“Salt and Light”: Matthew 4:3 | The Test

‘The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”’

Matthew 4:3

I often meet with people who think that, if they had more faith, they would experience less temptation. It is very tempting to believe that a follower of Jesus should enjoy – almost without interruption – the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, transforming our lives, and the fruit of that should be, we think, an almost constant supply of gentleness, peace, patience.

We can easily convince ourselves that the Church should be that kind of place, too: a peaceful people, full of gentleness and patience. The reality is that God builds his church into a family, slowly, over time, and in doing that work, helps us to burn away the division, impatience, and hostility that were part of who we were before we knew Jesus.

One of the ways that God does that transforming work in us, is to gather us in worship – in time apart from the world, to be transformed by his Spirit and his Word. Time apart in worship, and also in solitude, silence, and prayer – all of these are ways that the Holy Spirit can get into the corners of our hearts and minds, and clean things up.

But we also know that, when we experience God’s presence in worship; on a retreat; on a walk in the woods – re-entry can be very difficult: The peace we feel can disappear very quickly in the ‘real world’.

Last week we heard about the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. We learned that, at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descends – like a dove – and rests on Him, with these words spoken by the Father: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” It is hard to imagine a more peaceful moment – a more peaceful image. 

But the same Spirit that descends, peacefully, then leads Jesus into the Wilderness to be “tempted” by the Devil – the better translation would be “tested” – the Spirit of God does not lead into temptation but does lead us into confrontation and testing. To experience confrontation, testing – to be faithful in very difficult circumstances – are part of being led by the Spirit of Christ.

In the first temptation, Satan tells Jesus that if he is the Son of God, surely he can command stones to become bread, and this temptation comes after forty days of fasting! But, this test is not about hunger, or physical weakness. Really, it is about how a good thing can become an idol, a god-thing – a wedge between us and God’s kingdom. The first temptation is that Satan would like Jesus to become an earthly king, one who can provide bread for his people.

The thing is, Jesus, later in his ministry, will provide food for several thousand people, travelling with him. So what gives? The principle at stake is this: Not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Seek first God’s Kingdom and all these things will be added to you. And the principle illustrates this: It is very easy to get into an earth-bound frame of mind, when we are confronted, tested in our wildernesses.

Rarely, in our lives, are our confrontations as dramatic as Jesus’ battle with Satan in the wilderness – face to face, with the source of all evil. Instead, our confrontations that can lead to compromises, usually come from two, very ordinary things: Our expectations, and our best laid plans to meet them.

In the book of Exodus, Moses leads Israel out of Egypt – out of bondage – and into the wilderness.  The bondage – the slavery – was quickly forgotten, and the reality of being in the wilderness, set in. The people began to ask Moses: “Have you led us out here to starve? Will God provide for us?”

These are reasonable expectations. They make sense. We can relate. But these expectations also betray an absence of trust and a very short memory: Every person with Moses, asking him those questions, saw the Ten Plagues that God used to free Israel from Pharaoh; the Red Sea parted, as they walked through; the same Sea collapse on Pharaoh and his army. 

The blessing of deliverance is quickly forgotten in the testing of the wilderness.

If you are in a wilderness, now, have you forgotten the blessing that came before? The times of God’s favor – even deliverance – that were meant to strengthen you for the testing you face today? If so, that’s okay: We’ve all been there. I certainly have. But do this with me, in your wilderness: Get real specific and write out your blessings; the story of your deliverance. In doing this, the one tempting you, will flee – he will have to depart – because Jesus will come and stand alongside you, as you think about and thank him for all the good things you’ve been given by Him.


Thank you for stopping by! If you would like your devotional on the go, you can listen to them on SPOTIFY or APPLE podcasts.

I pastor Mattituck Presbyterian Church, on the North Fork of Long Island. You can visit our website, HERE, and if you would like to view our worship services, you can join us on Facebook at 9:00am (Contemporary) and 11:15am (Traditional Worship Service): FACEBOOK, or you can watch recent messages on YOUTUBE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s