Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came (Matthew 4:1–3a, esv).
Faith is as practical as you can get. It’s not ivory tower, abstract, feel-good thinking. Faith is for real life in the trenches. Let’s look together at the life of Jesus and see how Christ Himself used faith at the point of temptation to gain victory.
Some people argue that as God, Jesus couldn’t experience true temptation to sin. False. The Bible teaches that Jesus was severely tempted. Hebrews 4:15 reassures us that Jesus gets it: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When facing temptation, Jesus didn’t use His divine powers to say no. Within the confines of His humanity, He was victorious by faith. In fact, using His deity is exactly what Satan was tempting Him to do, but Jesus refused. “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’” (Matthew 4:3). Satan appealed to Jesus’ hunger, since He hadn’t eaten for forty days, and tempted Him to prove Himself, but Jesus said no: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (4:4). Jesus exercised faith in the Word of God to repel the attacks of the evil one.
“Have faith in the promises of God’s Word.”
Think how vulnerable Jesus was. He had been fasting in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. Undoubtedly he felt hungry, tired, and lonely. In His humanity, He was facing off against Satan.
Satan crafted three, appealing temptations: turn stones into bread, throw Yourself down from the temple, and receive the kingdoms of the world from me if You worship me. Upon inspection, that last temptation appears to be a weak one, yet in it lies a lesson for us: In the heat of temptation, the offer may appear attractive, but when you stand back from it, you can see how ridiculous it is. In desperation to ruin Jesus’ perfect, sinless track record, Satan offered Jesus everything He had made and already owns. In His humanity, Jesus was susceptible to that temptation, yet He saw through the façade and realized it was not a part of His Father’s plan.
As each temptation presented itself, Jesus used only one weapon to fight it: faith in the Word of God.
Temptation #1: “Command these stones to become loaves of bread,” said Satan (Matthew 4:3).
Jesus said no and quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Temptation #2: “Throw yourself down,” suggested the evil one (Matthew 4:6).
Jesus said no and quoted Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Temptation #3: “Fall down and worship me,” Satan invited (Matthew 4:9).
Jesus said no and quoted Deuteronomy 6:13: “It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.”
Three temptations. Three biblical answers. A perfect example of the power of faith in God’s Word.
Notice that this isn’t faith in faith, that cultic, deceptive message of faith in the power of faith itself. The Bible doesn’t teach that there’s any power in what you say simply because you say it with confidence. That would be blind faith. The power of faith is in the object of our faith: God’s Word. If what we say is from God’s Word, and in the depth of our being we believe it, then we will find incredible power. Like Jesus, we can have faith in the promises of God’s Word.
Father God, thank You that Your Son knows the full human experience. Jesus gets it. He knows what it’s like to be human and to face temptation—yet He never sinned. I’m in awe of Him. And I want to be like Him and to face off against the enemy of my soul armed with faith in the powerful Word of God. I want to store “up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Make me more like Jesus, I ask, and it’s in His name I pray, amen.
I want to be careful in the words I choose to warn fellow ministers about the danger of reductionism in our preaching and teaching. Dictionary.com defines reductionism as: “The practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.” Few things discourage young Christians, or those considering the faith, more than an over simplification of the many complex issues current residents of this planet are grappling with. (more…)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, esv).
The message of faith permeates not only Hebrews 11, but the entire New Testament. You’ll find faith on every page and in every story. Every step with God is a step of faith. Every lesson learned is a lesson of faith. Every victory won is a victory by faith.
The point is this: faith is not a part of the Christian life; it’s the whole thing.
Faith is unlike the fruit of the Spirit, such as patience, kindness, and gentleness; unlike spiritual gifts, such as teaching, service, and acts of mercy; unlike spiritual disciplines, such as worship, prayer, and meditation. Faith is not one part among assorted components. The Christian life is a life of faith.
Genuine followers of Christ trust God and exercise active confidence in Him. They believe His Word and act on it no matter how they feel, because He promises a good result. When we exercise our faith, we have forward spiritual momentum. When we let our faith atrophy, we lose ground and fall away from Him.
Some Christians wonder if this contradicts 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Yes, love is the greatest element relationally—and in that sense, love is greater than faith, because it influences others powerfully.
But biblical love is built on the foundation of faith. We can’t even begin to love as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:13, or as Jesus describes in John 13:35, until faith in Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between God and us. Because faith forms our basic relationship with God, it is the foundational element of the Christian life. Love for others flows out of that faith relationship.
Every good thing God wants to bring to our lives comes through faith.
Faith is essential… because of its centrality, the cry of the Reformation was sola fide, which means “by faith alone.” According to Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God].” No faith means no relationship with our Creator. With faith, we begin an eternal relationship with Him and grow closer as our faith increases.
Which begs the question—assuming you have faith in God, how do you increase it? Paul gives a clear answer. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Mystery solved! That’s what increases faith: the Bible.
If a spiritual thermometer could measure the level of your faith, what would cause it to rise? The minutes, hours, and days you’ve spent immersed in God’s Word. Conversely, shallow faith, a fear-filled heart, or coldness toward God would indicate little time in the Word.
Faith grows by hearing the Word of God. Let’s close our computers, put down the devices, and start logging more time in His Book!
Lord God, I want to please You, which begins with faith. Thank You for the first dose of life-giving faith that began my relationship with You. I pray You would grow my faith as I do my part by spending time in Your Word. In the pages of Scripture, I see You clearly and know You act faithfully on behalf of Your people. Every evidence of You grows my faith. Thank You for who You are, a constant, true, good God in whom I can place unwavering confidence. You never fail me. In the name of Your Son Jesus Christ I pray, amen.