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Overcoming Temptation: Jesus’ ‘how-to’ guide

Updated: Mar 15

Description: Temptation lurks round every corner. It's easy to give in, yet Jesus never did. Using examples from his life, we explore how he succeeded.



In the hustle of daily life, temptation lurks round every corner. It's so easy to succumb to the allure of instant gratification or prioritise our own desires over what we know to be right. Yet, even in the depths of our struggles, we can find inspiration and active support in the life of Jesus.


In this blog, we review a few examples of how Jesus himself faced formidable temptations and how he emerged victorious.


Temptations in the Wilderness

Accounts of Jesus facing Satan’s temptations in the wilderness are well known (Matthew 4.1-11 and Luke 4.1-13). Because they are so well known, we can miss the harsh reality of being alone in the wilderness, weary and hungry, and suddenly being confronted with the allure of instant relief. Yet this was the scenario Jesus faced when Satan proffered three distinct temptations, each targeting different aspects of his identity and mission.


First, Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, appealing to his physical hunger. But this temptation ran deeper than just satisfying a basic need; it challenged Jesus to use his divine power for personal gain, to prioritise his own comfort over obedience to God's will.


Secondly, Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself off the top of the temple, urging him to demonstrate his divinity and prove himself to the world. This temptation played on the desire for recognition and validation, enticing Jesus to seek glory through a spectacular display of power.


Finally, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship, appealing to his longing for authority and dominion. This temptation tempted Jesus to bypass the path of suffering and sacrifice, offering him a shortcut to earthly power and influence.


In response to each temptation, Jesus remained steadfast, drawing strength from scripture and affirming his commitment to God's will. He was able to resist the pull of instant gratification by anchoring himself in the truth of God's word, and choosing to trust in God's timing and purposes.


Temptation to Seek Comfort and Recognition

Despite his divine authority, Jesus led a life of humility and service. He could easily have sought comfort and recognition, yet chose instead to identify with the lowly and the outcast. Even his miracles were not intended to showcase his power, but to demonstrate God's love and compassion for the marginalised. He taught his disciples the value of humility, pointing out that people who think too much of themselves will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will be acclaimed (Luke 14:11).


Jesus' rejection of earthly comforts and kudos, challenges us to re-evaluate our own priorities and motivations. Instead of seeking validation from the world by falling for the world’s temptations, Jesus calls us to find fulfilment in serving others and seeking God's approval above all else.


Temptation to Avoid the Cross

As Jesus neared the pinnacle of his earthly ministry, he knew the agony that awaited him on the cross. When Peter urged him to spare himself from such suffering, Jesus knew he was being tempted to prioritise his own well-being over God's plan for redemption (Matthew 16:21-23). This temptation to avoid the cross was not just a fleeting thought, but a profound struggle that tested Jesus' commitment to his Father's will.


In rebuking Peter, Jesus affirmed his unwavering dedication to fulfil the divine purpose for which he came to earth, no matter the cost. He understood that true love requires sacrifice. He was willing to endure the pain and humiliation of the cross for the sake of humanity's salvation. Jesus' triumph over this temptation serves as a powerful reminder that obedience to God often requires us to resist wrongdoing, even when it causes hardship.


Temptation to Doubt

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus grappled with the weight of his impending crucifixion. He felt the full force of human fear and uncertainty, yet surrendered his will to the Father's. This willing submission really shows his unwavering trust in God's plan, even in the face of overwhelming adversity (Matthew 26:39).


In moments of doubt and despair, Jesus' example reminds us to turn to God in prayer, trusting in his wisdom and faithfulness. Just as Jesus found strength and peace in surrendering to the Father's will, so too can we find the strength to resist temptation by relinquishing control and placing our trust in God's perfect plan.


Temptation to Anger and Retaliation

Throughout his ministry, Jesus encountered opposition and persecution, yet never responded with anger or retaliation. When faced with mockery and scorn, he chose to forgive rather than seek revenge.


Perhaps most powerfully, and while in excruciating pain on the cross, Jesus resisted the temptation to yield to jeering from the watching priests, soldiers and passers-by. They were mocking him mercilessly and demanding he prove his Messiahship by saving himself, as he had saved others. Accounts of the crucifixion are in Matthew 27.32-50, Mark 15.21-37, Luke 23.26-46, and John 19.16-30. Even in the agony of the cross, Jesus prayed for his enemies because they didn’t understand what they are doing, embodying the ultimate example of love and forgiveness (Luke 23:34).


Jesus' refusal to succumb to anger and bitterness, despite unimaginable injustice, challenges us to follow his example. Instead of being tempted to respond to adversity with resentment and hostility, we can respond with grace and compassion, trusting in God's justice and sovereignty.


Conclusion

The life of Jesus provides hope and inspiration in the struggle against temptation. Just as he faced and conquered many forms of temptation, we too can overcome through faith, prayer, and reliance on God's strength. Remembering this, assures us that we are never alone in our struggles and that we can resist temptation's grasp.




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