“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
I sat quietly on the pew, listening to the teacher as she explained about the relevance and meaning of the sacred ordinances of the church. Confession and Communion was the subject that day, as I attended the course that prepared me to receive my first communion as a Catholic 13 year old. I was the oldest in the group, most of my peers ranging from 8 to 10 years old. My parents believed it to be crucial that I understood the importance and decided to take the communion on my own; therefore they let me decide when to take the course.
Today I realize that my decision was more based on peer pressure than religious conviction. After all, I was the only seventh grader who would not take the communion wafers during the masses held at our Catholic school.
However, there was another reason haunting me. I was afraid. Afraid that God was angry because I chose not to partake in the Lord’s Supper. Afraid He would condemn me to purgatory, or hell, for not accepting His ordinance. Truth being told, I was taught to believe I was to be afraid of God. I am sure that was never the intention of the people who taught me about Him in those early years, but that was the message I understood. Thus I grew up with many misconceptions and errors about the Father’s character.
Fast forward 30 years and, although my understanding of His Word, salvation and the vastness and riches of His grace has certainly changed; and although today I fear Him instead of being afraid, I wonder how many times you and I are still tempted to believe lies about God.
One of the biggest lies we are tempted to believe is that, when something bad happens to one of His children, that must mean that they are out of God’s will.
That is a lie from the devil himself.
Naturally, there are situations in which the trials we face are a mere consequence of our disobedience or neglect. A smoker increases his chance of lung cancer. Adultery destroys lives. You get the picture.
But then there are times when God allows the trials. Not to harm us or destroy us, but to mold us. Strengthen us. Cleanse us.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1 – emphasis mine)
Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness was undoubtedly one of the most trying times of the Savior’s journey on earth. He was hungry, thirsty and weak. And then, just to make things worse, Satan showed up to tempt Him. We all know the passage and rejoice in the Savior’s victory over the devil. Nevertheless, this significant information, intentionally stated in the three gospels that narrate the account, hold a very important key to the temptation of Christ: “He was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.”
The wilderness experience was crucial for Jesus’ preparation to fulfill God’s perfect plan for His life. It was the onset of His ministry. It was His blessed preparation ground for what lay ahead of Him. He was led to the wilderness by the Father Himself, in order to be strengthened for the task ahead of Him. He was led to the wilderness to be tempted to quit and yet, not give up. Instead, He came out of it stronger than ever, ready to start His ministry that would change the world forever.
Likewise, if you are a child of God who is obedient to His Word, your wilderness is not accidental. God led you there. You did not fall there because you disobeyed. You need to be there.
The challenge is to take our focus out of our well being and to look beyond, into eternity.
God is not a genie. His main purpose is not to make us happy. His main purpose is to make us become more like Christ. In the process, there will be pain. There will be trials. And temptations.
Today God is inviting you to look into this special detail about your wilderness: He led you there. He has invited the trial or temptation that you may be going through, as devastating as it may seem, to be a tool in which He will make you who He wants you to be… that you may fulfill His plan for your life.
The question is… how are you responding?
Are you angry?
It’s ok. Go ahead and pitch a fit. Only, for your own sake, don’t lose sight. Look up. You are not a victim of your circumstances. If you are a child of God, He is waiting for you to stop complaining and start asking: God, what needs to change in ME? Not in anyone else, but in me. Psalm 139:23-24
Are you tired?
I understand. Make time for God. Look up. He is the wind beneath our wings when we are too tired to fly. Read Isaiah 40 and meditate on God’s infinite power and the strength He provides for His children.
Are you tempted?
Been there. Some temptations are hard to resist. But remember that the Holy Spirit within you can help you and strengthen you to walk away. 1 Corinthians 10:13
God is still good when the worst happens. Though our circumstances may be tossed about like the waves of a raging sea, His love and goodness never change. Because He never changes.
He is forever merciful. Forever good.
But He loves you too much to leave you as you are.
And that, my friend, is no lie.