Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Luke 4:1-2
Whenever I read about the temptation of Jesus I am always led back to the same thought…
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted.
God led his Son into the desert wilderness where he would be tempted. Something about that flies in the face of what I want to be true. Something about that is contrary to the ways I want to think about God interacting with us. It doesn’t feel helpful. It doesn’t feel like what God’s “job” should be.
In thinking this I reveal some very sinful things about myself. Namely that I tend to think about my relationship with the Father as if it’s all about me, rather than being all about him. I like to think of the give and take being about bringing me help and ease rather than it being about bringing him glory.
I have things turned around.
This is why, when temptations come—or hardships—I can so easily slip into the “woe is me” mentality. I can start to feel sorry for myself because I have let myself believe that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. But is that right?
Granted, in the larger scheme of things this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Sin, temptation, brokenness and hardship—these aren’t the things God created us for when he first breathed creation into existence. But we brought these things into the world and are continually perpetuating them. We are sinners who wander from the narrow path, wallow in our own filthy sin, and then wonder why God would let us get so dirty.
God, on the other hand, while not creating us to live in sin and brokenness, did create us to bring him glory. And now that we find ourselves in the bed we’ve made, with all the sin and pain and brokenness of the world, God’s point has not changed. We’re still here to bring him glory. And sometimes that means leading us to places where our faith will be tested. Sometimes that means putting us in positions where we must make a painful choice.
How important will honoring God be when the path to giving him glory is personally painful and potentially hazardous to our own wants?
My mind automatically goes to the call of Abraham to sacrifice his Son Isaac. This is such a beautiful picture of the father sacrificing son for the glory of God. A very powerful telling of the truth of God our Father’s own plan and willingness to sacrifice all to bring us to his glory. But it is also the telling of a specific man’s struggle to be led down the path of the dark valley so that he may see the light that is found on the other side. It is a testimony to trusting God rather than self and being willing to surrender to anything our Father may call us to.
God will sometimes lead us to paths we would never choose for ourselves. And we must choose to follow or to rebel. The key, I think, is that we must choose before we get to that fork in the road—before the choice is before us. Can we accept that God is calling us to live lives that glorify him without regard for our own personal protection and pleasure?
I want to say yes! I want to shout it and believe it and live it…but I know myself. I know my own tendencies and my insatiable selfishness. I know that I can’t follow well on my own. Only by the grace and power of Christ can I be who I want to be—who I was created to be. Only by surrendering in the now will I ever be prepared then to follow on when the path is dark and the choices unwanted. Only by taking seriously the practice of following the Spirit when life is less threatening will I ever choose to follow into the desert when the Spirit leads to places I don’t want to go.
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19
To trust God in the darkness and pain is far more glorifying to him than to glad hand him in the ease of getting what I want.
Father, may I learn to follow well and surrender sincerely today. I know the desert times will come and the leading of the Spirit will not always be on easy roads that head in the general directions I have in mind. If not for your grace I will never make it; and only by your grace will the glory be truly yours. May your grace ever lead me to places of unending glory for you. May I learn to be about you rather than for me.