Lessons from the Wilderness: Jesus

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #4: God’s word sustains us when we are depleted by the trials of the wilderness.

god's word does.

This week, as we’ve been thinking about our wilderness wanderings, we’ve primarily looked through the lessons from the Old Testament. Today though, we’re going to turn to the New Testament to see an example of a wilderness experience that can teach us a lot about how to make sure this experience makes us and doesn’t break us.

In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted in the desert by the Devil for 40 days and 40 nights before he begins his ministry. This is a familiar story that shows the humanity of Jesus and how he can relate to us, but today, I want to focus on where Jesus was tempted. It says in verse 1 that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” In our time thinking about the wilderness, we’ve focused on the types of wilderness experiences we may have and how God’s faithful love can sustain us. As we look at Jesus’ experience, we can see how to survive and thrive in the wilderness.  

The first lesson we can glean from this passage is that sometimes, as is the case with the Israelites and Elijah, we are led into the wilderness by God. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasted 40 days and 40 nights. At this point, Jesus had not begun his ministry, so this time could have been for testing and strengthening Jesus’ faith and dependence on God so that we could learn from it. By asking ourselves during each wilderness experience “What can I learn from this? How can I grow?”, we can better face the times in wilderness with palms held open instead of allowing bitterness to grow in us.

The second lesson we can learn from Jesus’ time in the wilderness is that God’s word is crucial for surviving in the wilderness. In the wilderness, Jesus had to face physical hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. He also was probably emotionally drained in this time as well. This may sound like a description of ourselves when we go through times in the wilderness. How often in these times where we are sad, lonely, depressed and drained – how often do we pause in these moments and stop the spiral of depression and wandering by saturating ourselves in God’s word? By looking at Jesus’ example, we can see how we can stop temptations in their tracks by responding with God’s word, more specifically by aligning our actions with God’s word.

The last lesson that I want us to focus on today is looking at when this wilderness experience took place. Though Jesus had not begun his ministry yet, in the previous chapter, he had just gotten baptized. All too often, we think that if we have committed our life to God that things will go well, that we’ll never have to experience trials or periods of suffering. But, we can look at Jesus’ life to see that this is simply not that case. Aside from Jesus’ experience on the cross, we can look at the beginning of his ministry as well to see that as these periods will happened to him, they will happen to us.

Jesus survived in the wilderness, and he thrived in the wilderness. I’m not sure what Jesus gained spiritually or emotionally in the wilderness, but I know what I can learn from his experience there. In the wilderness, Jesus was able to overcome temptation and suffering, including not only physical trials – but also spiritual trials – through God’s word. God’s word sustained Jesus and allowed this time to be a springboard into Jesus’ ministry instead of something that would have crippled his ministry. Now, we can look at this story and lessen the impact of what Jesus was able to do because Jesus was the son of God. But, Jesus was capable of growth and change, as seen in Luke 2:52. This is what makes him the perfect mediator for us. So, as we close this lesson today, I want to leave you with the words of Jesus as he readied his disciples for the trials they would face during the days leading up to the crucifixion: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). With Jesus, we can conquer the world, including all our days of wilderness wanderings.

~ Cayce Fletcher

spurgeon quote

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Feeling Hungry Yet? – Psalm 119:1-56

Bread of Life

I am just about the opposite of a foodie. Though my boyfriend has gone to culinary school and makes just about the best food I’ve ever had, when I cook for myself, normally my meals are limited to eggs or maybe pasta. This being said, I have a love-hate relationship with food. Though I can’t detect hints of cinnamon or nutmeg in my food, man, when it comes time for lunch or dinner (or breakfast), I’m ready to eat. I tried to fast once (yep! Just once.) and I remember getting halfway through the day and calling it quits. My stomach was starting to grumble and hurt. When I tried to run, I remember feeling a little faint. I felt like I needed that food, right then.

Yesterday, we talked about wisdom and how important it is to follow God’s wisdom and trust in God. Today, we are going to talk about what it means to desire that wisdom. If we look at Matthew 4:4, Jesus likens the word of God to bread, to our daily food. We need this spiritual food to live, just as we need actual food.

What is your relationship to God’s word? Stop and think now about how you think about God’s word. Do you long for it as you get up in the morning and as you go throughout the day? Do you pant for it like someone panting for water in the hot summer Sun? If you go without it, do you start to feel those spiritual pains of grumpiness, anger, and hunger? Do you get hangry? The daily nourishment of God is even more important than the daily nourishment of our bodies with food. This sounds like a cliché. But, let me remind you, if you go without eating for long enough, you will die! This is serious and important stuff!

Growing up, I did not long for God’s word. I would read it every now and then, but it wasn’t something that I read in order to survive, to make it through the day. I had a friend recently whose relationship with God and his word has completely changed. She mentioned how after she had made a point to daily meet God in his scriptures, she had begun to desire it. She needed it. And now, she can’t imagine life without it!

Our verses today come from the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. This psalm focuses on what the Bible does for us and how we should desire it. If we seek God with all our heart, we will learn to keep his commands. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” Do we believe that God’s word is such a gift that we treasure it in our hearts? Though discipline and commitment are incredibly important in every stage of our relationship with God, if we desire him and his word, our relationship with him will grow so much deeper!

To follow down the right path of life that we talked about yesterday, we have to make it a point to pursue God through his word. Psalm 119:2 says, “Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek them with all their heart.” Do you seek God and His Word with all your heart?

Seek Not to Please Myself

John 6-7

john-6-35

Saturday, May 27

As I started reading John 6 & 7 a few key quotes from Jesus recorded in the end of John 5 were still ringing in my ears:

“For I seek NOT to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“I do not accept praise from men…How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” (John 5:41, 44)

Here Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, was saying quite clearly and repetitively – it’s not about me.  He did not seek to please himself or earn the praises of men – his goal was only and always to please God and hear the praises of his Heavenly Father.

Chapter 6 begins with this same Jesus feeding the famished five thousand with five small barley loaves and two small fish – and ending up with twelve baskets of left-overs.  As the one primarily responsible for feeding my family of 5 three times a day, I have always been greatly impressed with this miracle!  And, he follows it up with walking on the water!  There is no doubt that this Jesus has just earned some serious bragging rights.

Instead, he turns it into a teachable moment and offers himself as the bread of life – the bread and body that must be broken for others to live.  This is what he offers to the world not because he is the one who dreamed it up, and not because he was looking forward to it, and not because he desired it – but because he knew he came, “Not to do MY (Jesus’) will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38).

In Chapter 7 he continues, “My teaching is not my own.  It comes from him who sent me.” (7:16) and “I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true.” (7:28).   While some wanted to kill him, others wanted to make him king.  And yet – none of that really mattered to Jesus.  He was teaching God’s Word and living – and later dying – God’s Will.  His one-track mind and life was centered on what his Daddy desired and had planned from the beginning of the world.

Two things seem clear.

First, Jesus was definitely NOT claiming to be God, nor did he desire to be considered as God in any way.  His repeated use of, “not me/mine…but He/His” were pointing out the differences – two beings, even though their purposes would be the same – at Jesus’ choosing.  Today, would I hold any credibility if I stated, “I do not seek to please myself, but only what I want?”  Or, if I said, “My teaching is not my own but it comes from me”, would people listen to me for long?  Over and over again, Jesus is drawing some pretty clear lines between His Father God and himself.  Two beings, united in purpose – because that is what Jesus chose – to follow His Father and not himself.

Second, how must I change my focus, my goals and my everyday life so that I, along with Jesus, can confidently say, “Not my will, but His be done,” “My teaching is not my own, but God’s.”  “I seek not to please myself, but my Heavenly Father.”  No doubt the Son of God set an example for us to follow.  It is a path that requires laying aside all selfishness and pride, as well as false teaching.    It is not an easy road.  But when we live our life to please God our Father, just as Jesus did, we won’t be disappointed in the end!

-Marcia Railton

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/john/6/35)