At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12)
Some might call it a form of combat training—those days that Jesus spent in the desert at the start of his ministry. There are some similarities. He was pulled away from his hometown and his family. He was subjected to stress. He was placed into a dangerous situation. He probably had no weapon to fight off a wild animal. He had no food. We do hear of angels attending him, but it appears they showed up only after the ordeal was over (Matthew 4:11).
Unlike a training exercise, however, Jesus came under fire from a real enemy. Satan had come into that desert to stop the mission that was to rescue mankind from his deadly grip. If he could have gotten Jesus to abandon the mission, if he could have tricked Jesus into following his lead, as he did Adam and Eve, then the war would be over.
The best that heaven could put onto the field of battle would have been beaten. Satan would rule supreme over the human race, and all of them would finally slide into the pit of hell—despite what the holy God wanted.
Satan’s plan of attack is impressive. Jesus was now starving. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread (Matthew 4:3). That would be like a Ranger having extra rations snuck in during his training exercise. It would be cheating.
The second wave of the attack involved placing oneself in critical danger. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down” (from the temple and let angels save you). (Matthew 4:6) That would be like a Delta Force soldier doing something suicidal to see if he would be rescued. It would be toying with Command.
The final attack gave Jesus an easy way out of the miserable situation. “All this I will give you” (power and glory) “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:9) It would be like the prospective Seal ringing the bell. It would be giving up.
Why did the Holy Spirit send Jesus into this testing situation? To prepare him for the battles he would face in the future. The enemy would attack again and again. The final fight would be on the cross. He needed to be ready.
So do we. That’s why God allows those stressful and challenging situations to come into our lives. That’s why that he permits those powerful temptations to come before us.
He wants to build up our confidence in him; to prepare us for worse times; and, to remind us that we are weak, but he is our strength.
Are we ready for that? Can we take on the Prince of Darkness? Remember that he has already been beaten. He has no power over us except what we give him.
Remember the promise: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)
We are combat ready, aren’t we? We fight Satan every day.
Lord Jesus, we have looked in at your ordeal in the desert. We have watched how you overcame the attacks of the Enemy. We applaud and salute you. But, we also ask that you empower us as we face attacks upon our faith and our faithfulness. Send the Holy Spirit to lead us forward in confidence and joy.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military