Recognizing the Strategy of the Tempter
Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert 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 does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 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 him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 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 to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
If Jesus was tempted by the devil then we can expect no less in our walk as well. This story in Matthew however provides enough detail to better understand temptation and recognize how we should deal with it in order to resist the enemy in our lives.
Verse one reveals that it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus into the wilderness to specifically be tempted by the devil. We should expect no less as God wants us to develop maturity in our Christian walk. Not every trial we face is a direct work of the enemy. Trials have a purpose in our lives.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 2-4
We cannot be mature unless perseverance finishes its work in us and perseverance is only developed in the trial. It is in the trial that we learn to trust God more. It is in the trial that we are refined into the image of God. If everything in our lives were mountaintop experiences then we would eventually think we had something do with it and we would learn to not rely upon God because everything would come so easily.
Verse two reveals the importance of fasting during the wilderness. Fasting also fosters a dependence on God, which is critical for defeating the enemy and his temptations. Fasting starves the flesh in favor of the Spirit.
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1Corinthians 7:5 (NKJV)
We lack self control by nature. Fasting disciplines the body and mind. A more disciplined body and mind will be more resistant to the schemes and temptations of the enemy.
Verse three highlights the first type of attack or temptation the devil will throw at us. He will hit is where we are weak. The enemy knew Jesus was hungry (after 40 days, who could blame Him!). Likewise the devil knows which buttons to push on us as well. He knows where we are weak and vulnerable. But in verse four Jesus reminds us that He is the bread of life. That the words of almighty God are more important to our survival then what we might eat. The same goes for any of the basic needs we face in this life. God knows our needs. Faith is trusting that God will meet those needs as we strive to grow in Him:
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6: 31-33
As Jesus sought God in the wilderness through fasting and prayer, His needs were met. He was strengthened and was able to resist the wiles of the devil. The same will go for us in our desert. Focus on God, and He will provide all you need to grow in maturity and survive the wilderness.
Verses five and six display another attack the enemy tries to use against us to try and get us to doubt what God said. The enemy quotes Psalm 91 in these verses in Matthew. Remember, the devil knows the Word of God; unfortunately sometimes better than the children of God. You have to be able to discern his lies from the truth of the Word. Because the devil actually misquotes the Psalmist by subtracting and adding to the Word of God. He is trying to distort the passage into a carte-blanche for absurd behavior. This is the same trick he has always used even as far back as the Garden of Eden:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" Genesis 3: 1
The devil knew God did not say this but he needed to engage Eve in a conversation. So he mixed some truth with some lie; some deception with the Word of God. He eventually calls God a liar and tempts Eve to be just like God. She bites (literally) and mankind falls. Do not even engage in the conversation with the enemy on his terms.
Verse seven is the second answer Jesus has for the enemy and now we see the pattern emerge. Each time Satan tries to tempt Him, Jesus answers with the Word of God. Why? Because He knows that the enemy is a liar: