Before He began His formal ministry, Jesus was tempted in the desert. Drawn away by the Holy Spirit, there was a purpose in this time alone; He was there to fast and pray. Following Jesus’ baptism He needed time alone with God. Our young people sometimes attempt 40 days of fasting, but they do it together and it is not practised in the complete absence of food. The purpose of course is to feast one’s eyes on God, to hear His voice. Is this what Jesus was doing in the desert?
So much is made of the temptation which followed Jesus’ fasting that we sometimes forget to look at the amazing strength He received from talking with His Heavenly Father for 40 whole days! Think of it! How often do we spend 40 minutes dedicated to listening to God? Its hard to spend an hour in prayer – Jesus’ disciples couldn’t do it in Gethsemane; you and I aren’t, generally, much different.
We hear sermons about how Satan attacked Jesus when He was most vulnerable. Perhaps we forget the way God had nurtured His spirit for 40 days; given their precious communication, Jesus was able to meet Satan armed with the “sword of the spirit” which Paul talks about (Ephesians 6:17).
One pastor recently reminded his congregation that Satan took what was good, in an attempt to pervert Jesus’ calling. Jesus’ response demonstrated His commitment to that calling, based on the Word of God.
Satan didn’t stop until he had tempted Jesus to abandon His calling, twisting reality in the attempt to invert the whole experience of worship. Jesus knew Himself to be worthy of worship. This was, and is the truth. He, being the way, the TRUTH and the life (John 14:6), was not going to abdicate His royal position for any temptation here on earth.
Worship is to be God-centered. Sometimes in order to take our focus off of temporal things we need to be alone in the desert with God, where nothing will distract us from listening to His voice. Then, and only then will we know the joy of having the Holy Spirit minister to our innermost needs. Imagine the irony of Satan, a created being himself, trying to tempt the Omniscient, Almighty Creator with power.
Our prayers often exemplify what we believe about God’s power. Only in a desert experience can we know the reality of scripture “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Matthew records how this played out in the life of Christ. Can we, will we, see beyond the temporary to the eternal, in our desert experiences?
by Marilyn Daniels