Even though I have experienced an amazing amount of personal and professional success lately, I have numbed pain and therefore numbed joy. I have longed to do the right thing but my selfishness has gotten in the way. There is a passage of scripture in Jeremiah 17 that has always stirred my heart in warning as it speaks of people prospering and not being able to see it.
Jer17:6-7 “That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. […] But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”
Dissatisfaction, ingratitude, and ultimately, my pride, blind me from being able to just enjoy what is instead of desiring what I do not yet have. When I can’t see the prosperity in my life it alerts me to the possibility that my pride may be rearing its ugly head.
As it happens, in the midst of my self-numbing, Satan has been tempting the mess out of me. He has tempted me to compromise my boundaries and beliefs and it has been discouraging. Luckily for me, temptation is nothing new, not for me or even Jesus. There are three main temptations Jesus faced that we all face. At the root of each temptation is impatience. If Jesus would have done things on Satan’s terms he would be rushing. He would be rushing impatiently toward a desired outcome, instead of honoring both his limits and God’s plan. When I hunger for something deep in my soul I too get impatient and want to rush toward an outcome. I feel vulnerable and it is all the harder not to give in and take control.
Matt4:1-4 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written” Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
When I want something I want to rush everything: things, people, circumstances. I want what I want, and it can result in behavior that is hurtful to those I care for most because I stop considering their needs and wants. When I hunger for God more than the other desires, or hungers, are more manageable. I can be tempted to try to make my own ‘bread out of stones,’ but when I’m balanced, I can turn to His word to sustain me. His truth and His promises give me the strength and patience needed for when He provides for my needs, especially when it’s not on my timetable. Jesus knew and trusted God’s nature and character in his temptations. He is not a God that withholds any good thing.
Matt 4: 5-7 “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, ”It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Each of the temptations also whispers and taunts, “Prove yourself” and yet Jesus didn’t even try to do that. He was secure in who he was in God. He was secure in who he knew God to be. God’s love gave him the strength to overcome these temptations. When God is my focus my actions are so different. Have you ever looked back at a given situation and your actions and said, “Who was that? That was so out of character for me?” When I have these moments it’s easy for me to feel shame and let it consume me. But if I stop there I can’t repent. My sorrow is self-focused and worldly not godly as described in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.
As I grow in my trust in God in every passing season my hunger for certain things will increase, in any given area of my life I will feel a want or an unmet need. But with each temptation comes an opportunity to grow, to change, to be different and love better, myself and those around me.
Matt4:8-11 “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and the angels came and attended him.”
The final temptation was not unlike the first two but it resonates with me because of my pride and desire for control. I lack the humility to ask for help, to admit my wrong, to ask God and others who walk with him for advice. When I read this passage it also instills a healthy fear of God in me as it is so clear that if I am not worshiping God I am bowing before the tempter. If I am not serving God I am serving self.
When I am serving God, I serve and love others better. I am grateful for those who hold me accountable for my actions. Who have the courage to say, “the Kasia I know would never…,” or to say, “What you did hurt me; I feel disrespected. Your behavior right now is not ok.” I need and cherish these people in my life. And even though it hurts, I am grateful for the consequences that God can purpose as opportunities to change and be different. I can overcome temptation when it comes.
The circumstances may be different but the temptation will be the same, to prove myself, to take control and be impatient, to choose self over God and others. When I choose what Jesus chose, when my reasons for my actions align with His, I will do what He would be proud of. He cultivates my love for self out of His love for me. He cultivates patience in me when I am willing to choose obedience and sit in discomfort instead of acting out of emotions or seeking comfort in things that will not last. He cultivates a love for others in me that impacts their hearts in a way that my self-reliance never could.