Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 4:1-17
January 12-18, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).
Odd. We never think of the Spirit leading us anywhere with the intent of having us tempted by the devil. We even pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” But Jesus needed the opportunity to identify who he was and who his enemies were.
In his explanation to the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer Martin Luther writes, “We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and obtain the victory.”
Temptations will come. Like Jesus’ time in the wilderness, they can be times of learning. They are also times when we can overcome them and be victorious over them.
Powerful Lord, as we face the forces of evil, the lure of the world, and our own personal cravings give us the victory. Amen
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
“He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him” (Matthew 4:2-3).
After not eating for forty days, the observation that Jesus was famished is probably an understatement. It is not surprising that in his hunger and weakness that Tempter came to him and encouraged him to eat.
Jim was a recovering alcoholic. Jim realized that he would always be tempted by alcohol and he would need to live his life in light of that fact. For various personal reasons, Juanita was frequently tempted to mock others and put them down. As a Christian she knew that her words and actions were not pleasing to God. She confessed her sin, and asked God to help her change. Juanita took a good look at herself and began to understand why this was a weakness. With her new understanding she slowly experienced transformation, resisted the temptation to put people down and began to praise them.
Each and every one of us has chinks in our armor, just like Jim and Juanita. It is important for us to be aware of those areas and to realize that the Tempter will attack us at those points. Satan doesn’t waste his time on frontal assaults. We arrange our lives to avoid those temptations. When tempted we seek the Spirit’s power to overcome them. When we fail we come in confession and repentance to the forgiving arms of our God.
Almighty God, you are our strength when we are weak. Empower us to obey you instead of succumbing to the voice of the Tempter. Amen.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
“But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
Empowered with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was certainly capable of changing the stones in to loaves of bread. At first glance such action doesn’t appear to be wrong. Jesus was hungry and he had the capability of satisfying his hunger. The issue was that to make bread out of the stones Jesus would be obeying the Tempter and not God the Father. Jesus would also be using his power for his own benefit and not in ministry to others.
Responding to God’s overwhelming grace in our lives we have been called to, “Love the Lord with all of or heart, soul, mind and strength”—everything. The priorities of the world are no longer of importance to us. Faithful obedience comes before comfort. Dedication to the ministry to which we have been called comes before fame and fortune. God’s, “well done my good and faithful servant,” takes priority over newspaper coverage and awards.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we also realize that the abundant blessings that God had poured into our lives are not meant to stay with us. We have been blessed to be a blessing—to share our blessings with others.
So, forget the bread. We are sustained by every word that comes from the mouth of God. That is enough.
God of abundance, you have blessed us beyond our imagination. Help us share those blessings with others and be faithfully obedient to you. Amen.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6).
A missionary bush pilot in Alaska took off in poor weather. The weather was so bad that the other pilots stayed on the ground and refused to fly. The missionary had told his friends and family, “Don’t worry, the Lord will take care of me.” He ran into a mountain twenty miles from the airport. The Connors decided to purchase a house significantly out of their price range. “Don’t worry they told themselves, the Lord will provide.” They lost their home in the great economic downturn. Sometimes in situations when we are frustrated or in despair we challenge God to answer our prayers. “God,” we say, “If you really are God answer my prayer in this manner.”
Jesus was challenged by the Tempter to jump off the pinnacle of the temple in order to test God and see if God’s angels really would have protected him. Jesus refused. “People are not to put the Lord to the test.” A life of faith is not one that challenges God to prove that he truly is God. God has already done that in several ways and on several occasions. Rather, a life of faith is our words and actions that demonstrate that we are followers of Jesus Christ.
There are times when it is difficult to separate faith and foolishness. God is always inviting us to “take a step of faith” and get out of our comfort zones. Steps of faith, though, are intentional and are taken after much prayer and counsel. They are never hasty or flippant. Steps of faith are steps that honor God.
God of Steadfast Love, forgive us when we ask you to prove your love for us, when you already have in the cross of Jesus Christ. Enable us to discern your will so that our words and actions are not foolish but rather those of faith. Amen.
Friday, January 16, 2015
“Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ “ (Matthew 4:7).
Nigel read the letter telling him that he had not been chosen for the job. This was his thirteenth rejection. He crumbled up the letter. A wave of despair flooded over him. Suddenly a Bible verse popped into his mind, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm …” (Jeremiah 29:11). It was a verse he had memorized as a youth. Traci was tired of rehab and trying to recover from the effects of a stroke. She wanted to quit. Really she wanted to have God answer her prayers and restore some movement to her arm and hand. As she sat feeling sorry for herself she remembered a verse that she had learned by heart years ago, “My grace is sufficient for you; for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). A calm determination replaced her discouragement.
Mary and Joseph were practicing Jews who observed the laws, teachings and traditions of their faith. They taught Jesus to follow their example and to live out his faith on a daily basis. One of the ways that Jesus did this along with other youth was to memorize the Psalms and the Torah. Having learned the scriptures by heart, Jesus was able to remember them in times of temptation, struggle, frustration or celebration.
When we learn something by heart, it becomes a part of us. We not only remember it in times of need, it also deepens our faith, expands our love and broadens our service. Learning Bible verses by heart is a powerful Spiritual discipline in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.
O God of Revelation, you have spoken to us through your Word. Help us to cherish your words in our heart. Amen.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
“Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him” (Matthew 4:11).
Yolanda had hip surgery. Her rehabilitation and recovery took several weeks. During that time, members of her congregation provided meals for her and her husband and at times chauffeured her to and from therapy appointments. Yolanda commented that she felt as if she was being cared for by angels. Rick had been out of work for several months. He became discouraged and had difficulty motivating himself to keep looking for a job. Rick accepted an invitation to join a local C3G group (Christ Center Career Group). The group helped him polish his job hunting skills, supported him in his search and kept Rick accountable. Eventually Rick found an ideal job. He couldn’t thank the members of his group enough for their help. They were Rick’s angels.
There are times when God uses actual angels to minister to people and help them through difficult times. Most of the time, though, God uses people to provide assistance. God realizes that we can’t travel through life alone. God didn’t create us that way; we need community. The Holy Spirit has given us specific gifts and talents. When combined with the gifts and talents of others, God’s people can accomplish great things.
There are times when we need angels and other times when we need to be angels. It is comforting to know that God cares about us and sends “angels” to minister to our need. It is awe inspiring to realize that God uses us to be God’s angels for others.
Loving Lord, Thank you for the angels you have sent to minister to us. May your Holy Spirit use our gifts and talents to be angels for others. Amen.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
“From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).
Jesus had been led into the wilderness to confront the forces of evil. In that forty day struggle he learned about the Tempter and he learned about himself. Jesus returned from the wilderness knowing what he had been called to do. Immediately, Jesus began to call people to live changed lives because God’s kingdom was upon them.
We usually look negatively at times of struggle. We don’t like the pain and discomfort or the sadness and grief that they often bring. Trials and tribulations are important, though. The Holy Spirit uses them to mold and shape us. The Spirit also uses them to temper us and make us stronger.
It is foolish to give thanks for the pain of struggles. We can, though, give thanks that God is with us in the midst of these difficult times, and that the Holy Spirit can use them positively in our lives and ministries. Returning from our struggles we can announce that God’s kingdom has come to those around us.
Gracious God, thank you that you are with us in the difficult times of life and that you use these times to strengthen us for ministry. May you continue to move in and through us. Amen.