Friday, February 24, 2012

Get Thee Hence

Recently, I had some things come together that made me wonder if I ought to continue here or if I had misunderstood my call to write.  I had been helping my church in various ways, writing this blog, preaching at a few Bible studies, some evangelism and working full time.  After working for the same company for over 20 years, I was layed off early last year.  I fairly quickly found other employment.  As it turned out, other than being able to work from home, circumstances in that job were not ideal.  And the terms of employment changed enough for me to resign to seek other employment.  So, I was seeking employment, doing ministry, writing here, all without a work income.  And, most recently, it made me think of Matthew 4:1-11

A little over a month ago, I got hit with something very flu like.  Sinuses, fever, lack of energy.  That cut down on a lot of what I did to the “bare essentials”.  Less writing, less ministry, while still actively looking for other employment.  If we look at verse 1, it says that Jesus was led by the Spirit to go into the wilderness.  And was led into the devil’s temptation.  God never tempts us, but He does try us.  And, in this case, He used the devil tempting Jesus.  But there was preparation.  verse 2 tells us Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I seriously doubt I’d be able to do that without becoming seriously ill.  It’s obvious in this passage that Jesus knew He was God.  But, at the same time, if the temptations were going to have any value, He had to abandon using His powers as God and get through them as a man.

The very first thing Satan did was aim at Jesus’ hunger, suggesting that, as God, He could turn stones into bread.  Verse 4 is Jesus’ response, the famous verse about not living by bread alone, but by every word of God.  That struck home in a number of ways.  While ministry was decreased, it and study of the Word remained essential in my daily life.  And isn’t it like the devil to wait until we’re weakened before he attacks.  There’s always some “chink in the armor” that Satan tries to use to bring us down.

Verses 5 and 6 show the devil basically wanting Jesus to show off His powers.  Suggesting that the “office” of God as described in His Word required the angels to keep Jesus from harm.  As I think about how it was done, the devil really wanted Jesus to live in the same kind of pride that Satan did.  Looking at my own circumstances, I could believe that God wanted me to continue in the various things He had led me to do.  But it would be presumption on my part to continue on without going to God about doing things in the same way or if there was a different plan for the immediate circumstances.  Jesus responded in verse 7 that “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  It was wrong for the devil and it’s wrong for us.  If we charge ahead in major things, assuming God has us covered even though we never talk to Him about it, we act in prideful presumption.

The devil, in verses 8 and 9, tries to work on Jesus by working toward His possible human lust patterns.  Power, wealth, etc.  Bow down to the wrong “god” and gain earthly power.  Jesus answers him in verse 10.  The answer?  We’re supposed to worship and serve only God.  As I was going through the things I described at the beginning of this post, it was very easy to wonder what was going on and if I was really called to all the things God had me doing.  But one of the things I’ve been taught very well is that I am not what I do or what I have.  I am who I am in my relationship to God.  Whether I rightly or wrongly relate to God, His Word says certain things about me and my response to that defines who I am.  How I act comes out of that, not defines it.  And possessions are just that -- possessions.

Verse 11 is interesting.  The devil gives up and the angels minister.  But they don’t minister because of some forced requirement like that created in the second temptation.  And that’s true for us, as well.  When I was at my physical low, there were moments when I was disappointed I couldn’t be doing all I thought I was supposed to.  And God showed me some interesting things.  When I was unable to be physically present at church, I reveled in being able to watch services online.  Not because I had to, but because I grew in my relationship to God.  When I couldn’t be in the church offices, I could still do some of my ministry with calls from home.  When I didn’t have the energy to do all that, job hunt and write, too, God showed me that I wasn’t what I did.  But I am His child, loved, blessed through the things I can do, and not forced to do a single thing.

If we do things because we “have to”, out of some sense of religious “must do”, we’ve missed the whole point.  We have to recognize that God loves us.  What we do is not a requirement that we have to do things for Him.  The things we get to do are privileges of grace that we’re blessed with.  To minister for God is a gift from Him for our blessing.  When I was forced to slow down, I found myself learning to rest in not doing.  And enjoying watching God grow my relationship that way.  I’m now getting back to a more normal schedule.  But there’s no striving. only enjoying what God wants for me, moment by moment.  Whatever I do is on His schedule.  And everything comes out of my relationship with Him, not out of my need to do something for Him.  So, I get to enjoy the quiet times as much as the periods of activity.

How are you growing in grace and knowledge?


  1. Great sir. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. It's way too easy to slip into autopilot and think we're still relating properly to God. It's the trials that get our attention redirected where it's supposed to be. Or helps us to keep it there, if we really are hearing from God regularly. "The joy is in the journey."