Put to the test

“Watch and pray that you not enter into temptation. For indeed the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” -Mark 14:38

This world is a rough place. It will throw temptations and trials at you from all sides. Good and bad. Watch enough TV and you will see people living in high-rise skyscraper apartments riding $4000 exercise bikes or happy couples buying two brand new SUVs for Christmas. Who can afford that?

“Not this little black duck.” -Daffy Duck

These commercials show people in their late 20s to mid-30s, maybe, and living in stellar mansions, immaculately clean, no cat hair on the stove or litter all over the floor...No one lives like that. Oh, yeah, it is fantasy land. Why do they do this to us?

Because they want you to want this stuff. They want you drooling over shiny SUVs and fancy exercise bikes that will give you the perfect body. That is the only way to be happy.

It makes one want to sell their soul for such a lifestyle. And that is exactly what Satan did to Jesus in Matthew chapter 4.

After Jesus was baptized, He went out to the wilderness to fast for 40 days and then be tempted by Satan. Satan’s first challenge was to question Jesus’ authority. He told Jesus, if He really is God, to turn some stones into bread. Next, he told Jesus to jump off a high mountain because His angels would lift him up so that he would not fall. Again, challenging Jesus’ divinity and pride. The third and final challenge was to tell Jesus he would give him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him.

How did Jesus respond to these trials? With the word of God. At each challenge, Jesus challenged Satan right back, quoting from the scriptures to combat Satan’s tests. Jesus overcame the temptations of the devil proving His power and His majesty as God Almighty.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin. For it is necessary that temptations will come, but woe to the one by whom

Temptations come!”

-Matthew 18:17

It is going to happen. The longer you live and the more you do, the more you will come across temptations and trials. It is all about how you respond to them that counts.

We are all subject to temptations. I have fallen for many in my days, which I very much regret. For years I hung out with people I should not have because I wanted their lifestyle. They went out drinking three or four nights a week, hanging out with good looking girls. They seemed to have no cares in the world except having fun. I wanted to be “cool” like them.

All I ever got from those days with them as an unhealthy love of alcohol and increased feelings of inadequacy. I got in trouble with my parents on a couple of occasions these days. I did and said a lot of things I knew deep down were wrong.

The end of the road with them was when I drank myself into alcohol poisoning at a bar on Pac Highway in Federal Way (high class). My “friend” whom I was with tried to convince me to drive home. He said, “Just drive slow and I’ll follow right behind you.” This was after I had thrown up five times in a Denny’s restroom.

I thank God every time I think about that, that I was not out of it enough to attempt driving. My acquaintance drove me home and I crawled up the stairs and onto the couch for what was one of the worst nights of my existence. I remember the phone call I had to make to my parents the next day. Someone had to take me to the bar where I left my car. “Hi, Mom,” I started. “First just to let you know, I am OK..” This, of course still scared the you-know-what out of her. I explained to her and Dad as best I could what happened, and Dad was glad enough to take me to get my car. This was one of those times, when I was far away from God, but He was still watching over me. Praise the LORD!

But how bad did I feel? Aside from the blinding headache and stomachache from hell, I had to burden my parents to drive me to the scene of the crime, where I had completely defiled myself. This was all during the time when I had completely turned my back on God, never giving Him one thought when I was out getting wasted and making a total jerk out of myself.

Over the next few years, though, I still went down that road. I still wanted to be “cool” and “popular.” I still drank, I ruined a great friendship with a co-worker, going behind his back with his girlfriend. Yeah, I did that…

And downhill I continued until I was watching self-help videos on YouTube every day, trying to find the magic pill to fit in. Those guys had the lives. They dressed nice. They talked slick and were with different girls every night of the week. That was the life I wanted.

“I was wrong. Self-destruction’s got me again.” -Social Distortion, I Was Wrong, 1996

Then in 2015, God showed me I was wrong. He chipped and chipped away at me until there was nothing left, and I gave up and called out to Jesus. Those temptations and desires still hung around, but I was so much stronger against them, knowing that was no longer the right path to take. Only the straight and narrow path of Jesus Christ is it.

“For He Himself has suffered when tempted; He is able to help those who are being tempted.” -Hebrews 2:18

In Matthew 6, Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray. This is the foundation for prayer, as laid out by Jesus:

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come Your will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For kingdom, power, and glory are yours forever. Amen.”

And as Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion, He instructed the disciples who came with him, “Pray that you not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40, 46).

Why is that so important? Because temptation is so prevalent in this world that you can not go outside without getting bombarded with things that will take your focus away from God. Temptations in essence, put us to sleep, as what happened to the disciples in Luke 22. Temptations are from the world, and Jesus Christ has called His followers out of the world (John 15:19), they should have no more effect on us.

We do not think straight when we are under temptation. We become zombies, following after shiny, flashy, pretty things. And all that glitters is not gold.

Count it all joy, brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. -Jacob 1:2-3

Temptations lead to trials, testing our faith, as the apostle stated above. Is Jesus enough that we no longer need to binge drink, to take another hit of heroin, or cheat on your spouse?

We must hang on tight to Jesus, that we do not fall back into these bad habits or old ways of living that Jesus died to save us from.

For no temptation has overtaken you that is not uncommon to man. But God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can stand. And with the temptation, He will provide you a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. -1 Corinthians 10:13

Those old ways, and for some still current ways, are hard to get out of. They become habits and ways of life that once ingrained in us, can be hard to let go of.

Things like drug addictions or pornography addictions can turn into psychological or physical needs and if they are not fulfilled, they become torturous and mind-altering. Have you seen someone detox from alcohol or heroin? It is not a pretty sight. I have had similar moments in my porn days, needing that “fix” until I am on the floor, shaking and feeling like vomiting. That is how bad it got…

Do not be anxious about anything. But in all things, with prayer and supplication, and with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Philippians 4:6-7

This is one of my favorite verses in the Book. To know that God is there to listen to us when we get anxious. When those temptations to sin start to arise, we can pray to Him and give Him our worries. And He will give us the peace and comfort we need to get through these hard times. As Jesus told His disciples in John 16, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world there will be tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John16:33). And John, the beloved disciple, repeated this in his first epistle, writing, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and again, “For everyone who has been born of God has overcome the world. And the victory that has overcome the world-our faith!” (1 John 5:4). It is about overcoming the world. It is about relying on Jesus Christ and the salvation that is from God through Him that will help you do that. No matter what we face. Things that might look to build us up, like a million dollars; or things that will tear us down, like addictions, are of no comparison to the joy that we have in Christ, and the eternal glory we will have with Him on His day, when this world and all its trials, tests, and temptations pass away.

***LORD, God, please deliver us from the trials and temptations that we encounter daily. All the TV programs and commercials, all the popular music, all the social media, LORD, it bombards us with the things of this world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Help us be stronger against these things, to turn to you in our time of distress to face these things. You are the rock on which we stand, always. For Jesus Christ was tempted Himself, and overcame the ploys of the devil to show us that it can be done. Help us LORD, commit ourselves to your word, that we might use it in the same way Jesus did against these tests. The world will not help us against these things. It will only pull us down farther into its depths. Only you LORD God can keep us form falling in. Give us your strength, your power, your wisdom, and knowledge to fight these things, that we might be more like Jesus Christ every day. In His name, amen.***


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