The desert is a physical place, but it is also a spiritual place. It is a place where we can feel great loneliness. We discover our hunger and our thirst in the desert. We see vast expanses of barrenness that for many holds no beauty. Those who understand the desert feel quite the opposite. They know how to survive, looking for water in rocky crevices. They know how to eat a cactus! Yes, cacti can be a source of water and food.
When we read the account of Jesus in the desert in John 4, we see He also understood how to survive. I’m speaking here of the spiritual desert. A spiritual desert comes to us all. It’s a place that can be desolate, emphasizing our aloneness. It’s a place where we hunger and thirst for strength, but weariness so easily overcomes. What can we do? Let’s look at what Jesus did in this situation.
Remember, just as Jesus was 100% God, He was also 100% human. He desired to feel everything that we feel. In the place of His desert, His arch enemy came. Satan presented himself to Jesus and began to toss temptations at Him. Satan began by taunting Jesus. “If you’re really the Son of God, then prove it! Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus withstood the goading. Next, Satan appealed to Jesus’ sense of aloneness. It’s believed here that Satan was tempting Jesus to suicide. “Just jump!” Satan shouts, “Surely the angels will catch you.” Again, Jesus withstood the provocation. Finally, Satan appeals to material desire. “Follow me,” Satan urges. “Worship me, and all the kingdoms of the world will be yours.” A third time Jesus withstands even temptation to material wealth and power.
How did Jesus accomplish this? After all, Jesus was 100% human as well as being God. Why didn’t His human self succumb to these temptations? It’s because Satan was operating in the physical, tempting to provide physical pleasures. Jesus was operating in the spiritual. It is only the power of the spiritual that is strong enough to withstand the temptations of the physical. Why did Jesus not weaken in His human spirit? Because He was moving in the Holy Spirit. What was the door to moving in the power of the Holy Spirit? The Word of God.
Three times Satan tempts in the physical. Three times Jesus answers in the spiritual; He quoted the Word of God. Jesus was recalling Scripture found in Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 6:13. Jesus fully understood the unconquerable power of The Word of God. You and I so easily miss it. Out first focus is often on the physical rather than the spiritual. Our natural selves desire pleasures of the here and now. We want answers today; waiting for tomorrow becomes tedious to our impatience.
It is imperative to our spiritual strength that we focus everyday on the Word of God. We know from reading Hebrews 4:12 that, “The Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword…” As a soldier gains skill to withstand the enemy by practicing with his or her weapons, so the spiritual warrior withstands demonic attacks through practicing using the Word of God, our mighty sword. To use God’s Word daily is sure success and strength building; to ignore it is sure failure and a sinking into weakness.
So many of God’s children sadly ignore God’s Word. It’s a book that collects dust. “I can pray,” may come the explanation, but can one pray the most efficiently without knowledge of God’s own Word?
In standing strong against the enemy, I love the verse in Psalm 149:6, “Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.” These are the weapons that Satan cannot shatter. Today, tomorrow, and the next, may we all praise and pray with our minds saturated in the Word of God. All earthly temptations then melt into nothingness.