The Wilderness Experience
Every Christian has what might be called a wilderness experience. Jesus began His earthly ministry with a wilderness experience. In the wilderness our faith is tested. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness and we are also tempted as well. Of course, we are always subject to temptation by Satan at any time. However, Satan reserves very special and subtle temptations for us as we experience the wilderness.
For us the wilderness is more of a state of mind than a place. We face certain trials in life which causes us to wonder about God’s provisions for us. A wilderness is a sense of being alone and unprotected. In that experience we are confronted by a very clever and evil opponent. The key to understanding Satan’s temptations under these circumstances. He will not necessarily ask us to deny our faith. He will simply suggest that our faith is inadequate in facing the trials of life because God’s Word is unreliable.
Let us examine how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He tempted Jesus three times. His first temptation had to do with Jesus’ hunger:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:1-3)
Notice how Jesus did not enter into dialogue with the Devil. He simply quoted God’s word to him. When we are in great need we need to remember to fall back on God’s word. Getting into a dialogue of doubt with the enemy is never helpful.
Satan’s second temptation of Jesus had to do with offering Jesus a shortcut out of trials and difficulties:
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5-8)
Satan’s focus is on the world and worldly success. Jesus focus is on the will of God the Father. Many of our churches today are selling success and self-help programs. In doing so they are outside the will of God.
Satan’s last temptation of Jesus has to do with asking Him to do something spectacular in order to prove Himself the Son of God:
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
- ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
- to protect you,’
- ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
- so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:9-12)
Notice how Satan used scripture. He quotes it but does so in a twisted way. Out ministry cannot be based on doing things that will promote ourselves. Our ministry and testimony should point to God alone.
In each of the cased of Satan’s temptations Jesus answered the enemy with the Word of God. If the Word made flesh relies on the Word in difficult circumstances then we can do no less.
How do we use the Word? First we must meditate upon it:
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:10-12)
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)
Then we will be prepared to use the Word. When difficulties and trials arise in our lives we will be ready. We will quote the Word in a positive way because the appropriate word will rise up within us when it is needed. Then we will speak it out:
- “The word is near you,
- on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. (Romans 10:8-10)