The 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil were a pivotal moment in His earthly ministry. As Christians, we can learn so much from how Jesus handled temptation and gain practical wisdom for resisting temptation in our own lives.
In this post, let’s explore the biblical account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and draw out key lessons for our lives today.
The Setting of the Temptation (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2)
After being baptized by John in the Jordan river, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, after which He was hungry. This set the stage for the devil’s temptations.
Jesus was in a vulnerable physical and emotional state after fasting for over a month. Yet God purposefully led Him into this season of testing. The wilderness represented a spiritual battlefield where Jesus strengthened His spiritual muscles and defeated the devil decisively.
Likewise, God may lead you into a “wilderness” to refine your character and dependence on Him. Don’t be surprised if seasons of testing follow Spirit-led mountain-top experiences like baptism or revival. Expect temptation to come when you are physically weak or emotionally vulnerable. But be assured God will strengthen you to endure and pass the test!
The First Temptation: Turn Stones into Bread (Matthew 4:3-4, Luke 4:3-4)
The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Jesus had the power as the Son of God to turn stones into bread. After all, He later multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed thousands! But Jesus discerned this temptation appealed to selfishness and distrust in God’s provision. So He warded off the temptation by quoting Scripture about living by God’s word.
In your times of need, you will face the temptation to take matters into your own hands and pursue selfish solutions rather than trusting God. Follow Jesus’ example of resisting temptation by affirming your dependence on God’s Word and His promise to provide your daily bread. Stand firm on Scripture when tempted to disregard God’s commands to gratify yourself.
The Second Temptation: Jump from the Temple’s Pinnacle (Matthew 4:5-7, Luke 4:9-12)
Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
This temptation appealed to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. The devil even quoted Scripture about angels protecting God’s children! But Jesus saw through this deception and resisted by affirming the greater biblical principle of not testing God.
The temptation to test or manipulate God will surely come your way too. You’ll face moments when obeying God doesn’t make sense and you’ll want Him to prove Himself faithful according to your own wisdom. Follow Christ’s example of simply trusting and obeying God, rather than putting Him to the test.
The Third Temptation: Worship the Devil (Matthew 4:8-10, Luke 4:5-8)
Finally, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus responded, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'”
In a final act of desperation, the devil offered Jesus an ill-gotten shortcut to the world domination He would later attain through the cross. This appealed to Jesus’ mission, but the means were contrary to God’s will. Jesus dismissed the temptation firmly by commanding Satan to leave and re-affirming exclusive allegiance to God.
Stay alert to shortcuts that seem to advance God’s mission but compromise His Word. The end does not justify the means. Do not sacrifice integrity or take ethical shortcuts to get ahead. Like Jesus, reject neon lights for shortcuts that conflict with loyal obedience to God.
Key Lessons from Jesus’ Victory over Temptation
As we reflect on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, here are some key lessons that can equip us to resist temptation in our own lives:
1. Affirm your true identity in Christ. When tempted, Jesus affirmed His identity as the Son of God who lived by God’s Word. You have a new, true identity as a beloved child of God. Let this ground you in the face of temptation.
2. Know Scripture and hide it in your heart. Jesus combatted each temptation by quoting the perfect Word of God. Be rooted in Scripture and ready to recall it, especially when tempted.
3. Depend on the Spirit to empower you. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and empowered by the Spirit to overcome temptation. Ask the Spirit to lead you and strengthen you to say no to temptation.
4. Resist the devil and he will flee. Jesus dismissed Satan with a sharp rebuke. Be bold to command temptation and spiritual attacks to leave in Jesus’ mighty name. Resist and the devil will flee!
5. Worship God alone. Jesus affirmed sole allegiance to God in the face of idolatrous temptation. Stay grounded in worship of God and refusal to bow to idols of any kind.
6. Trust God’s plan, even in wilderness seasons. Jesus endured testing as part of God’s good plan to strengthen and prepare Him for ministry. When tempted, rest in God’s loving sovereignty rather than doubting or manipulating Him.
7. Pray and fast to strengthen spiritual muscles. Jesus prepared for temptation through 40 days of prayer and fasting. Develop spiritual strength through prayer, fasting, study, and other spiritual disciplines.
An Overcoming Mindset in the Face of Temptation
Jesus models an overcoming mindset in the wilderness that we can emulate when facing temptation:
- He expected temptation to come, especially on the heels of a spiritual high point like baptism. Be on guard when you sense you’re under attack.
- He knew Scripture thoroughly. Have Bible verses about resisting temptation on the tip of your tongue.
- He trusted the Spirit’s leading into and out of the wilderness. Depend on the Spirit’s power, not your own willpower.
- He rebuked the tempter directly. Don’t entertainDialogue with temptation, but reject it outright.
- His identity was rooted in being God’s beloved Son. Remember who you are in Christ – accepted, validated, empowered.
- His mission was clear: humble obedience to the Father. Stay grounded in loving obedience, avoiding shortcuts.
- He relied on God to meet needs in God’s way and timing. Don’t manipulate God, but trust Him.
- He worshiped God alone, refusing idolatry. Worship God wholeheartedly. Guard against idolatry.
By God’s grace, you can overcome temptation as you follow Jesus’ example. May His victory in the wilderness encourage you to trust God and stand firm no matter what temptation comes your way. God promises to give you His Spirit so “you may be able to stand up against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Keep your eyes on Jesus, and He will lead you to victory!