Overcoming Temptations 1 - Satan's Pawn
Chan Gin Kai
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. (Luke 4:1-2)
Read this passage too quickly and we would have missed an important point. Luke recorded that Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness where... he was tempted by the devil”. Matthew wrote that Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness TO BE tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).
In my earlier years as a Christian, I had simply assumed that the devil opportunistically attacked Jesus after he was weakened from fasting. That’s no doubt correct because Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But that’s not the complete picture. I had missed out the part where the Spirit actually wanted Jesus to be tempted by the devil.
But why would God want Jesus to be tempted?
To decipher this enigma, we’ve got to first understand that temptations may be scary, but they are not sins. Temptations do not separate us from God or lead us to eternal damnation like sins do. Temptations are seductive slippery slopes to sins if we do not resist them, but there is a distinct difference between them. God did not want Jesus to sin, but there were reasons why He wanted Jesus to be tempted.
So Jesus Can Empathise With Us
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. (Hebrew 4:15)
It was necessary for Jesus to be tempted so that he can empathise with us and be an example for us. Yes, he understands our weaknesses, he knows how seductive temptations can be, and he feels for us whenever we fall. Only three temptations were described in Luke 4:3-12, but they were only examples and by no means exhaustive. Luke said Jesus was tempted for forty days, so there were definitely many more temptations. This period in the wilderness wasn’t the only time that Jesus was tempted either, because Satan “left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). The Bible also records that Jesus was “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15). He relates to us completely.
Jesus is divine, but he was also every bit as human as we are. The temptations were not less alluring because he exercised some super powers, but because he is close to God. He replied to all of the temptations with quotes from the Scriptures. When we dwell deeply in God’s words and draw closer to Him, temptations become less appealing as righteousness becomes more attractive. Jesus has shown that we are not powerless against temptations. God will give us the same strength that He gave Jesus. We can learn to be like Jesus in our fight against temptations.
So Jesus Can Grow
The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was not the first or only time that God and Satan were in agreement, or appeared to be in cahoots. Satan had asked to torment Job, and God had allowed it (Job 1:8-12, 2:3-6). It appeared like a celestial chess game between God and Satan with Job as the innocent pawn, the unwitting tool used by God and Satan in a game of one-upmanship.
We are indeed pawns that Satan uses in his attempts to hurt God. There is no way that Satan can be victorious over God, and he knows it. But he can try to hurt us, because that hurts God. He tried to turn Job against God. He tried to tempt Jesus to sin and dismantle God’s plan for our salvation. He wants to do the same to all of us too – tempt us to sin, and get us to turn against God. We see temptations as enticing pleasures, but they are really Satan’s feeble attempts to slap God in His face. Each time we give in to temptations, we become witless fools that Satan manipulates. Satan knows he will burn forever, and he wants to pull us all in to join him.
While Satan cruelly uses us as pawns, God loves and treasures every single one of us. He agreed to Satan’s plans of attacks on Job and Jesus, but for a very different purpose. Satan wanted them to fall so that they would hurt God. But God wanted them to triumph over the temptations so that they can grow.
Job was already a great guy before his torment, but he grew in his understanding of God after his afflictions. And God blessed him even more abundantly. We would have thought that Jesus would start his ministry after his baptism, but he only started preaching after his temptations in the wilderness. He had to go through the trials to prepare him for his ministry.
When we face temptations, we can decide whom we want to choose. Do you want to be used as Satan’s pawn to hurt the One who truly loves you? Or are you going to overcome the temptations and grow through the victory?
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".