I had a conversation with a pastor friend recently that gave me a new sense of caution against three temptations. (Credit to Rev. Matt Johnson.) You could call them “3 temptations of ministry” or “3 temptations of leadership”…the truth is they apply to everyone. Why? Because Jesus, God Himself in human experience, was tempted in these three ways.
Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:1-4 CEB)
Temptation 1: Appetite
The tempter says, “Feed yourself.” Jesus says, “God feeds me.”
After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone. ” Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.” (Matthew 4:5-7 CEB)
Temptation 2: Affirmation
To really understand the impact of how Jesus is tempted here, we must remember what He just went through prior to the Spirit leading Him out into the wilderness. Jesus rises out of the waters of the Jordan, baptized by the humble servant John the Baptist, and the Spirit descends upon Him. The voice of God the Father speaks over Him, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” The temptation is simple: “prove it.” Jesus, in a sense, says, “God alone tells me who I am.”
Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” (Matthew 4:8-10 CEB)
Temptation 3: Ambition
The devil tempts Jesus to redirect His worship, His loyalty, the orientation of His life and work in order to achieve a seductive reward – position, power, status. Jesus simply declares the singular and unchanging loyalty and purpose of His life – to worship and serve God alone.
The encouraging picture of triumph after consistent resistance:
The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him. (Matthew 4:11 CEB)
1. In what way are you tempted to satisfy your own needs rather than letting God?
2. From what voices other than God’s do you seek affirmation? (Hearing God’s affirmation through others is more than ok, since He often works in that way. It’s important to be honest about whose is motivating us.)
3. What are you living for?