Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” Matthew 4:1-3 NLT
Embarrassingly, there is this false gospel I still submit to from time to time. It's the belief that thinks because I am a Christian, trying to follow Jesus well, that nothing bad should happen to me. Worse yet, the belief that everything I try to do, especially in the name of Jesus, should go well. No hiccups.
Now, I know this is ridiculous and not what the Bible says. The problem is that it is often such a subtle lie I do not even realize I am operating in it until I am well into give-up mode.
Just the other day, as I was getting ready to throw in the towel on some new assignments from God, I realized it was this lie causing my angst. I had received some great education and encouragement at a writer's marketing conference and had made a list of things I felt God calling me to implement for my writing ministry. Optimistically, I spread out the action items over the next few months, tasking out week by week. But the first task took way over the allotted week. It required back and forth communication to answer questions that I had not planned for. Back and forth that threw off my schedule for the next week.
It was a small setback, yet it set off a series of negative thought loops:
This is going to make me way behind.
I can't do all of this, it's too much work.
I give up. I will never be able to do all of this. I guess I will wait until the kids are a little bigger. Then I will have more time to grow the ministry and spread the message.
But just as I agreed that it was not the right time and I should just give in, the Spirit caught me and impressed on me that these are lies. Firey darts coming from the enemy to halt the mission. He tempts me with the false storyline that things should be easy because then when things get hard, which they will, I question God and my identity as His beloved child. It makes sense that it's an enemy tactic. He certainly has the most to gain. If that lying devil can get us to shrink back and give up when things get tough, he halts the Kingdom spreading mission God has for us. He also halts the real abundant life God has planned for us.
This is certainly not the first time we have seen this trick on display, either. The devil did the same thing to Jesus when He tempted him in the wilderness. "After forty days and forty nights when Jesus was famished, the tempter came and said to him "if you are the son of God, command these stones to turn to bread" (Matthew 4:2-3). In other words, he was saying IF you are the son of God, you should not be hungry. Why would God make you go hungry? Things should be easy for you, just turn these stones into bread IF you are the Son of God.
Does that sound familiar? It certainly does to me.
But unlike me, Jesus did not fall for this trick. He believed in God's goodness despite his current hardship and proclaimed God's Truth to overcome this temptation. And in this Jesus gives us the way to win. Jesus knew that the real good life is not in gaining comfort and ease, but rather in knowing God and doing His will because His plan is always good. God had a plan to use these hardships and temptations through Jesus to show He was the one without sin and to give us an example of how to win against the tempter.
Jesus had a kingdom perspective and tells off the enemy saying, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4 NLT.
So, I am back on track for all the things that God is calling me to do, a little behind, and a lot more armored up. There are now a couple of sticky notes that read "the struggle is real, but so is our God," with a few scriptures that remind me of God's goodness. My favorite is still the words Jesus used to prepare His disciples to keep on their mission after his death, "In the world, you will have trouble and suffering, but take courage- I have conquered the world" John 16:33
Lord, I know that you are good and always working out a plan for my goodness, even using the hard and painful things to accomplish your best plan for me. My heart often craves comfort and ease though which gives an in for the enemy to lie to me about you. Help me to remember your truth and fight his scheming lies. Help me to keep my focus on you and who you are. In Jesus's name, Amen.
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