Mt 4:1-11 Temptations
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What are temptations? They are invitations or choices that we can make in our lives. They are what they do not appear to be. They are hand delivered invitations to walk in a wasteland towards the garden of Eden. That is, to follow a mirage in the desert.
Where do temptations come from? They come from the devil, our world and from our fallen nature. They do not come from God but are permitted by Him. And if they are allowed by our Lord, then they are for good reason. We can then turn to Him when we are tempted.
Temptations allow us to know ourselves better, what we truly love, what we are most attracted to. Temptations will never seduce me to do things I hate, like eat spinach! No, they know us better than that and know exactly when to hit, where to hit and how to hit!
So why does God allow temptations in the first place? Again, it’s so that we can truly know ourselves. The Lord can use temptations to get the best out of us. It is a very strong reminder of his words, “Without me, you can do nothing.”
The Saints that endured horrific trials and persecution are living reminders of God’s fidelity to those who seek him. If they can persevere, so can I. If they can remain faithful in times of trial, so can I. Temptations can actually make us stronger. Every time I destroy a temptation, step on it, crush its head, I become stronger! It is a mystery. Why does suffering bring out the best in us? Why do we grow light years in maturity when we have to undergo hardship? It is a truth, a reality but a mystery. Temptations provide us with opportunities for growth because character develops with choice. Humility and humiliation help us to grow “into” Christ. And when we grow into another Christ, we can begin to save.
How does the devil do it? He does it the same way over and over again. His way of dealing and wheeling started with Eve; his arrogance tempted Christ, and being unsuccessful with the Lord, he became very successful with us. First, he identifies the desire in us. He gets us to doubt (about sin), “Does God really care?” Then, he deceives us for he is the father of lies. He tries to get us to be like him: disobedient. As Peter Kreeft comments, the devil goes for the legs, our lower faculties: emotions, desires, lusts. Christ goes for the heart and brain, the higher faculties: the intellect and the will. The devil shoots for the 60 yard dash, immediate gratification. On the other hand, Christ participates in the Marathon - the end of life, the goal, Heaven.
How do we destroy temptations? There are many ways, but the most important way begins with the right attitude. I must want, desire to eliminate temptations from my life. Sometimes we like to play with them, like with a killer whale, but temptations have no love affair with us. It is all business for them: seek and destroy.
Prayer unites us with God. Vigilance means staying alert, knowing the enemy well. Prudence means learn from your mistakes. Be honest with yourself. Know what you can and cannot do. Run, there is always a way out. Refocus – recommit yourself on a daily basis. Confess your sins immediately. Trust in the Lord. God is the great “I AM WHO AM”. The devil is the great “I AM WHO AM NOT.” Progress might mean baby steps. But don’t ever forget, little by little means more and more.
Finally, never give up.