And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 3:17-4:1).
How shocking to realize that God allows His children to be tempted. Immediately after the Father God publicly commended Jesus as His Son at his water baptism, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. This makes me think of Job. Soon after God commended Job to the devil as a faithful servant, He allowed the devil to tempt Job with terrible disaster. There must be some good reason why God allows His loved ones to be tempted. There in the Garden of Eden, He allowed Adam and Eve to be tempted with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did God put that tree there with a specific command not to eat the fruit of it? Why did He allow the serpent access to Eve in order that she might be tempted? At the time, neither Adam or Eve had sinned. No sin had entered creation so that it would suffer under the curse of sin. Yet the serpent was there. Jesus hadn’t sinned either, yet He was led away to be tempted by the devil. Jesus wasn’t led into the desert by the devil, but by the Spirit of God. And in the case of Job, I think that the devil would not have had permission to test Job unless God expressly allowed it. So we can only conclude that sometimes God wants His children to be tempted.
Not all temptation is specifically allowed by God. In fact, James says that when we are tempted we shouldn’t say, “’God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:13-14). For certain, God doesn’t tempt anyone. I think most of the time, people are tempted by their own evil desires. We are born as sinners and we will fight the temptations of the flesh for the rest of our days on earth. But still I think that God allows his children to be tempted by the devil.
If this is true, some of us may be tempted to get angry with God and accuse Him of being unfair to us. We might then want to blame God for all the times we have ever fallen into sin, thinking thoughts like: “If He truly loved us then He would never have let us be tempted in the first place.” But then we fall into the temptation of dishonoring God with our frustrations like Job did. Job cried out and accused God of bing unjust. But when God finally answered Job with a voice from the whirlwind, then Job realized that God is a sovereign God and answered, “I am unworthy–how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer–twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5). If we will come to that place of surrender and trust in God no matter how difficult the trial, then we will learn the secret of His strength for our lives.
Paul learned this secret. But he had to learn the hard way. No one will disagree that Paul was a man who enjoyed quite a bit of favor with God and tremendous revelations. And yet beloved and chosen as Paul was, God allowed Paul to be tempted and tried in terrible ways. He suffered shipwrecks, severe beatings, homelessness, hunger, thirst, nakedness, imprisonment and stoning (2 Cor 11:23-29). On top of all this, God allowed an evil spirit to torment Him. Paul called the demon a thorn in his flesh. We aren’t told what the demon did to Paul. Did it afflict him with some illness or handicap. Perhaps it tempted him with evil. Perhaps this is what Paul was talking about when Paul wrote to the Romans, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (Romans 7:15-17). How did Paul overcome these trials and temptations? He learned the secret of surrender when God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul learned to trust in God even when he felt the weakness of temptation and then God gave Him the strength to overcome those temptations.
Jesus was the perfect example of this. He did not stop trusting in the Father and the Spirit of God even after the Spirit led him into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He kept His faith in God and the truth of the Word of God. His body was weak with fasting, but His Spirit was strong to resist the temptations of Satan. He trusted in the grace of God and so successfully defeated every attack of the enemy.
Lord God, the next time I am tempted by the enemy, help me to continue to trust in You. Let me not doubt Your grace or goodness. Let me never fail to believe in Your love for me. Increase my faith Lord in Your faithfulness. In my weakness, let me surrender to Your grace that Your power may be made perfect. Show Your power in me, Lord Jesus. You said not to worry about what to say when we are confronted by our enemies. Lord Jesus, help me by the Spirit of the Living God to know what scriptures to use to destroy the lies of the enemy when he attacks me with temptations. Then speak out the truth of Your Word through me, Lord Jesus, to demolish any pretensions that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ. Be exalted in me, Christ Jesus. I trust in You.