Read 2 Timothy 2:11-13
When I was in college, I took a BASIC computer programming class. For those who are unaware, the name of the type of computer programming which we were learning was actually BASIC. The course taught us how to write rudimentary programs to guide the functioning of a computer. We created flow charts which had yes/no and if/then statements. These allowed us to achieve whatever end result we were expecting as long as we set it up correctly. After completing the flowchart, we entered the commands into the computer and tested it to see if we properly programmed the computer to complete our assigned task.
In the midst of a conversation where advice is being given by the author of 2 Timothy, the author writes a series of if/then statements. The author indicates that these statements combined present a trustworthy saying. They speak of the connectedness between Christ and those who are followers of Christ. The first two statements present positive outcomes in the connection. The third is a relationship between our negative behavior and a negative result. The final statement is a contrast between an negative behavior and Christ’s positive behavior.
The author presents in this if/then series an image of the benefits of the interconnectedness between Christ and us, his followers. What a comforting concept for us. Knowing that we share in all of Christ’s rewards is assuring. Even if we are unfaithful though, Christ remains faithful to our relationship. The only way this is broken is if we choose to disown Christ. Disowning means we reject all of which Christ offers.
Read Matthew 4:1-11
All types of temptations confront us in life. When a person is on a diet, there seems to be endless opportunities to eat foods which are packed with unhealthy calories. If you are trying to conserve or save money, advertisements on social media surface attempting to entice you to buy something you want badly. When in college, the availability of credit cards tempted me to spend money which I did not have. Temptation comes in a variety of forms from a variety of sources. How a person responds to temptation has a strong impact on one’s ability to overcome the temptation.
In today’s passage from Matthew’s version of the gospel, we witness Jesus going to the arid area near the Jordan River. Prior to this passage we hear of Jesus being baptized by John. This is the starting point of Jesus’s earthly ministry. The transition from growing up while working with Joseph and his mobile ministry of healing and teaching is marked with these two stories. While in this barren area without resources of food and water, Jesus is tempted by the tempter, or devil. The three mentioned temptations are taking care of the physical needs of food and water, testing if the Father’s protection is real, and obtaining controlling power by worshiping someone other than God. Jesus’s response is always to rely on his understanding and following of God’s directions. This response allowed Jesus to overcome the temptation.
Each of us encounter the same types of temptations as presented here. There are times when we are tempted to place our perceived needs ahead of everything else. We are tempted to take matters into our own hands to satisfy our need instead of trusting in God to provide.
The temptation to want to challenge God to see if the promises are real can surface occasionally. We may make reckless choices and say to ourselves, “if God truly loves me, I will be kept safe.” The expectation that God will get us out of perilous situations is best illustrated with the moral story of the man who drowned in a flood because he kept refusing the help God was sending.
A hunger for power and authority along with all the earthly benefits associated with them can easily creep into our everyday life. We place people and objects in the center of our lives to obtain that power, authority and benefits. These items take the place of God who deserves to always be in the center of our lives.
Jesus again provides a way to respond when these, and other temptations, confront us. Relying on the directions of the Lord is the way to overcome temptation. We can obtain this direction by understanding and applying Scripture. The fellow believers and faith leaders which God places in our lives can assist in providing God’s direction for us. Being in communication with the Lord through the Spirit also opens this direction to us. Temptation will always come our way but if we seek God’s direction as our response when it does, we will overcome it.