This is Part 3 of a 3-part series in which I describe the 3 biggest temptations used by the devil to shake our faith. If you haven’t read Part 1 and 2, you can begin reading them at The Three Biggest Temptations, Part 1.
Finishing up our series, we are drawing wisdom from Matthew 4:1-11 from Jesus’ own wilderness experience.
Looking Back For Just A Minute
Falling for the first temptation is to believe we’re only physical beings; that there isn’t a spiritual side to our lives. The devil tries to convince us to forget God and do things on our own. If that doesn’t work, then the 2nd temptation tries to get us to doubt God and His Word. Will God really take care of us? Can His Word be trusted? When we still don’t fall, the devil moves to his final temptation.
Part 3 – Turn Away From God
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus refused to be tempted, so the devil tried one more tactic. My paraphrase is that the devil said, “Okay, okay. We both know God exists and He can be trusted, but I’ve got a better deal for you,” and he tried to get Jesus to turn away from God for the sake of stuff.
Taking Jesus to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world along with all their splendor. The deceiver of this world offered Jesus all the riches, women, and positions of power that these kingdoms represented. The only catch was that Jesus had to reject His own Father and worship the devil instead.
A $50 Lesson
The first time I went through this test was about 2 years after turning my life over to God. I read my Bible, went to church, and was just beginning to learn what it meant to be a Christian. During just an ordinary day, I went to the bank to cash a check. The teller handed me the money in an envelope and I left. Walking out onto the sidewalk in the center of town, I reached into the envelope to take the cash and put it in my purse. I stopped long enough to turn all the bills the same way (yes, OCD), and it dawned on me there was too much money. The teller had given me an extra $50.
It was around noon with lots of people walking to lunch, but all of a sudden, I was alone in the middle of a battlefield. Satan stood on one side offering me money and Jesus stood on the other offering me his righteousness. As the battle waged, these thoughts ran through my mind…we have bills due and I need groceries. The bank certainly doesn’t need this money. Just keep walking, get in your car. No one will ever know!
Choosing What’s Right Makes You Smile
Somewhere deep down, I knew Jesus would know and that it was wrong to keep something that wasn’t mine. When the thoughts cleared, I saw the devil holding out that $50 and I knew it was a trap. Deciding to do what’s right, I walked back into that bank and up to the teller. I told her what happened and handed her the cash back. She was dumbfounded. She said in a quite whisper, “Why didn’t you keep it?” I simply said it wasn’t mine to keep and I turned around and left. I smiled all the way home.
Lots Of Variations To This One
There are so many ways the devil uses to turn us away from God. See if you recognize any of these.
God is speaking to you about not working so much, so you can be with your family more. Just when you’re ready to cut back, your boss offers you a promotion and a raise.
You get an unexpected check in the mail for $200. You immediately think about what you can spend it on. However, before you go shopping, you learn about a missionary need where $200 would make a huge difference.
Now don’t get mad at me! But the fact is we are material gluttons.
Americans spend thousands of dollars every year on satellite TV, expensive vehicles, exotic vacations, clothes, and eating out. Craving the latest and greatest thing, we’ve lost sight of a world where the international poverty line is at $1.90 per person per day.∗ I never think about the hungry when I’m buying groceries to take home to an already full pantry. I only think about what I want and so quickly forget what it was like being a single mother with 3 small children, wondering how to buy our next meal.
I know…it’s not our fault we weren’t born in India or Africa. But…it is our fault when we gorge ourselves on the splendors of the world while neglecting our mission, which is to worship God and tell others about Him. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy satellite TV or a nice home. I’m not trying to tell you to go sell all you have and give it to the poor. That was only for the rich young ruler who asked Jesus how to be saved, right (Matthew 19:21)?
The temptation here is to focus solely on our own wants and desires. If we worship stuff more than God and we don’t use our abundance to share Jesus with others, then we have fallen for temptation #3. We have turned away from God and are worshiping what the enemy of our souls is offering.
What To Do In The Wilderness
When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we must continue to do as Jesus did. We wield the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word 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.
God is a very good God! He loves to give good gifts to his kids (Matthew 7:11). But like a responsible parent, He wants us to be good stewards with what we have. He doesn’t want us consumed by the riches of this world because He knows it distracts us away from Him and our mission. Plus, it gives the devil a foothold into our hearts and we certainly don’t want that.
Take This Challenge
Would you be willing to ask God where you’ve turned away? I did…right after I received that unexpected check for $200 mentioned earlier. I made plans for spending it, but then I remembered a young lady I know who’s going to missions training and needs funding. Once again on the battlefield, I compared the value of buying something that will likely wind up in a yard sale up against investing in a person’s journey to know God and make Him known. There was no comparison!
I sent that money to her, sat back in my chair, and smiled! I chose to worship the True God and not some two-bit conniving deceiver!
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).”
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).”
No, devil, we’ll not forget, doubt, or turn away from God, but we’ll worship and serve Him only!
Until next time,
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To read the first of this series, go to The Three Biggest Temptations, Part 1.
∗ According to a study by The World Bank in 2013, https://borgenproject.org/global-poverty-figures/.