Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1–2, ESV).
Suffering will come. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). All will be persecuted? Yes, all.
Because God loves us, He warns us that pain is coming so we aren’t blindsided by it. If you’re driving down the freeway, a car cuts in front of you, and you see a collision coming, you brace yourself. If you stumble down a flight of stairs, you instinctively throw out your hands to break the fall. God’s Word repeatedly, lovingly warns us that suffering is God’s number one tool for chiseling our character so that we have realistic expectations and can brace ourselves for what’s to come.
Since suffering is coming (or for some of us, is already here), we also need to know what to do, and God’s Word gives us practical advice. It begins with the right mind-set. “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking” (1 Peter 4:1). How did Jesus think like this? From the moment His ministry began, He knew where it would end. At the right time, He turned His face to Jerusalem, knowing exactly what awaited Him there. He chose the cross. He willed Himself to be our sacrifice.
We need to arm ourselves with the same mentality. Rather than scratching our heads, wondering why we’re going through hard times, we should be thinking, I’m one of God’s children, so I’m not surprised by suffering. God has this planned for me, so I’m staying under it. With God, I’m going to get through this.
Along with these realistic expectations, we also need to guard our behavior. Often when we’re going through difficult times, we are more vulnerable to sin. We stand at a crossroads and either get bitter or get better. Either we move forward/upward, or we drift backward/downward. Trials present a watershed moment.
During a time of real hardship, you become a target. Peter warns, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b). Satan sees God’s children going through hardship, and he’s waiting for an opportune time to pounce. What God allows for your good, Satan wants to twist into evil. Sin that hasn’t tempted you for a long time can crush you during a trial, when all your energy and resources are directed toward surviving. That’s when Satan rushes you. You can find yourself falling into patterns you thought were gone forever. An unsuspecting person might lament, I thought I’d never touch that bottle again, but here it is, empty. Satan wants to shame you and make you think you haven’t made any progress at all. But as a blood-bought son or daughter of the living God, you were chosen for something better!
Arm yourself for the onslaught. Guard your behavior “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (4:2). We only have a few more years, if that. We’re in a free fall. Life is short, fleeting, like a vapor—gone. God forgive us for the months and years we’ve spent with our pleasure at the top of our agenda. What a shallow existence! Instead of pursuing personal passions, go hard after the will of God in your life. It’s not the hardship but your response to it that really matters.
Though temptation to sin can sometimes be heightened in trials, suffering can also make you more focused in your walk with Christ. Pain in one area can sensitize you to other parts of your life. Suffering teaches you in new ways that life isn’t a series of random, unrelated events; it’s all connected. As you formulate urgent prayer requests, you examine your life for anything that would prevent you from being heard. You might ask, “God, what do You see in my life that needs to be dealt with? Anything I need to get right with You about? Have I been ignoring You about something?” You get the mind-set of a warrior, not wanting to carry anything extra into the battle. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). Arm yourself like a warrior.
Lord Almighty, You are a Warrior, and You call me to be a soldier too. Thank You for the warning that suffering is coming. Why do I expect life to be smooth? You never promise it will be. I want to arm myself with Jesus’ way of thinking—accepting realistic expectations, guarding my behavior, and drawing closer to You during the trial so You can use it to refine me and to bring glory to Your Son, Jesus, in whose name I pray, amen.
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.