We are in the middle of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days, commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before his ministry. Even though we may reflect on Jesus’ suffering, it doesn’t have to be always dark and gloomy. In Eastern Orthodox, it is known as the season of “Bright Sadness.” Bright Sadness. I like that. It is sad but it is not hopeless sadness.
At the end of DARKNESS, there is a light waiting for us. At the end of TEMPTATION, there is a victory. At the end of DEATH, there is resurrection.
Life is not always good but life is not always bad either. Life is not always bright. There are times when life can be gloomy. But there are times when things are good too. The secret is how we deal with each situation with graciousness, graciousness to yourself and to others. There are valleys and hills in life.
Count Basie, American Jazz pianist said.
Learn to deal with the valleys and the hills will take care of themselves.
So you have to deal with your time of temptation well and that will help you find happiness in life.
Even Jesus was tempted. He was tired, hungry, and weak after 40 days of fasting. Satan knows when we are vulnerable. That is when Satan attacks us. That’s why he came to Jesus when he was at his weakest.
Temptation was a reality even for Jesus. Jesus had to overcome the hard time. Jesus did not have an easy life. He had to overcome life’s challenges.
So, when you go through your own trials, don’t get discouraged. Jesus had the same trials as you do. Living a good life doesn’t mean to have a problem free life. Temptations are always around us. They always find our most vulnerable time and attack us.
I am gonna talk about three faces of temptation today. These three things affect our lives deeply. You see these three in the story of Jesus’ temptation.
These three things are:
Worry, Doubt, and Greed.
Temptation has these three faces. Nobody is immune from these temptations. They take away joy from us. They cause problems in our lives and can even ruin us.
We worry about many things. Worrying has become our habit or lifestyle. It almost became a part of our lives. We worry about our health. We worry about our future. We worry about our children. We worry about problems. We worry about everything. Worries are endless.
More than anything else, we worry about our SURVIVAL. When Jesus was very hungry and vulnerable after 40 days’ fasting. He was not just hungry. 40 days’ fasting? His survival was at risk. Satan knows when to attack. Satan told him to change stone into bread. In other words, stop your fasting and eat. You need to survive to do God’s work, don’t you? A very tempting suggestion. Satan was tempting Jesus to worry about his survival.
One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
What Jesus is saying is:
Satan, don’t worry about my survival. God will take care of my needs.
That is the best way to defeat our worries. Have a confidence that God will take care of your basic needs. There is nothing for you to worry about.
This is what Jesus said.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)
And Jesus told us to do this.
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
That was exactly what Jesus did in the wilderness.
Many times, our worries are not real. Researchers at Penn State University had an experiment on worry. The participants were asked to write whenever the worries came up to them. They studied this for 30 days.
The result? A whopping 91 percent of worries were false alarms. And of the remaining 9 percent of worries that did come true, the outcome was better than expected.
Worrying is a habit. A very bad habit. We develop this habit and it will make us live constantly with fear all the time.
Worrying doesn’t do any good. It only makes you feel fearful. It makes you shrink. It makes you feel small. And it makes you feel gloomy.
Since it is a habit, you can deal with it with a new habit. Whenever you worry, leave those worries in God’s hands. Make them as your prayer topics. As God takes care of birds in the air, God will take care of you. Focus on God, not on your worries. Learn to focus on God. Hear God’s word who tells you not to worry about your survival. We do not live by bread alone. We need God’s word.
The second temptation is DOUBT. Doubt is another huge problem for many people. We doubt about God. We doubt about ourselves. Doubt makes us become cynical.
Doubting is like closing doors for yourself. Trusting is opening doors that take you into deeper mystery. But doubt is closing that door. Even Jesus could not do wonderful things in his home town because people didn’t believe him.
Jesus said to Satan,
Do not put the Lord your God to the test. (Matthew 4:7)
Don’t tempt me to doubt about God. Faith is a wonderful gift God gave to us. Through faith, we can see wonderful things in life. With the eyes of faith, what you see is very different. With faith, we can even do what is impossible.
Once a father came to Jesus because of his ill son. He asked Jesus in this way.
If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us…(Mark 9:22)
This is how Jesus responded.
If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes. (Mark 9:23)
During this Lent, try to build your faith. See what you can see. With faith, we see LIGHT behind the darkness. We see HOPE behind the despair. We see PEACE behind the war. We see REDEMPTION behind the judgment. We see RESURRECTION behind death.
The third one is the greed. It is the worst temptation. It causes the greatest damage on you. The other two mostly affect you only. But this one affects others too. Greed is desire for power and fame. This world is very much a victim of greed. There are so many fights, corruption, and violence because of greed.
Whatever greed touches, it turns into an ugly thing. As long as greed takes hold of you, you can never be a happy person. Greed is insatiable. It always makes you desire more. Once you become a slave to your greed, you will never be satisfied and you will never be happy.
Jesus told Satan,
Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him. (Matthew 4:10)
The reason Jesus is talking about worship in the last temptation is because greed is very much connected with the worship of yourself. Greed is to make you worship yourself. Greed makes you want to be god. Behind greed, there is insecurity. Wanting to prove yourself to the world. As Quincy Jones said ego is an overdressed insecurity.
Worshipping God is not just what we do on Sunday It is not activities we do. Worshipping God means to let down our greed, deny ourselves and give ourselves to God. It is to stop being God. And be thankful. Ask yourself. Who do you worship? Yourself or God? Money or God?
Disciples followed Jesus at first because of the power they saw in Jesus. They saw Jesus’ miracles. They saw Jesus’ authority. So they followed Jesus. In other words, they followed their greed.
We studied in Mark. While following Jesus, they were debating with each other about who is greater. They all wanted to sit on Jesus’ right hand his left hand. They followed Jesus, following their own greed.
But at the end, they changed. They gave up their greed. They knew that it was like chasing emptiness, chasing a rainbow.
They found the beauty of serving. True happiness is not in having more power and fame but in serving others and serving God.
Let Us Overcome
This was what Jesus said,
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Pursuing power or showing power or proving himself was not Jesus’ way of living. Serving and giving himself away were Jesus’ way of living.
During this Lent, let us overcome these three temptations: Worry, Doubt, and Greed. Hopefully, we can all come out of this Lent stronger, being able to deal with three areas better.
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