After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, He was taken to the wilderness, where He fasted and spent the next forty days and forty nights tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:2, ESV). The devil focused on three areas: desires and physical needs, possessions and power, and pride (Matt. 4:1-10, NLT). Things that often trip us up. Each time Jesus used the Word of God to defend Himself by quoting Deuteronomy, which links His experience to Israel’s forty years in the desert. Israel failed, but Jesus did not.
|Hunger: turn stone into bread||Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4||Depend on God||Duet. 8:2-3|
|Power: jump; the angels will protect you||Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12||Do not test God||Duet. 6:16|
|Pride: offered a shortcut to His future reign||Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8||Do not compromise||Duet. 6:13|
When we are hungry and tired, we are more susceptible to giving in to the wrong things. In those times, we can learn to depend on God even more. The devil used manipulation and lies by twisting Scripture and taking Psalm ninety-one out of context to convince Jesus to jump and use His divine nature to display His power, knowing that the angels would protect Him. But Jesus says we are not to tempt God. Lastly, the devil offers Jesus a shortcut to reign over the world, but this would only bypass the most critical piece of Jesus’ mission; redemption of sins for His people, which is precisely what Satan hoped he could deter. Jesus is the perfect example of not comprising to please the flesh.
All the time spent in the wilderness was preparing Jesus for His ministry. He became fully human and took time to understand as a human what we go through each day on this earth. He learned obedience through what He suffered, and so can we. Our testing and temptations come first to prepare us for living a life of faith and obedience to God. It is by His strength, not our own, and because Jesus knows what we are going through, we can look to Him for strength during times of temptation and trials.
We can also use the sword of the Spirit as our weapon (Eph. 6:17-18) to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). To use it effectively requires faith in God’s promises. We must stay alert to the devil’s tactics; he also knows Scripture and will twist it to suit his purposes. The Chronological Life Application Study Bible notes that obeying is more important than memorizing or quoting a verse. Reading the Word daily and applying it to our lives is the only way to keep our sword sharp and not give in to the devil’s lies.
There is another type of wilderness we sometimes spend time journeying through. In the life of John the Baptist, we read that he knew his purpose. He was to pave the way for Jesus the Messiah. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about his childhood or how he spent his time before his ministry began, but it does tell us he waited in the wilderness until God’s appointed time to start his ministry (Mark 1:3-4, ESV). Can you imagine knowing your purpose and waiting for God to tell you the time is right? At a time when I was at rock bottom, God whispered a sweet message for me to think positively because great things were happening in my life. It was hard to see then, but He has certainly done great things, and I know He will continue to do so. He reminded me of that again recently during a ‘wilderness’ moment.
Just a few short years ago, I would have never seen myself where I am now. He is always working in our lives even when we cannot see it. I am learning to wait expectantly for God’s perfect timing. Time spent in the wilderness of our lives also has a purpose and is a time of preparation, and we cannot skip ahead. After we stand the tests and rely on God’s strength and Word to get through, we are more prepared and ready to be sent out to do kingdom work for God.