READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary | Intentional disciples “Press on!” faithfully when put to the test, for Jesus says, “I am with you!” TESTING transforms and nurtures us with God by our side. Painful as pruning is, only good can come out of being tried and tested when it is God we obey at all cost.
- Tempted to Doubt God’s Goodness – When Jesus the Son of Man was at His weakest, Satan attacked to cast confusion, “Tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus knew the time to eat had not come. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Jesus continued with his fast, showing us that appetites and longings are to be satisfied within God’s framework, for God is the source of all satisfaction. Not waiting upon God is to succumb and take matters into our own hands for instant gratification, which only leads to regretful pain, addiction and bondage.
- Tempted to Distort God’s Word – Satan used scripture to tempt Jesus to prove how spectacularly he would be saved by God’s angels who would lift him up in their hands. Jesus’ reply, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” tells us to TRUST, not test or force God. The Bible gets randomly quoted to justify one’s desires or agenda. A satanic distortion is to presume on God’s protection, but neglect a Godly posture of trust that involves surrender to God’s will. Instead of grumbling when baffled, we should quietly allow God to rule. Only then will we hear and carry out His divine assignments for us while waiting for His purposes to unfold.
- Tempted to Devalue the Worship of God – Relentlessly, Satan tempted Jesus with the “kingdoms of the world and their splendour” if he would “bow down and worship” him. Jesus dismissed Satan with the rebuke, ‘Worship the LORD your God, and serve Him only.’” Jesus’ response exemplifies “What good is it to gain the whole world but forfeit one’s soul?” Seeking meaning and worth through success, accolades and power, causes us to miss God’s kingdom for fake alternatives. Jesus would be King but only by God’s plan – to save us from sinful depravity. Not with arrogant force, but with sacrificial love. What temptation holds us back from pursuing God’s purposes for us in sacrificial love?
How To Intentionally Overcome Temptation
- Reality Of Spiritual Warfare – Be alert and of sober mind for the devil aims to defeat God’s plans, and prowls for someone to devour. Experiencing the same kind of sufferings as believers throughout the world, we resist the devil by standing firm in the faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
- Recognize Our Vulnerabilities – Are we prone to seek success, happiness and intimacy outside of God’s way and will? We need to seek, pray and trust God intentionally, as well as share our struggles with small group members, or with praying partners, even before Satan tempts.
- Read The Word – Be anchored in God’s truth, as demonstrated perfectly by Jesus in human flesh during his desert testing. Daily reflecting on scripture prepares us by establishing our understanding of God’s holy instructions.
- Rooted In Christ – Abiding in Christ Jesus as LORD, we become rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7) So that having our identity in Christ, we are strengthened by God to overcome, knowing He loves and accepts us more than we dare to hope.
God who began a good work in us will complete it. (Philippians 1:6) Though we stumble and fall, He is ever faithful to help us overcome when we humbly return to Him, repentant and trusting. Near starvation and after a series of hard testing, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:14) We too will emerge stronger when forsaking self-will, we embrace God’s grace to battle temptation. By allowing God to do a deeper work of pruning, purifying, and empowering, we can emerge victorious to proclaim Christ as our all in all, the JOY of our salvation!
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Read and reflect upon Deuteronomy 8:2-3 and Exodus 17:1-2, 7. What were the reasons for the testing of Israel, and how did Israel respond?
2. Read Matthew 4:1-11. What parallels do you see with Deuteronomy 8:2-3 and Exodus 17:1-2, 7. What might be some reasons why God allows us to be tested in the journey of discipleship?
3. First Test: Temptation to Doubt the Goodness of God. What was Satan’s strategy to cause Jesus to doubt the Father’s goodness? Why would it have been wrong for Jesus to turn stone to bread in this instance? Share a time in your life when you might have doubted God’s goodness and was tempted to take things into your own hands.
4. Second Test: Temptation to Distort the Word of God. How did Satan distort Scripture to instigate Jesus to “throw himself down” at the highest point of the temple? Why would it have been wrong for Jesus to do so? Can you think of any examples of presumptuous faith in our present context?
5. Third Test: Temptation to Devalue the Worship of God. How did Satan seek to compromise Jesus’ worship to God? How would this temptation apply in our present context? Reflect and share whether there are any idols that might cause you to devalue your worship of God.
6. Of Satan’s three temptations in the passage, which one do you struggle with the most? What promise from Scripture might help you battle these temptations?
7. All these temptations involve grasping for power and control (contrary to the Cross) instead of trusting God. Can you think of examples from your life where you grasp for control?
8. What practical steps can you take to resist temptation and pass the tests of discipleship? Share how you can be accountable as a small group (or to someone). Pray for one another.