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GETTING THROUGH THE TOUGH STUFF WORKBOOKIt's Always Something!
By Charles R. Swindoll
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Charles R. Swindoll
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGetting Through the Tough Stuff of Temptation
The gospel accounts of Jesus's betrayal and crucifixion graphically illustrate that if anyone faced the tough stuff of life, it was Christ. The depth of Jesus's suffering truly defies description. But the greater question that arises in the face of such suffering is why? Why did Jesus have to endure so much pain?
That's just it-He didn't have to; He chose to. He willingly endured the torture of the cross in order to fully relate to us in our humanity, redeem us from our sinfulness, and reconcile us to God so we could enjoy a close relationship with our heavenly Father.
Because God's Son experienced the same ups and downs of life on earth that we have, we can trust that He knows our needs. His short life was marked by trials, but He never succumbed to temptation. At each pressure point, instead of letting sin enter His life, He turned to His Father for strength to pass every one of life's tests.
In this workbook, you'll discover practical ways that you, too, can get through the tough stuff of life without buckling under the strain of your trials. As you begin to integrate the principles of God's living Word into your life, you'll begin to experience the spiritual renewal, growth, and encouragement that you've been longing for.
Jesus's Encounter with the Tempter
About the time Jesus turned thirty, He hugged His family good-bye and left home forever, heading for the Jordan River region in Judea. His cousin John the Baptist baptized Him there, and God announced, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased"(Matthew 3:17). After Jesus's baptism, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness "to be tempted by the devil" (4:1).
The drab desert stretched for miles in every direction, devoid of any sign of life. There in the wilderness, Satan bombarded the Savior with three of the toughest temptations imaginable. The devil had custom designed each of these temptations to lure Jesus away from His mission. On God's calendar, this period of time must have stood out in history, the days marked with big red Xs as some of the most difficult in Jesus's life.
A Personal Test
The first test was of a personal nature. Drawing upon what the Father had called Jesus at His baptism-"My beloved Son"-Satan dared Christ to prove His identity with a dazzling display of power.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (Matthew 4:1-3)
Here, we find Christ-young, newly commissioned to His ministry, and recently baptized in the Jordan River. He had wandered alone in the wilderness for more than a month, fasting. He now hovered near starvation, languishing in the desert heat without a morsel of food. Then Satan hit Him right between the eyes with not just one, not two, but three of the toughest temptations ever.
Satan had a clear strategy, didn't he? The adversary masterfully tempted Christ at the point of His greatest vulnerability. And he does the same with us as well. Like a war-hardened four-star general, he cleverly designs his plots to capitalize on our weaknesses. He relentlessly searches for that tiny chink in our armor and attempts to sabotage us by ambushing us exactly when and where we least expect it.
Christ certainly possessed the power to accept Satan's dare. What could have been wrong with turning a few stones into bread? God wouldn't have wanted His Son to starve to death, would He? But Satan's seemingly harmless challenge hid a deadly snare. He wanted to test Christ to see whether He would use His power for selfish purposes instead of yielding to the will of the Father.
What did Jesus do? We find our answer in Christ's response:
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)
Because He felt such a fierce hunger, the thought of turning dry, dusty stones into fresh bread must have appealed greatly to the Lord. But instead of succumbing to temptation's siren call, Jesus responded to Satan using a passage from Deuteronomy:
He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3, emphasis added)
Jesus compared Satan's temptations to the tests that the disobedient Israelites placed upon God while wandering in the desert for forty years. God's people learned the hard way that genuine faith required them to depend on Yahweh to meet their needs according to His timetable, not theirs.
Similarly, Jesus knew that He was called to submit to the Father's will and to allow the Almighty to meet His needs, so He chose to use His power to fulfill the Father's purposes rather than to glorify Himself. Hungry as He was, Jesus passed up the tempting bread of immediate satisfaction for the more lasting food of obedience to His Father.
A Public Test
The second test was of a public nature. From a perch forty-five stories high, Satan tried to convince Jesus to show off His identity with a sensational "Superman" leap:
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning You'; and 'On their hands they will bear You up, so that you will not strike Your foot against a stone.'" (Matthew 4:5-6)
A feat of this magnitude would have been a spectacular way for Christ to inaugurate His public ministry. Not only would such an Evel Knievel-style jump have been a real crowd pleaser, it would also have immediately established Jesus as the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for.
However, instead of trying to please others with death-defying feats of messianic power, Christ sought to please His heavenly Father. So He offered Satan this retort:
Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Matthew 4:7)
No doubt, Satan shook His head in disgust at Jesus's righteous answer. What could have been wrong with a little pinnacle jumping? After all, Satan would have done it. He loved being the center of attention. But Scripture calls it "presumption" when we flirt with danger in order to prove God's power to rescue us, and the Bible condemns acts of this nature. In the book of Psalms, David asks God to "keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins" (19:13).
Sometimes God expects His children to take risks of faith, but He never asks us to be reckless in order to bring about His divine deliverance. To do so draws attention to ourselves instead of glorifying God. Not only that, but it creates a circus atmosphere in which greater and greater miracles are needed to hold the attention of the crowd.
A Power-Related Test
The third test was of a power-related nature. Furious at being foiled twice, Satan pulled out all the stops to make his last temptation the most extraordinary and difficult to overcome yet. With the flair of a circus ringmaster, he flung open the world's curtains to reveal his show stopper-the most tantalizing temptation of all:
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9)
Satan led Jesus up to the peak of a mountain overlooking the glittering kingdoms of the world. In every direction stretched vast empires waiting to be claimed. The entire world beckoned in the distance, and all of it was Christ's for the taking.
Christ understood that God planned for Him to rule the kingdoms of the earth, but He also knew that the Father's plan did not include Satan's presumptuous offer. So Christ turned down the devil's tempting proposition and, instead, issued him a sharp rebuke:
Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matthew 4:10-11)
Weak though He was from exhaustion and hunger, Jesus refused to give in to Satan's best-laid plans to destroy Him. Disgusted, His accuser finally fled in defeat, and God immediately sent angels to refresh and comfort Jesus.
Three Wise Responses to Temptation
Like Christ, all of us face temptations that test our mettle and reveal our character. In some ways, these temptations can be blessings because they reveal the true attitudes of our hearts. Here are three ways that we can respond wisely to temptation.
Don't be alarmed; expect it! Our temptations begin as inner battles of the mind and unseen struggles of the will. When we expect these attacks and prepare to face them, we stay alert for the spiritual battle. The apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians to keep short accounts with one another in order that "no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Do you sometimes find yourself surprised or caught off guard by trials and temptations? If so, how can you better prepare yourself to face them when they come? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
Read Ephesians 6:10-17. What weapons and strategies does God provide for you to use in fighting temptation?
_______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
How might these weapons and strategies be helpful as you fight temptation? Can you think of specific instances in which you might use them? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
Don't be blind; detect it! The adversary has innumerable methods of attack. Satan's covert schemes may blindside you if you're not careful. Ask God to help you detect evil activity around you and to prepare you to confront the accuser's attempts to invade your life. In addition, seek out a trusted Christian friend who understands the temptations you face. He or she can help keep you in check, support you in prayer, and encourage you when you're prone to temptation.
Can you think of a time when you were blind to Satan's attacks? What happened as a result? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
What methods does Satan normally use to attack you and your loved ones? Why do you think he uses these particular methods? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
In what ways can you cultivate a deeper spiritual sensitivity so that you can more easily tap into God's power and detect Satan's evil schemes? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
Don't try to be clever; reject it! Some believers naively think that they can roll up their spiritual sleeves and challenge the devil to a duel. What a foolish thought! Don't attempt to play clever games with Satan. He's much more powerful than you are in the flesh! You need the Holy Spirit's help to fend off the devil's attacks.
Temptation is like a wild animal; it's not something you can tame. At times, it may seem harmless, but it will always possess a killer instinct. You will never be able to make it your pet. Instead, do what the apostle James commands: "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
What is the greatest temptation you're facing in your life right now? What makes it so difficult to overcome? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
As you think about the above situation, in which ways can you submit more fully to God as you face this temptation? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
Which of your friends or family members can you trust to keep you accountable to God and resist Satan with regard to this particular temptation? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
How could Jesus have been tempted in all the ways that we have? He lived a short life on earth, taking the journey to the Cross at age thirty-three. He never married, had children, owned a home, or worked in the corporate world. How could He possibly understand the struggles and temptations that we face today in the twenty-first century?
If that's our logic, we're missing something. While Christ may not have experienced every specific temptation that you or I have faced, He was tempted in every arena of His personal and public life, yet He didn't yield to sin. No other human being before or since has been able to withstand the unbridled force of Satan's power. Christ is in touch with our reality.
That's why we can depend on our Savior to get us through the tough stuff of temptation. He's been there. He has felt the sting of rejection and betrayal, yet He has triumphed over evil and the grave. No other person but Jesus could say, "I have thwarted all the attacks of the enemy. When you face your own temptations, you can rely on Me. I have the power that you need. 'Take the mercy, accept the help.'"
GETTING TO THE ROOT The Greek word peirazo used in Matthew 4:1 may be translated "to test" or "to tempt." This term refers to the positive development of an individual's character through testing, as well as to the exposure of a person to certain temptations to see how he or she will respond.
TAKING TRUTH TO HEART Tucked away in Hebrews 4, we find some extremely comforting words for those who are determined to get through the tough stuff of temptation. Read this section of Scripture slowly and carefully. Don't miss the power and hope these verses contain! For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) Eugene Peterson paraphrases the same passage this way in The Message: We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all-all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Excerpted from GETTING THROUGH THE TOUGH STUFF WORKBOOK by Charles R. Swindoll Copyright © 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll . Excerpted by permission.
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