How To Face Temptation

During His earthly ministry, the Bible is clear that Jesus Christ faced temptations as we do.  One of those instances is documented in Matthew 4 (a parallel passage is Luke 4) where He is tempted by Satan himself.  In accordance with His perfect life, Jesus did not give in, but rather provides us with a primer on how to deal with the temptations we face.

Matthew 4:1-11 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.  2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.  3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.  4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.  7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.  8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Before we look at the specifics of how Jesus dealt with the temptations, I must note that temptation itself is not sin.  Verse 1 states that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted.  Temptation is a necessary part of our spiritual growth.  An untested faith is no faith at all.

The first thing Jesus did was prepare for the temptation through fasting (vs. 2).  We must be aware that temptation does not take a vacation.  It can happen at any time.  We must be prepared for it.  Prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship, and other spiritual disciplines prepare us for the temptations that come.  The scout motto, “Be Prepared” and the Coast Guard motto, “Semper Paratus” (Always Ready) are good ones to live by when it comes to temptation.

For each temptation, Jesus quotes scripture.  Notice that each time He says, “It is written” (vv. 4, 7, 10).  This is how temptations are resisted–by taking God at His promises and trusting His written Word.  It is interesting that in verse 6, Satan actually quotes Scripture too.  We must remember that Satan knows the Bible and can twist it to His purposes.  Jesus is undeterred by this attack and simply appeals to Scripture again.  This teaches us that it is not enough to be simply familiar with a few verses.  Rather, we must have a fundamental knowledge of Scripture as a whole so we can identify the misuse of God’s Word when we hear it.  I’m not saying that we all have to be scholars, but we should work to have a foundational understanding of the Bible and biblical doctrine.

After the temptation, the Bible says that Satan left Jesus (vs. 11).  Luke’s account states that Satan left “for a season” (Luke 4:13).  We must always remember that temptation comes and goes.  It will not end permanently in this life, although we may get some temporary relief from it.  After we have successfully faced temptation by trusting God and His Word, we must begin preparing for the next time it comes.  We can take heart that God promises that He always provides a way to escape temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).