Temptations of Jesus
One little elastic band was all it took for me to succumb to temptation.
One paltry little band of rubber, that would help me keep my long flowing locks in order,
No-one would miss it!
Surely, it wasn't all that important to anyone in that house, but it meant a great deal to me. I needed it.
I was crawling under my friend's table at the time, so no-one would see that it was me removing it,
Whoever had mislaid it, could not even have noticed losing it, or it wouldn't be under the table where I was crawling.
Also I had a handy pocket, where I could hide it, and no-one would know it was there.
And so, at the age of 8, I ventured on to the slippery slide of that theft.
The experience was traumatic enough to stay with me for the rest of my life.
I remember coming out from under that table with beads of sweat on my brow, wide eyed and guilty, hoping no-one would see the see the shame written all over my face.
What I did was wrong, but I could justify my actions and give many reasons as to why that band actually was better off in my hands than in anyone else's.
It was their fault after all, not looking after it, leaving it there uncared for in the first place.
Had it been a five pound note or a jewelled necklace, I would have handed it over, and said 'Look what I've found under your table'. I'm sure I would, because I was a good girl; after all I went to Sunday school and church.
But one little rubber band got the better of me, isn't that ridiculous, or is it?
Haven't we all at some time in our lives been through a similar experience?
'You can't stop birds flying around you head, but you can stop them making a nest in your hair!
In other words, to be tempted is actually not a sin, but to fantasise, to entertain, the temptation, and then to act upon it, that is when we're lost.
What temptations have come our way, by way of petty little insignificant thoughts, which begin to seep their way into our lives through the weakest of gaps in our make up?
What an impact Jesus would have made if he had succumbed to that second temptation…to have actually thrown himself down from the highest point of the temple, like some Superman, and be visibly held up by soaring angels coming to his rescue?
Would that not have persuaded all of the people as to who he really was? The religious leaders would have been in no doubt whatsoever.
Would that not have taken all the pain, sweat and tears out of his ministry, and saved time for the more important work of salvation and healing?
No, but that would have been to have used God for his own purposes, instead of submitting to God's will.
That would have been to seize the initiative out of God's hand.
And is this not what temptation really is? To do our own will rather than God's?
This temptation was surely akin to coming down from the cross in order to save himself, or running away from God in the garden of Gethsemane, rather than drink the cup that the Father was requiring him to drink.
How many times do we want what we want, rather than to submit to God's will; and anyway how do we really know what his will
And then there's that final temptation; that pull towards fame and wealth and power, popularity and acclaim.
Which of us wouldn't want a little of that kind of recognition? How many of us rather enjoy the good reputation, the respected name, and a little piece of God's glory for ourselves?
Many have sold their souls in the process, many have not recognised the hidden sins; the sins that are the most dangerous, the ones we don't even realise are there, because we have allowed ourselves to be tempted with the carrot of power and glory?
This Lent let us be challenged to do some real soul searching, and ask deep questions of ourselves to do with our relationship with God and with one another.
If only we could pray,
'Lord have mercy on me,
Save me from myself.
What do you know about me, that I don't know myself?
What do you see in my heart that I can't see?
Change me O Lord.
Make me into the person I ought to be!
What a life changing prayer that would be.
I know of a painting called 'Checkmate'.
The artist painted a chessboard depicting a game in progress.
Seated at one side of the board, is a young man with a look of desperation on his face.
Across from him there sits Satan, leering sadistically.
The game is over and Satan has won. The young man had been checkmated!
According to the story, a certain man returned to the museum day after day. He would stand for hours before that painting studying it in great detail.
Finally, one day, he let out a shout.
'It's NOT checkmate! It's NOT checkmate!
Soon a crowd gathered to see what the commotion was all about. Excitedly he told them,
'I'm a chessmaster. I've studied this painting for days now, and if the young man moves this piece to that square, he escapes checkmate!
So, one day you realise that you too find yourself in checkmate. You have been sorely tempted, and you have succumbed to that elastic band in your life, and you feel trapped.
Your life's a mess as a result!
With cunning cruelty the devil suggest that God has given up on you, washed his hands of you, that he wants nothing more to do with you.
From where you sit it looks like checkmate for sure!
Left to our own devices, it is over.
But it doesn't have to be.
The eternal chess master-Jesus Christ- can turn the situation around,
He will make a way of escape for us if we will call upon him.
It gives him great pleasure to spoil the enemy's plans.
For this purpose the Son of God came into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil' (I John 3:8)
Jesus fought off the devil's temptations in four vital ways:-
His four spiritual disciplines were these:-
Prayer…he was always on retreat, to commune with God, alone
in the hills, to replenish himself and make himself strong spiritually…
Study of Scripture… all through his ministry, he quoted scripture, even when he was a boy of twelve, he was able to understand its depths.
Public Worship.. even though he came from heaven , he went continually into the synagogue and the temple to pray and meet with other people of faith, and he was a source of healing to the weakest men and women there…
And Obedience to God was his only goal, to carry out the will of his Father in heaven.
How do we fare in each of these?
Perhaps these four disciplines need also to be examined this Lent.
If Jesus did all these, how CAN WE THINK FOR A MINUTE THAT WE CAN DO ANY LESS?