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Week:07, Season:1, 2016 Posted on Saturday by PCT

The Test of Serving the Lord

Scripture:Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ 4 Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone.”’ 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.’ 8 Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”’ 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’ 12 Jesus answered, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent; Lent starts forty days before Easter Sunday which is a time for Christians to reflect on their spiritual readings, prayers and their relationship with God. Luke 3:21-22 mentions that after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit of God descended on him. In the passage here, the Holy Spirit did not take Jesus to a holy and comfortable place after he was baptized; rather, the Spirit guided Jesus to the wilderness to be tested by the devil. This passage aims to remind all Christians that when our faith is strong and when we are zealous in our spiritual practices, it is also a time when we often meet challenges and tests. So we need to look out for any unforeseen spiritual tests!

Following today’s passage, the author of Luke’s Gospel also wrote about the journey of Jesus proclaiming the Gospel, driving out demons and curing disease in Galilee. The order of such a writing sequence shows that before Jesus began his preaching and serving God, he had to accept these three major tests from the devil.

A Test of Satisfying Our Own Needs

The Holy Spirit guided Jesus to the wilderness; Jesus did not eat for 40 days so he must have been hungry. Therefore, the devil tested him saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3) The devil knew Jesus was hungry and in need of food, so he tempted Jesus to use the power of Son of God to turn a stone into bread. The devil was testing whether Jesus wanted to feed his own hunger instead of caring for others.

Jesus then quoted what is written in Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live on bread alone” to reply to the devil’s challenge. In ancient time, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and they complained to God of being hungry so God gave them manna to satisfy their need. Moses took this opportunity to teach the Israelites that “Man shall not live on bread alone but by the Word of God.” Moses reminded the Israelites that the real cause of their hunger was not lack of food but lack of the Word of God, the living bread. So whoever serves the Lord also faces this challenge and we often choose to satisfy our need before thinking of others. We often forget as Christians that we are called to serve people not to be served.

A Test of Gaining the Power

After the devil failed the first test, he took Jesus to a mountain and showed all the kingdoms of the world to him. The devil said to Jesus, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour as it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’ The devil was tempting Jesus with his desire for power.

How attractive is power to human beings? Looking at the politicians nowadays, we easily understand the charm of being powerful. People with power are in the spotlight wherever they go; the press always chases them and such fame is indeed a big temptation.

Although churches are non-profit religious groups, if the leaders are not aware of the temptation of power, churches may become profit groups and focus on fame and power. Sometimes we may hear there are church leaders took illegal approaches to become the head of the church and to own more power on hands. They even claimed what they had done was for the good of the church not for personal benefits to cover their greed and desire behind this.

Jesus’ life of preaching was actually filled with difficulties and suffering. He faced the opposition of the religious leaders, the betrayal of his disciples, and his crucifixion on the cross. In this second test, the devil tempted Jesus to escape from all these foreseen suffering and difficulties and to embrace victory and glory only if Jesus worshipped him. However, Jesus quoted another word from Deuteronomy 6:13 and said, “Go away! Devil! It is written: ‘Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.’” The answer of Jesus turned down the offer from the devil and he stated once again firmly: the source of power isin the hands of God.

A Test of Being Famous

The devil led Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’ This is a test of being famous and favoured by the crowds. Jesus was not moved by this temptation and quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 and said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.” When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they were thirsty and complained to Moses. Moses warned them not to test God. Jesus quoted these words to rebuke the devil for testing the Lord and also reminded us that we should not test God’s will to meet our own desire to become famous in the world.

Whoever serves the Lord will be tested similarly to Jesus. There are times we only care about our own needs but forget to rely on the Word of God; there are times when we are tempted by power; there are times we believe that more power brings more peace; there are times we forget that true peace is in the hands of God. We also will be tempted to become well known, for example we worry that our services are not noticed at church. Such a worry will become a hindrance to our church life.

Even the Son of God cannot escape from the tests of the devil, humble, weak and shallow as we are, we shall definitely be tested. The devil’s tests will come again and again; so we must keep alert and reply on the Word of God to overcome every temptation.

For discussion:

1. Have you ever taken part in a church service? What was it? Did you feel joyful when you served? What were the difficulties and challenges you encountered?
2. Have you ever faced the temptation of being well known when you served at church? What made you struggle most? How did you overcome the test?

Please pray for:

1. Church’s leaders, deacons and elders, fellowship and group leaders. May God give them the Word of Truth to help them stand firm for the power of God and to overcome their weakness and temptations when serving the Lord.
2. Your faith life. Pray that you can be alert and sensitive to make right decisions when the trials come.

Prayer:

Lord who conquered all tests, there are times we only care about our own needs when serving you; there are times we want more power and become well known to others. When the trials come, please have mercy on us and help us to overcome these temptations by relying on your Word. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Something you can do:

1. Try spending some time to share with your family and friends at family prayer meetings, Bible study group or fellowship meetings about what the most common temptations you have met when serving God.
2. Try to reflect on what you have learnt from these three types of tests of serving the Lord during this week.