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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Larsen

If It Worked for Him, It’ll Work for Us

After Jesus was baptized by John, the gospel of Matthew describes a wondrous scene, chapter 3 verse 10 in the New International Version: At that moment, heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”

Wow. If anyone had any doubt that this was no ordinary man, that he was special and divine, that would’ve cleared things up in a hurry. It should come to no surprise then, what happened next.

Matthew chapter 4: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

As we often see, the Bible gives us the ultimate in understatements.  Draw on your imagination for a moment and think about that scene.  Jesus, all alone in the Judean wilderness – desert, lots of sand, mountainous, very little vegetation.  Wild animals roamed freely.  Not only was he hungry – which he certainly was, because he intentionally fasted – but he was thirsty and unprotected from the elements. He was cold, he was hot, he was uncomfortable.

What did he do during this time? He prayed and focused on God.  He had just been baptized by the forerunner that God had planned for him, and now he was in communication with his Father.  I believe this is when Jesus and God laid out all the plans for Jesus’s ministry.  What he would say, where he would travel, who he would bring along with him, what he would accomplish and ultimately how his life would end.  Jesus knew all that from the beginning, and this forty-day isolation seems like a good time to shore up the master plan.

What would you feel like after forty days and nights of surviving in the wilderness with no food or drink, and no protection from the elements?  Honestly, I wouldn’t survive that long, much less engage my brain in praying and plan-making!  But it was at this moment that the devil made his appearance.

Matthew 4:3: The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

The devil knew that the Son of God beginning his official ministry on earth was not a good thing for him.  He didn’t need the sign of the dove and God’s booming voice from the skies after Jesus’s baptism to convince him that this was no ordinary man.  He was well aware!  So, he waited till Jesus was at his most vulnerable to attack him and try to change the course of history.

To Satan’s words in verse 3, Jesus responded in verse 4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus responded with the words that his ancestor Moses told the people of Israel after he delivered to them God’s Ten Commandments.  He was admonishing them to be careful to follow every command so that they may live fully and possess the land the Lord promised their ancestors.  He reminded them that God led them out of wilderness and fed them manna (bread) in the desert.

Jewish people of Jesus’ day would be familiar with that verse and Jesus used it to dispute what Satan was trying to tempt him to do.  Oh, you’re hungry, Jesus?  If you’re the Son of God, prove it by turning these stones to bread. You’ll convince me of who you are, and you’ll also end this crazy hunger strike you’re on!  I can just hear the taunting voice the devil used to the weak and hungry Jesus, trying to get him to cave.  But Jesus not only didn’t give in to temptation, but he also taught the devil a thing or two by quoting scripture.

The devil didn’t give up. He tested Jesus two more times, even going so far as quoting scripture back to Jesus!  Twisting it around to meet Satan’s own agenda.  But Jesus didn’t fall for it. He stood strong in the face of temptation and responded with scripture verses at the ready.  The last time saying, (verse 10), “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,’” (a verse taken from Deuteronomy 6:13).

Then, what a beautiful ending in verse 11: Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. 

I can just imagine the angels that God sent to Jesus’s side. What did they do to attend him? I imagine they spoke to him, praising him for his success against the Evil One, gave him food and drink, treated whatever bodily injuries he’d incurred during his time in the wilderness. Helped him recover so he could go on and continue his important ministry.

Satan is alive and well in our modern world. He may not take the same physical form that he took with Jesus in the wilderness.  You may not be able to see him but if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll know when he’s attacking you. 

Because that’s what Satan does to Christians – he goes on the attack. Jesus himself says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In life, we experience all kinds of trials – sadness, despair, fear, temptation. Be assured that these types of emotion are not from God. They originate from God’s opponent – the devil. If we are confronted with these feelings because of the circumstances in our lives, let’s try handling it the same way Jesus did.

Let’s confront Satan with scripture. But how? We need to be prepared.  Put some time into identifying a litany of Scriptures to memorize. Place them in your arsenal of weapons for fighting evil. Don’t wait till Satan attacks your well-being. Do it now, during a time of peace so that you can pull them up in your mind and say them out loud when Satan intervenes.

Where do we start?  The Bible provides an almost endless supply of strength and hope that we can use to turn the tide when negativity hits our lives.  But I suggest that we start in three places:

·       Psalms

·       The epistles of the Apostle Paul.

·       The Gospels

The Psalms were written as poems or songs or even ancient journal entries by King David and many others.  Some were written to bemoan terrible things happening in their lives, but they were also written to praise God when things were good.  Flip to the book of Psalms and start reading until you find a verse or two that will help you in your warfare against evil.  For example, Psalm 46:1: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  (Short and sweet – and easy to memorize!)

The reason I suggest arming yourself with verses from Paul’s letters is because to whom and why he wrote them.  Paul’s mission on earth was to spread the gospel (the story of Jesus) to Gentiles (or non-Jews) throughout the world. He traveled far and wide and spread the word, and as a result, early Christian churches were formed.  He didn’t just urge these churches to open and then abandon them in their new faith. He stayed in touch through letters. He wrote to them with encouragement and advice and continued knowledge about the Jesus that they now serve.

Those very ancient letters make up parts of our New Testament. Paul’s advice to his fledgling churches can also be advice to us in modern times. They are also good verses to memorize to get us through dark times in life.  Such as I Corinthians 4:5: Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (New International Version)

What better place to have positive messages to throw in Satan’s face than the actual words of Jesus himself?  We’d find those words in the gospels.  Jesus was constantly building up his disciples because he knew they needed to learn all they could about his message to spread the word when Jesus’s physical life ended.  Spend some time in the gospels to come up with something that resonates with you to use as a weapon when spiritual warfare attacks your life.  For example, John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”

Hard times are going to hit us – it’s a reality of life.  But arming yourself with words from Scripture to help us get through the hard times is a positive and powerful method of fighting evil.  After all, Jesus himself did it so we know it works.

Let’s pray: Dear God, We want to count on you to help us when the troubles of life hit us. We know you love us and want us to survive the hard times and come out the other side to love and good and positivity.  Give us the knowledge and wisdom to select verses from your Word to memorize and recite in the face of evil. We know that this method worked for Jesus and therefore, we trust that it will work for us.  Amen.

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