During Lent, this story of temptation in Matthew 4: 1-11 may help strengthen our resolve.
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
How is your Lenten sacrifice going, not a week in?
Yesterday my wife and I were driving to the grocery store and she asked, “Can you eat muffins?” I thought about it. “No, it’s a sweet.” Then she asked, “What about food bars?” Again, I thought. “No, it’s a sweet. I want to give up sweets.” She turned to me with a frown. “Well, what is a sweet?” When I gave up sweets, I hadn’t decided in my mind what constituted sweets, but what I had in mind were all the fattening, sugary foods I eat after meals and in between meals that aren’t good for me. “Cakes, pies, cookies — desserts,” I said. “What about pudding? Jello — will you eat Jello?” she tried again.
Now, I in no way intend to compare my wife to Satan or my experience to what Jesus experienced. But imagine Jesus in the desert after forty days and nights of total fasting, when up walks Satan: arrogant, deceitful, looking for a way to make Jesus fail. I envision him saying those words with a cooing and comforting tone when he talked about turning stones into bread, perhaps a sneer and challenging tone in the middle, and finally, abject coercion and defiance at the end. And Jesus, bodily weak but spiritually strong as granite, said, “Get away, Satan!”
Satan tests us a thousand ways when we are weak. He knows what buttons to push, what weaknesses to explore, what sores to touch, what needs to tempt. And during Lent, when we are trying to deny ourselves something as a gift to God – deny ourselves something we are used to having, perhaps something we normally over indulge in or something that we have attached ourselves to – Satan knows when and how to try to make us mess up. Why? Because he doesn’t want us to please God. He wants us to please him. Satan is God’s opponent, and what pleases God displeases him. Satan works overtime tempting us to fail God.
What a triumph for the Father when Jesus bested Satan in the desert. After truly fasting for forty days and nights, nothing – nothing – could make Jesus favor Satan over the Father. So when you feel tempted to indulge against your Lenten sacrifice, think about Satan hoping you will fail, hoping you will give in. Think about how much greater Jesus’ sacrifice was over forty days and nights, yet still He said, “Get away, Satan!” Think about how pleasing your success will be to the Father when you don’t give in and you deliver failure instead to Satan. “Get away, Satan!”
As my wife and I pulled into the grocery story, I finally made up my mind. I will eat foods that are better for me, like pies that have actual fresh fruit in them. And it’s OK to have a piece of dark chocolate, which researchers say is good for me. But I won’t eat muffins or cakes or cookies or sweet breads or sweet rolls or other baked goods that aren’t good for me (but we tend to eat a lot of). During Lent I will try to take better care of the body that God has given me that I may be a better image of God. And perhaps in that sacrifice I will learn to be a better reflection of God in other ways. When tempted to break that sacrifice, I will say, “Get away, Satan!” and then, “I am with you, Lord Jesus.”