This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear so that together, we might be inspired to speak and live your Word in the world starting today. Amen.
I must admit that one of my favorite television shows is Biggest Loser. I do my best, schedule permitting, to watch each show. At some point in every season, there is a “challenge” in which the contestants are placed in a room with a bunch of fatty, junk food. I particularly enjoyed the season where they were forced to work in a fast food restaurant. I look forward to that challenge each season. It’s always interesting to watch the contestants battle with temptation. I think I’m drawn to watch their anxiety over doing what is immediately gratifying or choosing what is best and healthy, because I know all too well that their temptation is mine. We all struggle with temptation.
Temptation isn’t something we talk a lot about, if at all; but, just because we don’t talk about something doesn’t make it any less of an issue. Temptation is something everyone faces.
Yes, even Jesus was tempted. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan… After the heavens open up and the Spirit descends like a dove, that same Spirit leads Jesus, alone, “into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him” (Matthew 4:1, Common English Bible).
Even Jesus was tempted by the cravings of his appetite. Even Jesus was tempted to test the limits of God’s promises. Even Jesus was tempted, lured to the promise of power.
Everyone is tempted.
Everyone struggles with temptation, even Jesus. He was “tempted in every way that we are, except without sin” (Hebrews 4:15b, Common English Bible). Everyone is tempted.
Temptation comes to us in moments when we look at others and feel insecure about not having enough. Temptation comes in judgments we make about strangers or friends who make choices we do not understand. Temptation rules us, making us able to look away from those in need and to live our lives unaffected by poverty, hunger, and disease. Temptation rages in moments when we allow our tempter to define our lives or when addiction to wealth, power, influence over others, vanity, or an inordinate need for control defines who we are. Temptation wins when we engage in justification of little lies, small sins: a racist joke, a questionable business practice for the greater good, a criticism of a spouse or partner when he or she is not around. Temptation wins when we get so caught up in the trappings of life that we lose sight of life itself. These are the faceless moments of evil that, while mundane, lurk in the recesses of our lives and our souls.
Everyone is tempted. In fact, I think we can make a good argument from our lesson for today that when we seek to follow the Spirit, we (all of us including Jesus) will be tempted
Paul, in his letter to the Romans (7:21, Common English Bible), said it this way, “So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.” And, I think he’s right. With every step of faith, with every attempt we make to put faith into practice, there will be a moment of temptation. As we seek to follow God’s Way there will be moments of trial and temptation: moments when we are forced to make a conscientious choice either to follow God more closely or not, a choice to stand up to evil or succumb to it, a chance to love or a chance to hate.
Everyone, especially those who seek to follow God’s Lead, is tempted. It’s something we all face. Don’t think your temptation is all that unique.
No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for [all] people. But [know this] God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.
We are all tempted—every one of us—but not beyond our ability to choose what is good, right, and just.
We’ll never rid ourselves of temptation. The choice to grow in God’s love or not will always be ours to make. As we journey through this Lenten season—as we journey through life and faith—I pray that we’ll choose what is good, right, and just. I pray that we’ll stand up to temptation, resist evil, and grow in God’s love so that we might share it with others, thereby transforming the world for Christ’s sake.