Wilderness Survival

Grace For The Journey

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22May  Bear Grylls and wilderness survival go hand-in-hand.  I can’t think of one without thinking of the other.  Bear Grylls is the British adventurer who was frequently abandoned in the wilderness – often parachuting from helicopters – and left to survive on his own (except for the cameraman, of course!).  I first learned about him by coming across his popular television show Man vs. Wild.  In each episode Grylls used the natural elements to form shelter, collect food, and fight off wild animals.  It really was an awesome show of surviving in hostile environments.

The fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel also contains an episode of wilderness survival.  To be sure, the “characters” are very different from an engaging television show and there is much more at stake than mere broadcast ratings!  In Matthew 4:1-11, we read of Jesus Christ being tempted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.  The account is not so much about wilderness survival as it is about the Son of God’s authority over the powers of darkness.

Among other things, we can lean how to survive those times we are in our own “wilderness” of sorts; a difficult time of testing, a season of struggle, or a period of doubt, uncertainty, and darkness.  Especially those times when you feel like the devil himself has come into your world, climbed into your car, moved into your house, or come alongside you as an uninvited guest to tempt you to turn away from the God you love and the Christ you serve.  It is at those times that we can draw upon the power of the truths in this passage.

1) Remember The Nature Of The Son.

Remember who Christ is, that He’s not merely some religious teacher, prophet, or Jewish rabbi.  He is those things, but He is more than those things.  In order to really appreciate what the Bible records about the temptation of Christ, it is important to recall what immediately precedes this account.  The very last verse of the preceding chapter (chapter 3), Matthew records the words of the Heavenly Father with reference to Christ’s baptism.  He writes: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)  And the very next verse is verse 1 of chapter 4 which begins with the word “Then.”  Matthew writes: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

What’s the connection?

Just two verses later, Satan says to Jesus: “If You are the Son of God…”  The Father has declared Jesus to be His Son and the devil immediately questions the Son’s authority: “If You are the Son God…”  The devil does not say, “Since You are…” or even, “Because You are..,” but “If You are…” 

Satan wants to instill doubt in the mind of Jesus.

Satan wants Jesus to doubt the truth of God’s Word.

That’s what the devil always does.  He wants everyone to doubt God’s Word.

Remember how Satan tempted Eve way back in Genesis 3?  Did he not cause her to question God’s Word?  Remember the way he put it: “Did God really say you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” 

Satan is relentless in his efforts

To instill doubt in the minds

Oof those who hear God’s Word.

He will do everything he can to keep us

From believing in God and trusting in Christ.

I really think one of the reasons some say they do not believe in a literal devil is because they have got the wrong idea of him, the wrong picture of the devil in their minds.  They picture him in a silly red mask that comes with a Halloween costume.  An impish sort of creature who doesn’t really say much, but just walks around sticking people with a plastic pitchfork.

The Bible describes Satan as . . .

  • A liar,
  • A tempter,
  • A deceiver,
  • An accuser.
  • The adversary.

The one who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (cf. Job 1-2; 3 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10).

Satan’s ultimate aim is to instill doubt in our minds about the truth of God.  He tries his level best to get us to turn away from Christ, to doubt God’s goodness, and to doubt His nature as the one true and living God who has taken on human flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus IS the Son of God.  It is so important that we understand this truth.  If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we are left with nothing but a dead, cold religion.  Think about it . . .

If Jesus is not the Son of God,

Then it is entirely up to us

To get in a position

Of favor with God.

We will have to keep

All the commands of the Bible

Perfectly, consistently, and entirely.

But we cannot do that, our good deeds will not make up for it, so we die.  Yet our death will not atone for our sins.  Because God is infinite our sins would require an infinite payment.  Infinite!  No amount of works on our part could ever satisfy His righteous demands.  If Christ is not the Son of God, we are in trouble.

But of course, Christ is the Son of God!  His nature is divine.  In Jesus Christ, deity takes on humanity as God wraps Himself in human flesh.  He lives a perfect life for which we can receive credit if we trust in Him.  And He dies a substitutionary death that atones for sin if we believe in Him and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

This is why Christ’s nature is so important!  God the Son is perfectly good, infinitely good, infinitely righteous, infinitely holy.  He is perfect in all His ways – and He perfectly trusts in the goodness of His Father to meet His needs.

Whatever you are facing right now,

Whatever it is that Satan is trying

To use against you,

Have the wisdom to see

That Satan is trying to get you

To doubt the Father’s care for you.

That’s what Satan does.

He does his best to get you

To question God, to doubt God,

To be angry at God.

Satan doesn’t want you walking in victory.  He wants you to wallow in defeat.

Trust God to know and provide for your every need.  Trust God in your wilderness and believe that He knows what He is doing.  He’s at work and He always does the right thing.

2) Remember The Nearness Of The Spirit. 

This passage begins with a statement that is easy to miss.  Verse 1 of Chapter 4, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Mark’s Gospel is even more direct.  Mark 1:12 states, “The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

God tempts no one.  The Bible teaches this very clearly; James 1:13, for example says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” 

God does not tempt you to sin.

What God will do, however,

Is walk with you through

The wilderness of trial and temptation.

Satan does the tempting.

Satan wants you to stumble,

God wants you to stand.

Satan will do all he can to get you to turn away from Christ, while God will be there to help you through the trial and difficulty so that your trust in God grows greater and you become stronger (1 Corinthians 10:13).  And God is right there with you the entire time.  The Spirit of God was right there with the Son of God during those 40 days in the wilderness.  The Spirit of God is always with you in your wilderness.  He is the God who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.  He has said, “I am with you always.”   Remember the closeness, the nearness of the Spirit.

This is so important because . . .

If we really believe that the Spirit is

With us in times of trial and temptation,

Then we’ll be more likely to trust Him

During times of trial and temptation.

Satan wants you to question whether God really cares for you or whether He is really there for you.  When you go through suffering, Satan wants you to think this way: “Well, God must be really angry at me.  God must not love me.  God doesn’t care for me.  If there really were a God, He wouldn’t want me to suffer.”

Yet, look at these three temptations of Satan here in the wilderness.  You’ll see that behind these temptations is Satan’s trying to keep Jesus from suffering, to question God’s allowing that suffering.

Satan is trying to get Jesus to take the easy route.  In essence he is saying, “Don’t be hungry. Change these stones to bread. God doesn’t want you to suffer hunger! You trust God to provide for you, right?  Well then, trust Him to save you when you throw yourself down from this temple.  He’ll keep you from suffering injury, won’t He?!”

The third temptation seems like an act of desperation on Satan’s part.  Satan doesn’t want Jesus to go to the cross to accomplish victory over everything so he’s like, “Just bow down to me, you need not suffer, bow down to me and I’ll give you everything!”

Suffering is part of the Christian experience.  God often allows suffering when He knows it is for our good and for the good of our family and for the good of His glory.  God’s own Son was perfectly obedient in all that He did, yet God allowed Him to suffer.  God allows people He loves to suffer.  Remember that when you are tempted to think that you only suffer because you’re not living right.  Jesus was living right.  And Jesus suffered.

God often brings us through the wilderness, refining us through difficulties and trials and temptations.  That’s how we grow stronger in our faith and grow more deeply in our love for Him and our trust in Him.  That’s how we endure greater times of suffering.

Remember the nearness of the Spirit.  The same Spirit Who was with our Lord in His wilderness is with you in yours.

3) Remember The Need For The Scriptures. 

Jesus is tempted three times by Satan and every single time Jesus responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  Three times without exception: verses 4, 7, and 10.  Three times Jesus says, “It is written.”

How does Jesus get through

The wilderness of trial and temptation?

By quoting the very Word of God Himself.

The Bible is not just some book,

Nor even just some great book.

It is a great book,

But it is much more than that:

The Bible is God’s Word, His very Word.

If you really believe the Bible is God’s Word, then you will be hungry to hear from Him. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  And, just like with physical foods, you can try to satisfy your spiritual hunger with other spiritual foods – replacement foods with additives that lack nutrition – or worse.  You could replace your spiritual hunger with junk foods that harm you.  Junk foods like pornography, wasted hours watching screens, or endless hours of food substitutes like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Real sustenance;

Real nutritious food

Is found

In the Word of God.

Satan wants to keep you from it.  Satan tells you, “Look, what’s the big deal here?!  Just a little of this or a little of that, why there’s really nothing wrong with this or that.”  If the devil can get us to stop reading our Bibles, stop attending worship, stop listening to Christian music, stop meditating upon Scripture, stop memorizing Scripture, he will be happy because . . .

He knows if he can keep us

From the Word of the Lord,

He’s more likely to keep us

From the Lord of the Word.

Mark it down: every single time Jesus was tempted He responded to the temptation with the Word.  He quoted the Word of God, the Bible.

We should learn from Him.  He is perfectly good, consistently good, entirely good.  Yet even Jesus still quoted Scripture.  If Jesus used Scripture, how much more should we?  In fact, it is especially during the dark days of depression and the thorny paths of the wilderness that we are most in need of the Word of God.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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