Temptations and Struggles

Hello SVC Community,

I hope everyone had a great week. I spent the last week in DC with our 8th graders and 8th grade parents. It was a blast. I have to give a shout out to Mr. Markum and his team for organizing such a fun and educational trip. The kids had a great time. It will definitely be a highlight of their SVC experience. On another note, it was ridiculously cold. I’m talking like 2 degree wind chill. And I was quite impressed with many of our 8th graders’ ability to endure such conditions in hoodies and jeans while most of the adults in the group were bundled up like we were going to the North Pole. I guess adolescent metabolism is much more conditioned for body heat production.

Ok, on to the message of the day. Today, we are going to take a break from school policies and updates, and just take some time to look at a passage of scripture together. I did this a couple of weeks back with Lincoln’s second inaugural address and people seemed to enjoy the change of pace, so we are going to do a little more of this moving forward.

Luke Chapter 4 has been on my heart a lot lately. We all face daily temptations and struggles. And we all fall every single day. We are bombarded with images of a life that is so contradictory to the way of Christ. And, we have been conditioned to ignore this fact which only compounds the problem of falling into temptation. It’s a vicious cycle. Luckily for us, we have an example. We have a Savior who was tempted in every way that we are tempted. Check this out!

  1. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
  2. where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
  3. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
  4. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.”
  5. The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
  6. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
  7. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
  8. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
  9. The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.
  10. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;
  11. they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
  12. Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
  13. When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Ok, so we have Jesus, wandering around under the direction and guidance of the Spirit, seemingly waiting to do something great for God’s Kingdom. (We don’t have time to look at all of the Old Testament passages, but the wilderness is a common Biblical metaphor. Most of the time, it represented solitude and preparation. Here are a few examples: Moses encountered God in the burning bush in the wilderness before he led the people of Israel out of slavery. The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness before they went in to take the Promised Land. Elijah lived in the wilderness before God delivered Israel from famine. David fled to the wilderness before he became king. You get the idea.)

Enter, the great adversary, the tempter, the snake. Now, this is not an in-depth study on the character of Satan. For the sake of this passage, let’s just all admit that there is a force of temptation and evil in the world. Whether he dresses in red with horns and a pitchfork, slithers along the ground, or simply uses supernatural power and persuasion to place ideas and thoughts in our heads, he is real and he is active and his one goal is to spoil the plans of God. So, as Jesus hangs out in the wilderness, preparing for the most important mission in the history of the planet, it is natural that Satan would use this moment to tempt and try to ruin God’s plan for salvation.

I want to spend the rest of our time looking at the three temptations that Luke mentions and draw some conclusions about the state of man and the humanity of Jesus. These three temptations that Satan offers are some of the most common temptations that we face in America in the 21st century.

Let’s start with verses 3 and 4 — changing the stone to bread. When I first read this passage as a kid, I didn’t really understand why this would have been a sin. After all, Jesus was hungry. How is stone to bread any different than water to wine or 5 loaves to 10,000 loaves? How is it any different than going to the grocery store? There are a couple of things that we need to understand. First, we can assume from the context that Jesus chose to eat nothing for 40 days. He was fasting and praying in preparation for His mission. So, to break that fast would have been a lack of commitment. That is important, but I do not think it is the biggest lesson here. What is the inherent human quality at which Satan is hinting? What is the condition of the human heart that Jesus has to fight when He resists this advance? Simply put, we all believe in our gut that if we have a need and we have the ability to solve that need, then we are justified in doing so. This is not a temptation about food. This is a temptation about self-reliance and individual freedom.

Oh man, now we are talking about an American problem. Don’t we act this way every single day? How much of your day is consumed by thoughts and actions related to your own personal needs? What Jesus is resisting is much bigger than food. He is resisting one of the biggest myths in the history of humanity…that we are the solution to our own problems. At its heart, there is some truth here as God has blessed us with intelligence and the ability to solve problems. And, because of our modern world, we actually do have the ability to solve almost every problem in our lives. But, when we live like this — completely reliant upon ourselves for ourselves — we soon lose the ability and the necessity to trust God for anything. That is why James tells us to pray for persecution, so that we are placed in situations where we cannot solve our own problems and we have to rely on God.

(Let me preface this by saying that I am talking about myself here.) Let’s be honest…most of us have rarely, if ever, faced real persecution. And even our trials, in the great scope of history, are quite minuscule. Most of us have food on the table, a job, someone who loves us, clothes on our back, and a roof over our heads. We are the most prosperous people in the history of the planet. As such, it is easy to fall into the temptation to rely on ourselves, our own wealth, and our own talents because, quite honestly, we don’t need God every day. We can get by just fine without Him. This is not to mention the way that the American notions of individualism and freedom have influenced our mindsets. We are an incredibly self-reliant people. So, when Jesus resists the temptation to satisfy His own needs, He is acting in opposition to His own humanity.

Ok, I could go on forever about that one, but let’s move on to temptation number 2: verses 5-8, the temptation for earthly glory, riches, and splendor. (Side note…Isn’t it interesting that when Satan claims to have control and authority over the kingdoms and riches and splendor of this world, Jesus does not dispute this claim? That should tell us something about the very nature of the world.) This temptation is fairly straightforward. Worshiping Satan equals wealth, power, glory, prestige, etc. But, here is where I think we lose the significance of Jesus’ response. I think that most of us who consider ourselves followers of Christ would be able to resist such an overt advance by our adversary. I don’t know about you, but I would never physically bow down to Satan. He could promise me everything in this world and I would not literally get on my knees and sing praises to him. I could resist that temptation and I think most of us could stand strong in that situation. But, here’s the problem: because his advances are much more covert and much more hidden, I bow down to him every single day. Let me say that again. I fail at this one, every single day – every time I believe that money will solve my problems; every time I seek fame or glory. Every time that I lose a sense of vocation to chase the next pay raise. Every time I long for recognition or praise. Every time I boast or brag – I bow down to Satan. Every time I envy a bigger house, a larger bank account, a more important role, I bow down to Satan.

Oh, but it’s ok to seek greatness because we are Christians and we are going to use all of those blessings for the glory of God. Once I get all of this, God will receive the praise for my success.
Really? This has become our justification?

It’s no different than an athlete or an actor thanking God in their post-game interview or award acceptance speech. It’s our American way to include God in our own success and our own glory. But, in reality, how many of us have chased the kingdom of this world, compromised our true values, and sought our own glory without including God in the process.

Instead of “Lord, Your will be done. May I be Your servant wherever I am so that Your Kingdom comes,” we pray, “Lord bless my agenda and I will give You credit.”

When Jesus resists Satan’s promise of glory and prestige, He is resisting one of our most human urges…to be great, to be recognized, to be famous, to be powerful. Jesus chose humility in accordance with God’s ultimate plan. What an example!

Ok, the last temptation is in verses 9-12 where Satan tempts Jesus to reveal His divinity by performing an Evil Knievel-type aerial stunt. Jesus, once again, resists and quotes scripture that completely rebukes Satan’s advance, saying that we are not supposed to tempt God. There are two lessons here. The first is very practical. There are practical implications of throwing yourself off of the temple. It’s probably going to hurt. And, even though God is capable of protecting us, He usually lets us experience the consequences of our own stupid choices. On one hand, this seems obvious. I’ve never met anyone who stood on a cliff, jumped off, and then blamed God when they broke their leg. But, on the other hand, we act like this all the time. People sleep around and then get mad at God when they get sick or experience an unplanned pregnancy. People neglect their spouse and then blame God when their marriage fails. People slack off at work and then blame God when they get fired. So, in a way, we all jump off cliffs all the time and expect God to catch us. The truth is that we reap what we sow and our actions have consequences. Even followers of Christ have to deal with the practical nature of bad choices.

But I think the second lesson here is more powerful. It’s a lesson in humility and patience. These are behaviors that are continually modeled by Jesus throughout the rest of His ministry. As we read through the rest of the Gospel, we too see glimpses of Jesus’ divinity, but they are always followed with humility and patience. He performs a miracle and then tells everyone not to say anything. He heals and then withdraws to a solitary place. Sometimes He teaches in the temple, but most of the time He resides in small towns with a bunch of misfits. He hangs on the cross, and instead of calling down angels, endures torture. He is raised from the dead, but only appears to a few small groups of people instead of appearing in the temple courts.

Why? Why doesn’t He just reveal His glory? Why doesn’t He burst forth from the tomb in full God-ness, showing everyone who He actually is?

Two answers: First, He will one day. We are promised that someday He will fully reveal Himself and we will see Him in all His glory…every knee bowing and tongue confessing and all of that. But, second, it’s because the model of humility is more powerful for the here and now. We often get confused and think that following Jesus is all about what we get after death…eternal life and bliss and all of that good stuff that is coming. Our eternity is secure and that is part of our reward. But Jesus also calls us to bring His Kingdom here, on earth, every single day. And that is a Kingdom that is only advanced by humility and patience and faith. So, in order to model that, Jesus resisted the temptation to reveal the fullness of His power. The message is clear… “I am the most powerful being in the universe and I chose to live humbly, waiting for the fullness of God’s plan. I am calling you to do the same.” Jesus shows us an uncommon humility because He calls us to live with an uncommon humility. He shows an uncommon patience because He calls us to an uncommon patience.

Our challenge is to live like this. Our challenge is to respond to temptation with patience, scripture, humility, and self-sacrifice. That’s why the message of Jesus is so powerful. He walked in our shoes and modeled a countercultural resistance to the most common temptations that we face every day.

Have a great weekend!

Erick Streelman
Head of Schools

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