This reflection was offered by Don Wilson at a Communion Service On Saturday, February 21, 2015, for the 1st Sunday of Lent, at the Coxsackie DOC. Don is part of the REC (Residents Encounter Christ) prison ministry . It is timely wisdom for us at any time during Lent!
Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Lent. Jesus is almost ready to begin his public ministry, but first He must go through some things as final preparation. He had to identify himself with sinful humanity at the outset of His ministry, and He did this by submitting to baptism. Then He had to face temptation. Mark’s gospel doesn’t list any specific temptations as you will find in the gospel of Matthew or Luke. Perhaps it is because each of us faces slightly different temptations, yet we do not have to give in to any of them because Jesus is SUFFICIENT to handle whatever life brings our way.
There are three things I got out of Mark’s account of the temptations Jesus encountered:
1. We all find ourselves wandering in the Wilderness
A wilderness is any place we don’t want to be. This wilderness was a place where Jesus found himself alone. His friends were not there. He had no support team to encourage him.
Now I don’t think I have to convince anyone here that times in the wilderness can be challenging. The questions we ask are these: How do we handle these challenges? Are these challenges the same as temptations? What is the difference between temptations and the challenges they bring?
We all know that temptations are just part of living a Christian life. The closer we become to God, the more we will be tempted. Satan does NOT like our getting close to God and will do anything to de-rail our attempts at holiness.
Temptation is a very real part of life and is especially challenging in our wilderness times. We are down, discouraged, afraid, disappointed and lonely. Satan loves to kick us when we’re down. What I want us to recognize this morning is that every temptation we encounter brings with it a corresponding challenge. Meeting those challenges head on is how we rise above the temptations.
2. We need to be Examining the Darkness in our Lives
Jesus had to be alert to the dangers surrounding him as he walked around in his wilderness. He had to be aware of what was lurking around the bushes ready to pounce on him unexpectedly. He had to be aware of the deception of Satan who came to offer him, “A good deal.”
What are the things that are constantly attacking us–addictive habits, procrastination, conflicts and anxieties? Worries of all kinds that eat away at us?
What is trying to come against you to tear you apart? Paul says, “Let a person examine himself to see if he “be” in the faith.” (II Cor. 13:5).
The biggest temptation most of us are faced with in the wilderness is to just give up; to stop trying to live good lives. This is not a new problem. Again, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth these words: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”
Is this happening to you? I know it’s happening to me! Are we thinking about the things in our life that really get us down? What are your greatest temptations? What do you give in to time and time again? Things that just seem to have a hold on your? We need to be able to IDENTIFY those things in our lives so we can reclaim Gods call in our life.
3. We all have the invitation to reclaim God’s Call on our Life
During this Lenten Season, how can we reclaim God’s call on our individual lives once we have identified the things which so easily tempt us and drag us down to failure?
There is always Good News that comes out of the wilderness times in our lives. Each time we are able to meet the challenge in the wilderness it helps prepare us for the next challenge that is yet to come.
We struggle with our temptations in the wilderness and out of that struggle comes character.
Think about it this way. We know that often our temptations seem like hopeless traps of devastation. But I’d like us to consider another view of temptation. It can also be a time of learning more about ourselves as we imagine the consequences that would occur if we were to yield to this temptation. We can mentally work through the consequences instead of having to live through them. The benefit is obvious…. Only if we act on the temptation do we create negative consequences for ourselves and others.
Today have you turned your thoughts to God in your daily life? Not just on Sunday morning but in each day of your life. Verse 4 of psalm 25 says, “Show me thy Ways oh Lord.”
Then when we ask the Lord to show us His ways, we must intend to follow them. I guess we could say, “Lord show me your ways and if I like them, I will accept them or if not, I will ignore them.” (That’s not a good plan) – We must determine that we will make every effort to accept His ways once we know what they are.
There has to exist a deliberate will & intent to follow His ways, be taught of His spirit, and to be consistent in our walk and choices.
On this first Sunday of Lent we can learn from Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. We, too, have wilderness experiences throughout our journey of faith. Don’t let these experiences throw you. Don’t let them discourage you.
We learn from Jesus that we meet the challenges of the wilderness by meeting God daily. Jesus, the very Son of God, was ready to meet the challenges in the wilderness because He was in contact every one of those forty days with God the Father. This is how Jesus knew God’s voice. And that voice of God will prepare us for whatever temptations might arise when we find ourselves in the wilderness the next time. We can all meet that challenge with the help of our Jesus. He has been there Himself and He is there with us now.