We all want to be on the mountaintop. No one likes the spiritual desert. We feel that we are on top of everything and that nothing can stop us.
Jesus was not immune to spiritual deserts, but He was tempted just like the rest of us, and Satan tried to use that temptation against Christ just like he works to use it against us.
However, just as God used the temptation of Christ in the desert, it is in our spiritual desert times that God works in us the deep things of life.
In Mark 1:9-13 we see Jesus having what could only be a mountaintop experience.
Mark 1:9-13THE BAPTISM OF JESUS
9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him 1 like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
He went to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. When He came up out of the water, He saw the Spirit of God descend upon him like a dove. The audible voice of God was heard, and God the Father himself spoke and said that He was well pleased with Jesus.
Now I don’t know about you, but if any one of those three things were experienced by me, I would be on a spiritual mountaintop like none other!
Jesus Had a Spiritual Desert Experience
But did God allow Jesus to stay on that mountaintop?
You will read that immediately the Spirit of God drove him into the desert. Now my human nature would be pretty upset with something like that. I don’t like spiritual deserts, and I think in all honesty I would be very resistant to the notion of leaving the mountaintop.
When He is deep in his spiritual desert experience, Satan comes and tempts Jesus in 3 common ways that we all face at one time in our life or another.
He tempts Him with the necessities of life, with the desire to have power and control, and with the willingness to take things into our own hands. Let’s look at these three things a little more in-depth.
In Luke’s gospel, we have a more descriptive account of the temptation of Christ.
Luke 4:1-13THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
1 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’ ”5 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,‘You must worship the LORD your Godand serve only him.’ ”9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off!10 For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.11 And they will hold you up with their handsso you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ”12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’ ”13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.
Being tempted in our spiritual deserts by the necessities of life
The essentials of life. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and nights. So what does Satan do? He tempts him with a basic necessity of life. He tempts Him with food.
Now I could find that a real temptation. If you had not eaten for 40 days, a loaf of bread would look pretty good! Shoot a home-baked loaf of bread is tempting to me even if I ate 30 minutes ago!
So just as we are tempted to place the necessities of life above our ethics and spiritual priorities, so Jesus was tempted to do the same.
Tempted to take power and control in our spiritual desert situations
Jesus was then taken to a mountaintop and tempted with another common temptation. He was tempted with power and control. Satan told Him that if Jesus would bow down and worship him, He would be given control of everything He saw.
This is again a common temptation that we all face. We are all tempted with the desire to have power and control. We want to be the one that controls others or controls the circumstances in our life. We want to do things our way.
I am sorry to burst your bubble, but Frankie was not correct when wanted to do things “my way.”
Being tempted to take matters into our own hands
Finally, Jesus was tempted by the devil to take things into His own hands. Satan even used the word of God to try to deceive Jesus into doing this. He told Jesus to prove He was the Messiah by throwing himself off of a cliff.
That would have taken an act of will and would have been taking matters into His own hands rather than letting God prove who He was.
I remember this was a real temptation in my own life while I was waiting for God to open the doors for me to return to ministry.
Many times I was tempted to start a new church.
I knew how to do it. I had done it before. But it would have been taking matters into my own hands.
How many of you are tempted to take matters into your own hands and help God out a little?
The Purpose of Spiritual Desert Experiences
Why did God allow Jesus to be tempted?
Just as a new bridge is not confirmed as safe or ready to be traveled upon by automobiles until weight and stress tests are done, God was proving to the world, not to Himself, that what He had said about Jesus at the baptism of Jesus, was indeed fact.
He was proving that what was on the inside was real on the outside. It was a stress test that God already knew Jesus would pass.
The desert experience clarified and defined what the real priorities in life are both for Jesus and for us as well.
So just as the spiritual desert experience brought out what was on the inside of Jesus to the outside, so too our spiritual deserts and temptations bring out in our lives, what God has placed on the inside.
It builds and deepens in us things that mountaintops never could.
When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, His Spirit comes to live on the inside of us. So these spiritual deserts bring out the character and nature of Jesus if we will allow it.
They clarify and define what our priorities in life should be.
Embrace Your Spiritual Deserts
So instead of running from spiritual deserts, and cursing that you have been placed in a spiritual desert, how about trying to face that desert and understand that temptations will come but when you are done you will be more like Jesus.
That is God’s purpose and destiny for your life. He had predestined you to be conformed into the image of Jesus. Rom 8:29
Now that is something to think about!
All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber. Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.