Blessed is the man who endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12 KJV).
In many Christian churches, the 40 day period preceding Good Friday, known as Lent, is a time of self-reflection and self -sacrifice. The tradition is to either give up something to which you are attached, (bread or chocolate are popular choices) or add some new activity which draws you closer to God for those forty days. The end result should be you approach Easter with a renewed spirit.
The practice has its roots in Christ spending forty days alone in the desert fasting before officially beginning his ministry. During that time Satan squared off with him, subjecting him to temptations which could have seduced a weaker man, but at every turn, Christ rebuked his tormentor and prevailed. When offered bread to satisfy his hunger his response was, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “(Matthew 4:4 KJV, Deut 8:3). When it was suggested he tempt fate by hurling himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to see if the angels would swoop down and save him, Christ said “ Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7 KJV, Deut. 6:16) In the third temptation, the devil offered Jesus dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth, in exchange for Jesus falling down and worshipping him instead of God. Jesus answered “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10 KJV, Deut. 10:20).
In each case you will notice Christ had scripture at the ready as a rebuttal to Satan’s tempting offers, each time he cited his source, the holy scriptures, prefacing his remarks with “It is written.”. In the end, the devil left him and the angels came and ministered to his needs and he was ready to choose his disciples and launch his earthly ministry.
I wish I could say my Lenten discipline for this year was going as well. Rather than focus on food, I resolved to try and break a bad personal habit, one that distances me from God when I give into it. Only two weeks into the season and the tension to control it is getting the best of me and I have become difficult to be around.
Someone suggested I had chosen something too hard to give up, but isn’t the very fact I am having such difficulty evidence in itself that it was the right choice? Then it hit me, were the temptations Christ faced alone and hungry in the wilderness easy ones? No, they appealed to the same basic instincts we all face as humans. And Satan perceived an advantage and approached him when he was most vulnerable. He uses the same strategy with us today, offering the easy way out. In James 3:7, we are told to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If you are in doubt as to how to accomplish this, arm yourself with scripture for those times when you find yourself in a one on one with Satan. That is what Christ did and he prevailed. It is the best tool to have in your arsenal.
Dear Lord, Please help us to hide your word in our hearts to use to fight temptation. Amen