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.