There is much to learn in the face-off between Jesus and Satan in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). The first thing is that tests in life are not acts of punishment from God. Jesus has just been baptized by John. As he comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove and God the Father declares over him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, is then led by the Spirit in the desert. If you’re going through a difficult season right now, remember in Christ, God loves you and is well pleased with you!
The second thing we learn is if Jesus had to face tests, so will we. If we want to grow spiritually, we must expect trials of all kinds. Not only that, we’re told in James 1 to consider it a ‘sheer gift’ (The Message). All of us have had our share of tests and challenges and I’m certain ‘gift’ is not the word we would use to describe our experiences! So, how is it they are a gift? I love how ‘The Message’ translation puts it, “You know that under pressure, your ‘faith-life’ is forced into the open and shows its true colors” (James 1:3).
How much do you and I really trust God? According to James, the only way to find out is by going through an experience where we trust God to actually say, “I trust you God even though I don’t agree and understand your plan!” It is through our response to the trials of life that we get a more accurate sense of our trust in God. Until then, our prayers about trusting God are just words; our knowledge about faith is just theory; our profession of faith in God is just empty rhetoric. Interestingly, the common thread that runs through all three temptations that Jesus faced is whether he will trust God through the Holy Spirit to help him or whether he will take matters into his own hands and become self-reliant.
And this is precisely why tests are a gift. There is nowhere to hide. As much as we hate it, if given the choice, I would like to think all of us would rather know the ‘true colours’ of our faith than lie to ourselves about it! We can’t pretend any more about our trust in God but it’s at this point that the long process of transformation can begin. Now that we know where we are exactly at, we can begin the journey of learning how to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7)! Truth sets us free even if it is unpleasant.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is with us to help us pass the tests of life by teaching us how to rely less on ourselves and more on God. Paul writes, “Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, The Message).
“Lord, grow our faith in you!”