Lessons learned from the temptation of Jesus

When we face temptation, we would do well to examine the lessons Jesus practiced when he was tempted. Here are four:

(1) He was led by the Spirit of God (Matt. 4:1)

Matthew records that Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted. We know that God cannot be tempted, neither tempts he any man (Jam. 1:13), so the Spirit of God wasn’t doing the tempting, he was doing the leading. This is an important distinction, and a vital reminder of this truth: Jesus was not alone in his temptation. The Holy Spirit was with him.

Often we feel alone in our greatest temptation. We look to the left then to the right, and choose to sin because we think no one is watching (Heb. 4:13). We get discouraged because we think we have to battle the temptation by ourselves. The Scripture gives this great reminder: we’re not alone (Heb. 13:5).

(2) He was dependent on the Word of God (Matt. 4:4).

Three times Jesus would say, “It is written.” The first verse Jesus quoted was “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Are we that dependent upon the word of God when we face temptation? When was the last time we actively memorized verses that prepared us for the temptations with which we personally struggle? Jesus said, “We live by every word that comes from God.” That’s dependence.

(3) He was defensive for the character of God (Matt. 4:7)

Just like with Eve in the garden, Satan’s ploy was to draw into question the character of God.  “Throw yourself down from this temple and God will send angels” (Matt. 4:6). It’s as if Satan is saying, “That’s what God said, right?”

Jesus countered with, “You shall not test the Lord your God.” Jesus was saying, “I will not doubt, draw into question, or test God’s character.” The character of God is true and unchanging. When we are tempted we should not be surprised that the tempter attacks the character of God. Questions come into our imagination like:

  • Why would a loving God allow this to happen to you?
  • Is God really all-powerful? Why didn’t he stop the circumstances that brought such pain?
  • Is God really all-wise? Shouldn’t he have known your situation better?

 Temptation always places a question mark over the character of God. Jesus defends the character of God, and thus further prepares himself for his role of submission in the Garden of Gethsemane 3 years later.

(4) He waited for the provision of God (Matt. 4:11).

After 40 days of fasting Jesus needed ICU level care. God provided. He sent angels. They came and ministered to Jesus in his malnourished state. The angels appear to be the ones who break Jesus’ 40 day fast (Matt. 4:11). Jesus was willing to wait on God. Though hungry, weak, and hurting, Jesus waited on God’s provision, and God answered.

Here’s another window into the nature of temptation. We often sin when we are unwilling to patiently wait. We ought not to be in a hurry. There is always time to wait, pray, and trust God to provide—even if it takes 40 days.