Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. ESV Matthew 4:1
Like you, I often struggle with temptation. When tempted, I generally ask God to take away the temptation–a prayer He doesn’t always answer. As I fight temptation and struggle with it, I wonder why God doesn’t just take it away. What is the purpose of temptation? Is it to “make us stronger” as pop Christianity teaches? The answers lie in the verse above that describes Jesus’ temptation.
First, note the Spirit led Jesus. Jesus wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasn’t being foolish. Rather, He was following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Be encouraged. While God tempts no man, apparently the Holy Spirit leads us into wilderness areas where we experience temptation. He doesn’t lead us into temptation itself (per the Lord’s prayer), but He will lead us into the wilderness. This brings us to our second observation–the wilderness is important. In the wilderness Jesus fasted, abstaining from bread for 40 days. He was at the end of His physical strength when the devil tempted Him. God will at times, lead us to the end of ourselves, so that we are forced to trust Him in dealing with our weaknesses. Our temptations often expose our deepest wounds. In Jesus’ case, the temptation revealed His physical weakness. Satan also gave Him an opportunity to skip the cross and gain dominion over the world by simply bowing down to the devil. When we face temptation, we come face to face with the potential idols of our hearts. God wants us to face these things so that we can replace them with Him and His grace. In Jesus’ case, the temptations allowed Him to demonstrate His continual trust in His Father. Finally, note the temptation comes from the Devil, not from God, but as I mentioned above, God uses the temptations to allow us to look deep into our souls.
While we beg God to remove temptations, He is often holding us there, forcing us to look deep into the abyss of our souls. I recently heard it described as “kissing our demons” as we wrestle with what draws us toward sin. While we want the draw to go away, God wants to grant us healing, and healing only comes through “kissing our demons” and allowing God to fill the void in our lives that temptation offers to fill. In your temptation, may you see the state of your soul, cling to the forgiveness and grace of Jesus, and find the true life offered in the gospel. Blessings upon you, my friend.