God’s opportunities are always coming our way. Weekly, daily, hourly, we are being handed situations by which God wants to manifest Himself through us.
What many believers don’t know is that these situations often take the form of a temptation.
Look at Jesus. He was “driven” into the wilderness to be tempted, as Mark says. Satan came to Him and hit Him with the desire for fleshly indulgence, the desire for accolades, and the desire for power. Satan’s basic temptation was “use your power for yourself. Get what you want.”
Jesus reversed each temptation, each negative, by turning it into a positive. He reversed the flesh-will in Him by saying, essentially, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” He went from a self-oriented outlook to God-vision.
Later He does this by calling Peter, “Satan.” Jesus strengthens His own faith on Peter’s tempting Him to avoid the Cross, reversing the temptation into more faith-power. He reverses Philip’s fear of not having enough bread, culminating in a miracle. He reverses Martha’s fear that Lazarus has been dead too long, and gets her to speak out that reversal for herself, to which He adds, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” It was the contrary, negative temptations that were His opportunities to press forward in faith. Walking on water. The Gadarene demoniac. Jairus’ daughter. The woman at the well. The adulterous woman of John 8. The prostitute washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The Pharisees were shocked, and Jesus reversed the temptation to fear man’s opinion by recognizing that the Father in Him was the for-others Life; God was concerned not about the opinion of self-righteous judges, but the repentant woman.
To the contrary, the disciples were always seeing at situations, but not seeing through. Jesus continually asks them, “Where is your faith?” They weren’t reversing their fear and using it as an engine for faith.
That’s our basic situation in any temptation. We can give it power by cowering, or we can see it as opportunity to advance the Kingdom.
If we cower, the outcome is eventually sin and shame, a weakening of our power, a temporary abdication of our kingship and kinship, our oneness with Christ. The power of sin is the Law; human effort attempting to be good like God. The Pharisees were constantly shocked at Jesus’ behavior; they thought He should run away from sin. And so we lose opportunities, not only for growth but the occasion to be bread for others, when we cower in the face of temptation. We lose the opportunity to show forth God’s love and power in us.
Or we can use temptation as a handle. Like Jesus, we can reverse it.
I can see this when my children are fighting. My temptation is often to rush in there and stop it by using my power, by control, manipulation. Because that’s what fear does in me; that is my particular psychological programming. In that moment I have a choice to either manifest Satan to my children (fear, control, manipulation) or to reverse the fear and see that God has some beautiful thing to teach my children in that moment, not the least that a Father is patient and kind and wise. So I reverse it. I give God my fear, and the desire to control. I say, “Lord, what do you wish to speak through me to my children?” And then I step out in faith that He will do so.
Reversing temptation in this way isn’t merely about our growth, though of course we will grow. It’s about others.
The way I respond in financial difficulty, whether by fear or by reliance on the One who provides, will affect others.
Faith spreads like a good infection. That’s what I want my children to catch. That’s what I want my wife to feel from me. That’s the thing I want to transmit to the world. There is a God. He is faithful. He is kind, wise, truehearted. He indwells the believer, and is readily available in every moment. We can trust Him in each and every situation.
That’s the purpose of temptation. Norman Grubb said, “Temptation is God’s calling card.” The devil is only a pawn in God’s school for us – God’s school of faith.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he’s not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin’ on audiences around the world, he’s taking care of his donkey named “Trash” and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.