“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
The journey of Lent is meant to reflect the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness (itself meant to reflect the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness). After his baptism, Jesus fasted alone for 40 days. During this time, the scriptures name three times he was tempted. In his small and powerful book, In the Name of Jesus, acclaimed teacher Henri Nouwen looks at the temptation through the lens of Christian leadership. He seems the temptations Jesus faced as:
The Temptation to be Relevant (turning stones into bread)
The Temptation to be Spectacular (jumping from Temple to be caught by angels)
The Temptation to be Powerful (bowing to the Devil in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world)
I find Nouwen’s insights to be especially powerful and I highly suggest reading his work. Yet his work is hardly the only interpretation on the temptations. While many address the question, “What do these three temptations mean for us?” I am curious as to why there were only three temptations. There was certainly enough time for more. Perhaps, these three encapsulated the kind of temptations Jesus struggled with. Yet, not every one is tempted by the same things.
Our Lenten journey follows the journey of Christ. Yet your journey is unique to you. This raises the question, what three temptations might you face on this Lenten journey? While circumstances change in your life, what temptations remain the same? Knowing the temptations that beset us gives us the opportunity to identify them when they surface in our soul and counter them with truth.
One temptation that has followed me throughout my life is the temptation to believe that my worth is defined by my competence, achievement, and helpfulness. Competence, achievement, and helpfulness are good things but they are not the source of worth.
When Christ was tempted he countered with scripture. And so I lean on Titus 3:5,
“God saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”
What temptations will you encounter during this Lenten journey? What scriptural truths will you lean upon to endure it? (if you’re not sure about what scripture, ask Pastor Mary or I to help find one for you!)