This month we are looking at how to overcome temptation and one of the most important things we need to remember is that in every temptation there is more at stake than what we might think. Last week we learned that there are three things that are always in danger when we face temptation and they are our future, our family and our faith. In many ways our faith is always at risk because when we face temptation it is our confidence in God that is on the line because it is our confidence in God’s strength working in our lives that helps us overcome temptation.. In times of temptation we need to ask ourselves if we believe God is big enough and strong enough to help us. When we are tempted to do something at work that is unethical but will help us get ahead we need to ask ourselves if God is big enough to help our career if we work with integrity. When we are tempted to enter into relationships with others because our marriages or families aren’t meeting our needs we need to ask ourselves if God is big enough to restore our marriage or heal our family.
If we will pause and think about all that is at stake and then consider how big and capable God is, then we being to find power to overcome. We can also learn to overcome temptation by looking at how Jesus overcame temptation in his own life because Jesus was tempted in every way that we were and yet rose above it. In the three temptations of Jesus that we are going to begin to look at today we can find the root of every temptation we face. Jesus faced:
• the temptation to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way
• the temptation to leverage God for our own benefit
• the temptation to take a short cut.
One common element in each of these temptations is a desire we face to do things on our own instead of trusting in God. There is the temptation of taking control of our own lives and being in control of our futures. Jesus faced this same thing, so let’s look at how he dealt with this by looking at the first temptation of Jesus found in Mathew 4:1-4.
The temptation for Jesus is to meet a legitimate need he has for food. We all need food. Jesus needed food and after 40 days of fasting, that need was acute and at some point he was going to have to eat again, so why not just turn the stones to bread and eat now? Jesus was being tempted to meet a legitimate need but he was being encouraged to do it in his own time, strength and power instead of waiting for God. Jesus response to this temptation was to pause and think back to another time when God’s people had to learn to trust God for food. The story Jesus takes us back to is the story of the Israelites and their journey to the Promised Land.
After God led his people out of slavery and through the Red Sea, they spent many years in a desert wilderness which meant that most of the time food was scarce, but God provided for them. Every morning when the people woke up the ground was covered with a substance that was like bread – it was called Manna. The people would go out and collect the manna and there would be enough for all the people to eat for that day. Every morning this bread was there and God told the people to go out and gather what they needed but only gather what they needed for that day.
As soon as God said, only take enough for that day, what do you think some people did? Right, they tried to gather more than what they needed so they could meet their own need for food the next day, but when they woke up the manna they had kept was rotten and full of maggots. God was teaching them through this process of daily bread that they were not to depend upon themselves but to trust God for everything. So every day they had to go out and collect what they needed for that day trusting that God would provide for them the next day. God was teaching them to have confidence in His ability to meet all their needs.
For a generation this happened and the people learned to put their faith and trust in God but then they settled into the promised land and the manna was going to disappear because the people were going to grow crops and raise animals to help feed themselves, but God didn’t want the people to forget that He was still the One who provided for them so Moses specifically reminded the people that it is God who provides what we need. God reminded the people of this through a summary of the wilderness journey written by Moses which we know as the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 8:2-3.
This is the verse that Jesus quotes which means that this is the story He is thinking about when he is being tempted. Jesus was thinking about how God provided food for the people each day and how God was calling his people to trust him for all their needs and not to try and meet their needs on their own. While food was the issue for Jesus, Moses shows us that this temptation to meet our own needs goes far beyond food, look at Deuteronomy 8:11-14.
So it’s not just food we are talking about here, it is any legitimate hunger or need we have. Moses talks about homes and our prosperity which we could consider as our jobs and careers and wealth. So in every need we have there is the temptation for us to meet that need on our own and when we do this – our relationship with God is damaged and our faith is at risk, look at Deuteronomy 8:17. When we start placing more faith and power in our own ability than in God’s provision, we move farther and farther from God and our faith grows weak.
We are all faced with the temptation to meet legitimate needs in our own strength. We are tempted to turn away from God by saying that we can provide for ourselves in ways that make sense for us and are good for us instead of relying on God and placing our confidence in Him. The legitimate need might be for food but it might be for intimacy and relationship. We were created to be in personal and intimate relationships with others and so we all hunger for that close relationship, but when we try to meet this need on our own – it can lead us into unhealthy relationships which can wreck families and destroy marriages.
We were all created to be prosperous and God has a plan for all of us to succeed but when we try to meet this legitimate need on our own we often end up making poor decisions that ruin our credit or destroy our reputation. We were created to enjoy life and live it to the fullest but when we set out to do this on our own instead of in line with the boundaries and blessings of God, we run headlong into addictions that can destroy our future, our families and our faith.
In what area of life are we being tempted to meet a legitimate need but in an illegitimate way? Is it the need for companionship and intimacy or the need for financial gain or the success we want at work? Whatever the temptation is, God understands it because God is the One who created that hunger in the first place. God created these needs within us which means that God wants to meet these need but he wants to do it in His way and His time and according to His will and purpose. So again, in what areas are we being tempted to meet a legitimate God given hunger but in ways that just don’t line up with God’s will or values or purpose?
One way to determine what this legitimate need might be that we are struggling with in life might be to ask ourselves what the one temptation is that we seem to never be able to overcome. What is the temptation that we seem to fight day after day, week after week and even year after year? Chances are this temptation is to meet a legitimate need in our life which is why it never goes away because it was given by God and it is supposed to be part of our life, but we struggle because we are trying to meet the need in ways that don’t line up with God’s will.
We can overcome this temptation by reminding ourselves, as Jesus did, that there is something bigger and greater than that need in our lives and that is our need for God to be our soul/sole provider. By soul/sole provider I mean that God is the one who wants to meet our needs and provide for all of what we hunger and thirst for in life, so God wants to be our Soul Provider, but God also wants to be the ONLY one we turn to in order to meet this need. In other words, God wants to be our Sole Provider
That’s why Jesus quotes what is said in the Old Testament, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. There was something greater than bread for Jesus in this moment and that was being obedient to the word of God and living a life that trusted God to provide everything that Jesus needed. When we face the temptation to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways we need to say what Jesus said, Man shall not live by_______ alone. You just fill in the blank with what tempts you the most. In fighting temptation, Jesus said this out loud, he addressed it to Satan and in the process he reminded himself what was really important. In our fight against temptation we need to say this out loud, address it to Satan which will remind us of what is really important which is never the need we face but our faith and trust in God to provide for all that we need.
So let’s practice this for a moment. Let’s say together, Man shall not live by bread alone. Now let’s say Man shall not live by ______ alone and when we pause you put in the silence the temptation you face.
One last comment to make this morning as we look to overcome temptation. Jesus understood the power of God’s word in overcoming temptation. By quoting God’s word Jesus was connection himself to the power of God because God’s word is living and active and when we quote it we gain strength and power. But quoting God’s word also helped Jesus remember other times and places when God helped his people in some very big ways. We also need those reminders. If we can remember how God helped people in big ways it reminds us that we have a big God who is able to help us when we are feeling weak, vulnerable and hungry. So We need to find those stories and quote those scriptures that give us strength so that we can overcome temptation.
This week as we face the temptation to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate, irresponsible and immoral ways, let us pause and remember that our faith is always at stake and the most important thing in life isn’t food, intimately, wealth or prosperity, it is our relationship with God who wants to be our Soul and our Sole provider.
Pause ~ Soul Provider
1. Read Matthew 4:1-4. What temptation did Jesus face? Why didn’t Jesus meet his own legitimate need for food? What was at stake for Jesus in this temptation?
2. Is there one temptation that you have struggled with over and over again in life? Is this a temptation to meet a legitimate need we all have in life? If so what is it? What is at stake in meeting this need on your own and in your own strength?
3. Read Deuteronomy 8 and remember how God needs to be our Soul and Sole Provider.
4. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to help keep His confidence in God. Find a passage of God’s word that can help you keep confidence in God when you face temptation. (Searching by key words in a concordance or online Bible resource can help.)
5. This week when you are tempted to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way, pause and say to yourself and Satan,
I shall not live by ___________ alone.
I will trust God to be my soul and sole provider.