Dear church,

My reading in the Psalms today started with Psalm 42. “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” It was a perfect psalm for today, when for the first time in my life, there was no church service to attend on Sunday morning. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” I encourage you to read Psalm 42.

We will be back together again soon. We may feel a little disconcerted right now with the continuous cycle of negative news and our quarantined lifestyles and our lack of church gatherings. But we can hope in God.

In our reading plan in Matthew today, we’re looking at chapters 4-5. I spent some time this morning praying through the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. He was alone. He was hungry. All that he knew was behind him – gone. His mother. His brothers. His friends. His neighbors. He was alone. He was in need. He was weak.

Jesus was completely isolated from the world. Social distancing, I guess you might say. And then the devil showed up.

As I prayed through this passage, the word “afraid” came to mind. To be in that state – alone and weak – and to encounter evil must have been … scary. We can say what we want about the divinity of Jesus. We can say that surely the Son of God never would be afraid. But also, surely the emotion of fear was one Jesus would have had to deal with in some way. If Jesus was fully human, he had to do something with the natural human tendency to fear.

As we live out our lives in Christ, we must let him lead us in this area. This is a time in our society when things are being stripped away and left behind. Many people are losing their jobs. We’re losing our sense of financial security. We’re losing our face-to-face contact with other people. Our schedules are interrupted. Fear is a natural emotion to have in these times.

And so as I prayed through this Scripture passage, I thought about being alone and needy and fearful. And I thought about temptation. I thought about how temptation can enter into our lives in those circumstances. And I thought about my own temptations.

A little self-disclosure here: When things are stripped away, when they aren’t going well, I’m tempted to be angry. I don’t know why, but it’s the truth for me. This is how the devil works in my life. I’m tempted to be short-tempered and easily annoyed. I’m tempted to forget the peace that surpasses all understanding. Think about your life and temptations. In those isolated moments when you are alone and needy and the normal things in life are stripped away, where do the temptations come?

Jesus, of course, resisted the temptations. And he banished Satan. “Be gone, Satan!” He called the devil by name and sent him on his way. And immediately, angels came and ministered to Jesus. Why would the Son of God need angels to minister to him? I suppose it’s that “fully human” part again. Jesus separated himself from the temptations of Satan and pulled closer to his heavenly Father. And he received the help that his heavenly Father has to give.

And again, as we live out our lives in Christ, we need to let Jesus lead us here. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7). And we can stop and receive the ministry that comes from heaven – the help and healing that comes from God.

I suppose the lesson, at least for me, is to recognize the temptations that come when I get a little disconcerted – when the world isn’t doing what I want it to do, when the things that I want are stripped away and I am left feeling empty. Perhaps it is the temptation to fear. Or the temptation to become angry. Or something else.

I should let Christ lead me through it. Rebuke Satan. Call him by name and send him away. And wait for God. “Hope in God,” as the psalmist wrote.

Have a good week!

Chris

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