggesting that he turned stones to bread. How many times has the devil taken advantage of our loneliness, lack of money, need for acceptance, background and unpleasant circumstances and tried to lure us into sin?
Identity and desires
I believe the devil must have heard God affirm Jesus as his son after Jesus’ baptism in River Jordan. And so he tried to lure Jesus to prove it… “If you are the son, command these stones to turn to bread. If you are the son, throw yourself down…” Do we really need to prove our identity? We are who God says we are. Period! If we try to yield to temptation to prove it, we are tempting God and it means we have not aligned with our God-identity. Then the third temptation relates to our desires. The devil pointed to the earth’s kingdoms and told Jesus he would give them to him if Jesus would bow and worship him. What are the things you want to have or achieve? How often have we tried to use ungodly ways to achieve them? How often have we bowed to other gods because we felt God was too slow with his provisions?
Pressure to live up to expectation
Sometimes we are placed on a pedestal by our design, families’ or friends’ and so we find ourselves struggling to live up to it. In some cases to live up to expectation may lead us to do ungodly things. There were pressures in Christ’s life to live up to who he said he was. One instance was on the day of crucifixion; people mocked him (including one of the criminals hanged alongside) “If you are really God’s son, save yourself, come down from that cross!” “Save yourself! Save us!” said the criminal.
How did Jesus overcome despite the tempting situations?
He understood his position
Jesus understood his position as the son of God who has come to earth to save you and I. He knew he could only achieve this by being blameless. Yielding to temptation would have rendered his sacrifice on the cross powerless. Although he was hungry, accepting the devil’s suggestion would have given devil a hold over him. Rather he chose to submit to God and waited upon him for supplies. Or imagine if he had listened to the criminal and save himself and the criminals hanged alongside!
I woke up to the realization that devil knows God has called me to be a teacher of the word in order that others may be liberated. So the devil had relentlessly lured me into sin to render me unfit. Indeed he succeeded for a long time because each time I attempted to talk about God he was quick to remind me of my sins; declaring me inappropriate for such an act. Thanks to God who never gives up on us. He opened my eyes to the schemes of the devil and I took a stand. So as Jesus refused to compromise his position in order to eat or save himself from the cross, let us do likewise. Compromising will delay or abort our visions.
He delayed gratification
I learnt the major root of sins is self gratification. Indeed Jesus was hungry but he delayed satisfying his hunger. When we don’t gratify the flesh, we open ourselves up for greater things. It was more glorious for angels to attend to Jesus’ needs than for him to accept Satan’s offer/suggestion. Forget yourself and look unto God, you will find both God and your true self.
He overcame by the word
The devil is so smart that one needs to be fully equipped with the word of God. Imagine if Jesus did not know the word, how would he have overcome? The devil attempted to quote scripture psalm 91 – Jump, God will give his angels charge over you so you don’t dash your foot against a stone. However, he was trying to entice Jesus to test God. Jesus understood that and so he quoted another scripture “Do not tempt the Lord your God” The word of God is a weapon against the enemy so equip yourself with it. You cannot survive or triumph without the word.
Once I asked God, “how can I give self a decent burial?” I heard in my spirit, “Start by starving it”
We cannot attend to every cry and craving of self and submit to God at the same time. So let us starve self so that God may increase in us and accomplish his purpose in and through us.