Read This Week: Matthew 13
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables. – Matthew 13:1-3 NIV
Stories are the sound bites of life; they possess abilities. They can be humble yet boastful. They can attract or repel. They can build up and tear down. They can bring peace, preserve history, communicate truth, reunite friends, and harmonize families. They can sink ships, save lives, and close deals.
A good story. Every person, young or old, wants one. We want to hear one. We want to tell one to impress a stranger or entertain a large crowd. We want to read one in the pages of a novel or in a show we watch on Netflix. We want to watch one in a movie or acted out on a stage. We want to live a good story, a story that can get a reaction, incite laughter, and move one to tears. A story that motivates action and inspires life. No matter where we come from or where we’re going, we all love a good story.
Jesus understood this about us better than anyone. He knew how to communicate and harness the power of a story. He taught life-changing truths through stories to his followers and anyone who listened to Him. In the Gospels, these stories are called parables, or stories illustrating a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus was creative with his methods, and He made efforts to get down on the level of the people and relate to them. We see this play out in verses 2-3 of Matthew 13:
He sat in a boat while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables.
In this passage, Jesus teaches principles and truth from the seat of a boat using the context of five parables. He communicates to them through the parable of the sower, the parable of the weeds, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the yeast, and the parable of the net. Each one carried its message about the Kingdom of God, the gospel, and the responsibility of people. Here are the morals of the stories or the main takeaways from each parable in this chapter:
• Parable of the Sower – We are to be messengers of God and plant His seeds of truth wherever we go. We do not control the condition of the hearts that it falls. But we are to be obedient to share and make sure our hearts are receptive to the word of God. We can choose to respond when hard times come and not fall away from the truth and the gospel. When life gets difficult, we can choose to serve the Lord and His kingdom.
• Parable of the Weeds – Weeds can never produce fruit. But when it comes to the gospel and following Jesus, people can change. What was once a weed can begin to bear fruit in the power of the Holy Spirit. It depends on a person’s choice, and God gives us time to choose. We should receive and respond to the word and not be useless weeds among God’s people.
• Parable of the Mustard Seed – Jesus describes the kingdom as the smallest seed. He is communicating that it begins small and does not come with fanfare and celebrity and human notoriety. Even though this is not what people want, the gospel story is about faithful, gradual growth.
• Parable of the Yeast – Yeast is not very noticeable at first in bread dough, but a small amount produces a big result. The movement of God begins small and inconspicuous, but it grows large. Jesus says that we must start and continue to be faithful in small ways for the kingdom and the gospel. But the entire story of God will grow into something beyond what we can think or imagine if we are faithful.
• Parable of the Net – The gospel captivates both good and bad people. The message comes to both. They exist in a community together and have the opportunity to change and grow. But the time comes when the good separate from the bad. God loves the bad and pursues the bad, yet he wants them to repent and change. We must choose to walk with God and be in the right relationship with Him and in service to His kingdom.
May we all glean and grow from the teachings of Jesus and be receptive to His truth even if it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. May we all ask Him for wisdom to understand the moral of the story and what He wants us to know and apply in our lives. May we all communicate Jesus and the gospel through our stories to everyone who comes into our lives.
Read This Week: Matthew 12
Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Holy Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name, the nations will put their hope. – Matthew 12:18-21 NIV
So much has been written and said about the idea and application of being a servant. We are to be servant leaders at work, serve our spouse and kids, serve the community, and serve faithfully in our church. But where do we go for an example to follow? We have to look no further than Jesus himself, the greatest servant of all time and the one who was able to fulfill the prophecies about his servanthood.
In this passage, we see that God required perfect service from us, but we could not live up to this standard. So Jesus stepped in and took upon himself the nature of man and performed the will of God. Through his life, death, burial, and resurrection, He communicates grace to us as a servant and enables us to love and serve in a manner worthy of Him. Jesus showed us how to be a servant from the highest place of honor.
This same servant, Jesus, shows us that we can lead others without being contentious, complaining, gossiping, or having an ulterior motive. He shows us that we do not need to be loud and braggadocious and seek attention for ourselves. He shows us that we can be bold and speak His word while maintaining our integrity and allowing the truth to take effect. He shows us that we can be strong in the face of adversity and challenge from those who seek trouble, and that discretion is not a sign of weakness but wisdom.
This same servant, Jesus, who humbled himself to the point of death on a cross to bring glory to God and redeem man, is the same Jesus who is all that we need. This same Jesus who didn’t sin but became sin for us so that we might be made right with God through him is the same one who has the authority, grace, and compassion to love us despite our past, our failures, and who we think we are.
This same servant, Jesus, who walked through undeserved, heinous torture, and died with two thieves without protest, is the same one who has the power to heal us, make us whole, and comfort us when we are hurting. This same Jesus who was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused of a crime, illegally put on trial, and forsaken by his people, is the same one who can bring meaning and hope to our lives when they don’t make sense.
This same servant, Jesus, who was at the beginning with God and victoriously raised, is the same one who has the ability, authority, and capacity to save us from an unthinkable, eternal destiny apart from Him. Verse 21 says, in his name, the nations will put their hope. It is in the greatest servant of all time that we find ultimate hope and peace. He alone is worthy of that title and worthy of our emulation in every area of our lives.
Read This Week: Matthew 11
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:25-30 NIV
No word picture in the New Testament or the Gospels shows the depth of what we have in our life with God more than the teachings of Jesus in verse 27 where he says:
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
We have received all that God has for us by coming to know Jesus. By entering into a relationship with the One who called us to himself. Our lives can be Godly lives that refresh, renew, and are sustainable in normal circumstances; in difficult situations; in relationships; sitting in traffic; working out; or parenting kids.
This passage shows how our faith refreshes us when life is overwhelming. But it also provides insight into how our difficult moments can be an opportunity to advance in our walk with Christ. We lack nothing because the Father has revealed Himself in the Son. Jesus is more than enough for us.
Without this connection, we can do nothing that glorifies God, but with this relationship, even the downtimes are sacred and impactful, and the small decisions benefit from renewal. We are all in need of encouragement, direction, and strength in the minor and the major. Sometimes, just getting through the day requires spiritual refreshment. God can refresh and sustain us if we rely on and trust in Him. Jesus tells us that if we take His burden upon ourselves and learn from Him, we will find rest for our souls.
In this rest, the Holy Spirit can arrange an encounter between selfishness and sanctification. When we tap into everything that God has given us in Jesus, we begin to tear down the false image and rebuild a new, refreshed person alive in the fullness of Christ. Our attitudes shift from personal gain to spiritual renewal. We go from looking for relief from our stuff to passionately seeking the will of God just like the message Jesus relayed to John the Baptist. He wants us to stop focusing on our present circumstances and place our sight on and trust in Him and His perfect will no matter what comes our way in life.
Spiritual and emotional healing and refreshment take place when we move toward and go to God. Jesus says in verse 28, Come to me. He is telling us that He will help us deal with our issues and challenges along the path of pursuing him. This promise made to those listening to the words of Jesus centuries ago certainly rings true for us in the present. He will refresh us and strengthen our hearts and minds as we engage with his truth every day. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. This truth is a refreshing promise whenever and wherever we find ourselves in life.
Read This Week: Matthew 10
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” – Matthew 10:38-40 NIV
Chapter 10 is a critical place in “The Gospels” series as we continue to read and learn from the book of Matthew. Here, Jesus gathers his disciples around him and gives them spiritual authority to go and do apostolic things like drive out evil spirits, raise the dead, and heal sickness and disease. This moment and sending out of the disciples is important because, for the first time, Christ is endowing his spiritual power and authority to others to go and do His ministry in the world.
It is also necessary to be aware of who is being sent out by Jesus. Sometimes, there is confusion around who the 12 disciples actually were, and Matthew has done a great service by providing a listing of the names in verses 2-4 of this passage:
Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Once he identifies who is being sent out, Matthew lays out exactly what Jesus wanted them to do in their ministries to the people. The striking thing here is that it is comprehensive, precise, and detailed. Jesus is specific and thorough in the way He instructs them to conduct their service and ministry. Much like God’s Word does for us today, Jesus doesn’t leave them to do it on their own. He doesn’t tell them to go and figure it out later. He gives them a game plan to follow and a pathway to success and effective ministry in His spirit.
This is our experience as well. The Bible tells us how to live the Christian life. God did not leave us without guidance, wisdom, and a plan. The following is a capsule of what Jesus tells them in verses 5-28:
• Only go to the Jewish people
• Proclaim the kingdom of heaven
• Heal the sick
• Raise the dead
• Cleanse those with diseases
• Drive out demons
• Don’t take any money
• Don’t take a bag of extra clothes
• Stay in people’s houses
• Try not to waste time on those who won’t listen
• Be gentle but street smart
• Stand firm in the face of persecution
• Be teachable
• Proclaim the truth with boldness
Then Jesus utters the famous words of sacrifice and the reward of a life with God. He says in verses 38-39, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Being a follower of Jesus means being sent out into the world to shine His light. Being sent is not seasonal and does not have a term limit. It is a whole life commitment for all of life. Being sent for life is about sacrifice, not self-fulfillment. Being sent for life means always counting the cost and then taking action in God’s power.
Jesus closes by saying, “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” A sent life realizes that the best life comes later. We serve Jesus because we love Him, want to follow Him, and do His perfect will on earth. That is what called and sent people do with their whole life for all of their life.
Read This Week: Matthew 9
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Matthew 9:35-38 NIV
Matthew chapter 9 is a tour de force in this gospel. This chapter is full of so many significant events and happenings including, Jesus calling Matthew himself to follow Him and be one of his disciples. The other sections are full of details of the public ministry of Jesus and the various people he touched and healed like a paralytic, a sick woman, a dead girl, and two blind men, one of whom was also a mute.
Yet, the calling of Matthew stands out among all of these events. It is significant to the author, but it is also critical to the challenge that Jesus issues to His followers at the end of the chapter. Jesus’ plea to Matthew is significant in its context for two reasons.
First, it happened in public where others could observe it because of the societal scorn that tax collectors received from the people. Matthew’s employment made him a figure of contempt for many of his Galilean contemporaries, and Jesus undoubtedly wanted to make an open statement about who can be his disciple by calling a person everyone despised. Secondly, we can’t overlook the response of Matthew to the calling itself. The Bible tells us that it was simple, pointed, and obedient. Verse 9 says he got up and followed him.
In this passage and the other gospels, Matthew’s response to Jesus is immediate and without wavering. It shows us that he did not argue or protest. He didn’t ask a lot of questions or inquire as to how it would be done and what it would take. He didn’t engage Jesus in a religious discussion, and he didn’t have a lot of excuses about how busy he was or how it would impact his life and business. He didn’t even tell Jesus that it wasn’t a good idea in light of his social standing. He simply leaves everything to follow Christ.
And not only does he follow him, but Matthew also hosts a party at his house with his colleagues, friends, and others from the community. He could not wait to share what happened to him and introduce his circle to Jesus. This is a powerful example for us of what it means to surrender to and follow God. It also is an incredible segue into Jesus’ final teaching in the chapter after he sees the spiritual and physical condition of the people and has compassion on them. He turns to his disciples and says to them:
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus is essentially saying that the need is immense and the supply must answer it. There is so much to do for the kingdom and to bring glory to God. So many people are hurting, struggling, confused, and seeking. The spiritual needs in our cities, towns, communities, and neighborhoods are vast and require those who know Jesus to step out, go and supply His love in sharing the good news of salvation.
May we see this and be like Matthew when he was called. May we not waver for one minute, but in the power of Christ, get up and follow. May we go above and beyond and throw a party so we can tell everyone we know. May the need for the gospel never be greater than the supply.
Read This Week: Matthew 8
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” – Matthew 8:23-27 NIV
There is a famous saying that goes: Keep Calm and Carry On! It originated in Britain as a motivational and inspirational motto of the people to persevere during the trials and horrors of World War II. It was a rallying cry of hope and faith that things would be okay in their darkest hours. The presence of Jesus in our lives does the same for us. It gives us the ability to stay calm in the middle of our struggles. It allows us to keep going with strength and resolve despite fatigue, exhaustion, and hopelessness.
The part of this passage in Matthew 8, where the storm hits the boat that the disciples and Jesus are aboard, shows us that we can persevere while facing critical moments if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to put our faith and confidence in Christ. It also shows that we often want God to do something miraculous in our lives when He wants to do something miraculous in us that becomes the proof of our faith.
This outward expression of trust in the power of God is why Jesus questioned the disciples in verse 26. We allow unbelief and the inability to see what He wants to do in and through us to cause us to have little faith and be so afraid. Fear places distance between our hearts and the faith and trust we need in God alone. Instead of crying out to the Lord to save us during the most crucial and violent parts of the storm, we often decide to rescue ourselves.
We look at the effect of the wind on the waves and at the waves themselves when we should have been looking to Jesus, who has ultimate authority over both. He can simultaneously soothe the circumstances that have us distressed while keeping us spiritually, emotionally, and physically calm in the process. The end of verse 26 tells us that the wind and the waves were completely calm after Jesus spoke peace to them. He can do the same to anything on our journey. But until we fully trust Father God in and out of trouble, we do not know how much faith is within us. We have not fully realized how powerful God is until we allow Him full authority to keep us calm in the storm.
Life can take us to the brink where we feel like we have nothing left. It can take us to the end of ourselves to exhaustion and depletion. But, when we trust Jesus and let Him empower us and regenerate that strength inside us, we will stay completely calm and carry on. We will testify as they did in the boat and say to ourselves and the world: What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him! Then we will obey and follow Him and go further than we ever thought we could go.
Read This Week: Matthew 7
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
– Matthew 7:24-27 NIV
A house, building, or structure of any kind is only as good as its foundation. Casual knowledge of construction may lead one to believe that the foundation is just another element of the overall process. But it is the most important part of building anything. Mistakes made in the foundation will only get worse as the rest of the project goes up. This progressive worsening is known as compounding defect, and it means that these flaws only grow and impact the entire structure. However, a solid, stable foundation results in compounding strength, and it ensures that the whole house will be formidable and stand the test of time no matter what comes.
Compound strength is what Jesus was teaching about in Matthew 7. He addressed the judgment of others, the boldness of faith to seek God and ask Him for things, the narrow path to salvation, and discerning the difference between true and false teachers and disciples. Then, in a capitulation of addressing all this, Jesus reveals the key to it all – a solid foundation built on the Word of God. He says in verses 24-25:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Building the proper foundation is of vital importance in life. Jesus taught extensively about that which underwrites our morals, values, and principles can ultimately determine our outcome. We see in His teachings that earthly distractions, flawed subjectivity, discontentment, sin, and poor judgment can lead to restlessness and dissatisfaction with the process of building the right foundation. Yet, every foundation has a result for better or worse, and we ultimately want one of compound strength, not one of defect.
Jesus encourages us to take an intentional approach to what we build our lives on. The best foundation may be taking too long for our desires. Instant gratification can lead us to a false conclusion that the shortest process is the one we should be taking. But the best isn’t always the quickest. Right does not equal fast. The longer foundational process may be the best one for us. Our lives will benefit from the development of patience, endurance, and character while our goals and dreams marinate and gain experience.
The best foundation might be a little too difficult for our liking. Insecurity and discomfort with our surroundings become our building blocks and affect the entire framework of our lives. But the best isn’t always the safest. Right does not equal easy. The risky process may be the best one for us. Our lives will benefit from the development of resolve, obedience, and courage while our faith and hope materialize in the face of uncertainty.
The Word of God holds the wisdom, credibility, and sovereign power to help us build the best foundation that will lead to compound strength in our lives. This holistic strength will help us withstand the struggles and challenges of the journey, stand up to the storms and shifting sands of life, and keep us grounded when we have success. We must be wise builders of our lives and base them on the eternal foundation of the Lord’s objective truth and perfect words. He is the rock-solid base that will not allow us to fall.
Read This Week: Matthew 6
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” – Matthew 6:19-25 NIV
The treasures on earth. They, like our lives, are fragile. They are not immune to disappearing; they are not resistant to change. They can vanish tomorrow. They can be stolen and taken away much faster than it took to acquire them. The elements of the earth like moths, rats, and rust can destroy and corrupt them.
The carefully curated things that required time, energy, passion, creativity, and resources beyond imagination can often amount to nothing more than the cement residue left in the impressions of a statue. Verses 19-20 paints a pretty clear picture of this: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Why do we pursue these treasures on earth when we know they can be gone in an instant? Why do we sacrifice our lives to construct and guard them? Why do we forsake what matters most to preserve them? The words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount were prescriptive. He said that we should pursue the things that rust, time, thieves, or disaster cannot touch. Things like righteousness, goodness, love, and mercy.
In essence, we should run hard after the things God values. That is laying up treasures in heaven, treasures that last forever. Then joy, peace, and fulfillment will reign even while our possessions, trophies, and earthly rewards are carried away, eaten, melted down, or aged beyond recognition. If our heart is right and concerned only with the things of heaven, it will not be a big deal when we don’t have any treasures on earth. Verses 20-21 says:
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We are to treasure Jesus most of all. When He is our treasure, we will commit our money, time, gifts, and talents to the gospel and the Lord’s work in the world. We see in this chapter that if we value the things of God above all and our passion lies in the running after what can never be taken away from us, we won’t worry. A life filled with heavenly treasures is one free from worry, and a life free from worry is treasured.
Read This Week: Matthew 5
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Mathew 5:1-10 NIV
During the ministry of Jesus, large crowds would follow him from place to place to listen to him speak, perform miracles, and be around him. These gatherings of followers provided incredible opportunities to speak the truth, embody the gospel, and preach about the coming kingdom. Matthew 5 capsules such an opportunity by recording The Sermon on the Mount, one of the most impactful and practical teachings of Jesus’ life.
The Beatitudes can be understood as a spiritual and ethical standard for all believers and the contrast between eternal and temporary values. These ten verses are pivotal because they introduce the difference between having a relationship with God and simply following religious rules. The Beatitudes are not about the subjective feelings of the blessed person, but it is the objective reality when God reigns in the heart of a person, and they live their life through Christ.
The Beatitudes show us that to be blessed and therefore happy is to be a beneficiary of God’s grace, recognize it, and obediently live within it. Happy is the person who:
• Sees and embraces their need for God and stops trying to compensate and cover it up. (v.3)
• Lives the eternal kind of life in the here and now. (v.3)
• Is broken over his condition apart from God. (v.4)
• Avoids the façade of spiritual health and lives in the reality of open transparency with Christ and others. (v.5)
• Finds humility not in being humble but in the fact that God gives it to them. (v.5)
• Understands they don’t need the world to live happily but only in their relationship with Christ. (v.5)
• Has a compelling desire to live a life of integrity. (v.6)
• Recognizes they have received mercy and shows it to others. (v.7)
• Has a heart that is decided and undivided. (v.8)
• Cultivates integrity in their public and private life. (v.8)
• Has a receptive heart that is open to change. (v.8)
• Is willing to fight for peace with the truth. (v.9)
• Lets peace consume their heart like a child of God. (v.9)
• Embraces the joy of a life with God no matter the circumstances. (v.10)
• Stays on the mission. (v.10)
Everyone wants to be happy. The problem with pursuing happiness is we are often misguided in our search for it. Happiness as a follower of Jesus is not merely serendipitous or dependent upon people, circumstances, and things. It is the holistic embrace of God’s truth and the following of His principles and prescription for a successful life.
A blessed and happy life is one built on the hope, confidence in, and application of the unchangeable foundations of the Word of God and not on societal norms, current cultural trends, and the whims and moods of others. That’s what happiness is.
Read This Week: Matthew 4
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
– Matthew 4:1-4 & 10-11 NIV
Life would be so much easier and much more manageable without sin, temptation, and the difficulty that comes along with them. These elements can bring a sudden and cruel nature to our daily walk. Satan and his attacks create intense engagements with our circumstances, surroundings, other people, and ourselves. From sickness to the affliction of other diseases to tragic loss to relational discord to unemployment and difficulty moving on from traumatic situations, it seems that life is a constant struggle.
As we genuinely attempt to follow Christ and be faithful to His commands, we can sometimes forget that in the middle of this pursuit is a warring agent that not only wants to knock us off-kilter but desires to take us out. As naive as it may seem, we can lose sight of the fact that we are engaged in a struggle of great magnitude with a formidable enemy. This confrontation even happened to Jesus Himself in Matthew 4. He gets baptized, the Holy Spirit of God descended upon Him to start His public ministry, and then he is immediately led into the wilderness to be tempted. This chapter also tells us that Jesus is physically weak from hunger. Verse 1 says:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
So here is Jesus coming off of a spiritual victory and feeling filled with the Spirit of God but a little tired and hungry. It is the perfect time for temptation and the devil to try and take advantage. This scene is not unlike our own lives. We experience a spiritual victory, have some good things going, get a little tired, and our adversary sees this as the perfect moment to tempt, lie, and accuse us so that we may fall and be destroyed.
In this passage (and other places in the New Testament), we see that our enemy is not ourselves or other people or anything that originated in the earthly dimension. Our adversary is supernatural and more intelligent, cunning, and powerful than we imagine. His many attributes include wickedness, hate, and deception. So how do we handle and overcome this? The good news is that we have Jesus’ example and His power to help us in these moments throughout the entirety of our lives on earth.
We see Jesus do three things to resist temptation and the enemy. He confronts him with the Word of God (v.4) and corresponds to the truth in the face of accusations. Jesus reminds Satan of his place and his lack of authority to test and tempt Him (v.7). Then He commands Satan to get away from Him in the name of God (v.10). This approach is our template for temptation and spiritual attacks. We stay in the Bible and correspond to it when we are being lied to; we remind ourselves and the enemy that he does not have authority over God or us in Christ; we get ourselves away from the temptation by worshipping the name God.
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the central key to our spiritual battles. Christ alone gives us the win over Satan and empowers us to live successfully amid our fallenness. With him on our side, we cannot lose despite some grueling moments that would suggest otherwise. Colossians 2:14-15 assures us that Jesus disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
In Christ, we can resist and live victoriously above every temptation that comes our way. By following God’s voice and applying the example of Jesus, we can defeat the devil and enjoy the benefits of being in an intimate relationship with the Lord that bring healing, peace, and hope. Verse 11 shows us our reality with God’s help: Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. This is the winning walk.