I have a friend who has taken some weight off and as far as I can tell, kept it off. She attests that when she has been tempted on a diet, her answer has been to say to herself, “I will eat that again – I just won’t be eating it now.” Aha. That’s good. And I believe it is one of the great secrets to overcoming temptation.
People have been asking how to overcome temptation for thousands of years, and Jesus’ classic battle with Satan in the wilderness provides some clues as to the answer. We know, for instance, that we must use the Word of God. Jesus fought the enemy with this powerful weapon, and we should too.
But what else? Well, I think there are some interesting clues in this chapter, and we should be careful to take note. Here’s what I mean: to oversimplify it, Satan’s temptations to Jesus included eating bread, counting on angels to rescue him, and ruling the world (fame and fortune, so to speak). And I believe that after Jesus successfully resists the enemy, he is granted each of these as a gift from God, and in a brief period of time after the great battle.
There is no mention of bread, of course, but we know he ate that again. But what about the other two? Well, consider verse 11…
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
– Matthew 4:11 (ESV)
So He avoided the sin of testing God and he didn’t throw himself off the cliff to be rescued by angels ala Psalm 91. But, do you see that in the end, the angels did come to His rescue? They came and ministered to Him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence when Matthew brings up these angels at the end of the temptation.
And of course, as to ruling the world, well, we know that’s coming eventually, and it will come to Jesus without worshiping Satan. But at the end of the chapter, God the Father gives His Son a glimpse of the worship that will appropriately one day be His:
So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan
– Matthew 4:24, 25 (ESV)
The application? Not everything you resist will be yours, of course, but many things we resist will in the end be granted to us, perhaps in a slightly different form but granted nonetheless, and done so…God’s way. And God’s way is always far better than the way of the enemy.
Now, on with those New Year’s diet resolutions: “I’ll be eating that later.” Got to remember to tell myself that.
Tomorrow: January 7, Matthew 5