“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:1-4).
One of the greatest understatements in the Bible: “after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” So many of Satan’s temptations focus on the obvious desire of a person. At this particular day in Jesus’ life, nothing would perhaps look quite so good as food. The temptation though, was not just about food, but about the way of obtaining food. The real struggle Jesus faced was to take the power of God and use it in a horizontal way . . . a way of satisfying the physical need of hunger.
I have had this experience during seasons of intentional fasting. During the time I’m intending to be focused on the spiritual (vertical), my thoughts continually try to go after the physical. I more fully understand why fasting is a discipline, as it takes much practice to quit thinking about the food I could be having or will have when the season of fasting is completed. It’s a wrestling match that takes place in my mind since I really intend to be fixed upon the things of God rather than being in the clutches of my own need. Mastering the physical and resisting the temptation of the devil to give in to lesser things was Jesus’ gift to us in this passage.
In so many ways, it’s a temptation we all face every day. Oh, not miraculously turning stones into bread. But we can take what God has given us, whether it is money, energy, time, or life itself, and spend it on ourselves. The temptation to stay horizontal never really leaves us. Jesus’ response to Satan is the key for our victory over this temptation. “It is written . . .” Jesus employs the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, to counter the attack of the enemy. He turns the attention from the horizontal (His own hunger) to the vertical (what has God said).
The prayerful usage of the Word of God is our greatest weapon against temptation and assures us of maintaining a vertical perspective on life.
Lord, You know how easy it is for me to focus on my own needs and wants. The things of earth call out to me and want my entire attention. Teach me to use Your Word in a way that continually points to You. Help me to know Your Word to the point where I naturally respond to temptation by praying Scripture, fighting the war with spiritual weapons and not my own fleshly efforts.
–Adapted from Vertical with Jesus: A 30-Day Journey to Impact Kingdom Living by David and Kim Butts. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise God for being a great and awesome God (Deut. 7:21). Thank him for bending down low in order to bring salvation and faith to you. Confess times when you’ve thought God was small and powerless. Commit yourself to worshiping God with “reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28). Ask for a true sense of awe as you meet God in the sanctuary (Ps. 68:35).
The psalmist says to God: “How awesome are your deeds! . . . All the earth bows down to you” (Ps. 66:3-4). Pray that God’s awesome power might be clearly evident throughout his kingdom worldwide.
–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.