The old saying is “It is easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.” And while that may be true, our real lives have shown is that we will most likely have to resist temptation more than we will be attentive enough to avoid it!
But that isn’t all bad. The truth is learning to resist temptation builds those spiritual muscles that give me the confidence to grow in my faith and in my character. Plus, when I resist temptation, I live out an example for others to follow. And the joy that I experience in my faithfulness encourages me to keep going in faithfulness. I recall a particular moment in my life when I was able to say “no” to a temptation that was something I really wanted. I walked out of that experience with renewed confidence and strength. And I also remember the moments when I did;t resist and I felt weak and helpless. It sure is obvious which one is the better choice!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 4:1-15:
At that time Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you, I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”
And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands, they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
As we’ve seen this story before, it is so familiar we may have missed what happened after Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations in the wilderness. Look at those last few verses! They reveal the natural results of resisting temptations.
First, The Power of the Spirit. The Lord Jesus is fully God and fully Man, and His overcoming the devil in His time of temptation resulted in it being clear this Man is living empowered by the Spirit of God. Now you may say “Well, sure. It’s Jesus, after all.” But I want to remind you just how far God was willing to go to reach you and me and show us the way of salvation. Jesus was (and is) fully human. His overcoming the devil pushed His Divine nature to the forefront along with all the spiritual power that entails! And that’s what happens to you when you resist temptation. Your connectedness to God through your Eucharistic life becomes the dominant part of your life as the spiritual becomes the primary rather than the secondary “face” you show the world! When your Faith is front and center in your life, the power of the Spirit is clear!
Next, He was Glorified by all. Overcoming temptation and the lies of the devil made it clear who’s side Jesus was on. He chose the eternal wisdom of God over the temporary gratifications of the evil one. And that choice was displayed in the Lord’s teaching and speaking to the people. He was glorified by all on the other side of His time of temptation. So it is with us when we choose the eternal over the temporary. We are set free to be a source of wisdom and an example of faithfulness to everyone around us. We are who we really are when our lives face temptation and overcome it through our dependence on God’s grace and strength.
Today, you are going to face temptations big and small. How will you look on the other side of these temptations? If you overcome them with your humble dependence on God and His eternal love for you, you’ll have the power of the Spirit and the confidence of others who see that your living Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Lord Jesus, as You overcame the temptations of the evil one in the wilderness, so grant me the grace to overcome my times of temptation by trusting in Your strength and relying on Your wisdom. For You are my Source of strength and You are my true defender, and in You alone do I place my trust. Amen.