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Time Out: The wilderness temptations of ministry

Topic / Time Out

Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

We all know the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert when He began His ministry. What we often don’t realize is that Satan tempts us who are in the ministry in much the same way. See if you recognize these temptations in the desert of your daily ministry.

The temptation to meet all needs. Satan first tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread because He hadn’t eaten for 40 days. He had a great need for food, but it had to be met in God’s time and God’s way. Temptation is the call to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Often we want to meet every need we come across as soon as we are aware of it. Meeting our needs or the needs of another isn’t wrong, but it must be done in God’s timing and not our own. It must be done in obedience to Him, not just to meet our own ego needs or for our own comfort. Jesus didn’t meet His needs even though they were legitimate. He wouldn’t use illegitimate means to meet a legitimate need. We, too, must let God meet our needs and the needs of others at the right time and in the right way. It’s ego-building to always take care of everything that comes up, but sometimes God doesn’t want us doing that. Always check with Him first.

The temptation to be spectacular. Satan took Jesus to the top of the temple and told Him if He would throw Himself down the angels would protect Him and the people on the ground watching would be impressed. How common is the temptation today to do something in our life or ministry to impress others? We are always on the lookout for something unique, something new, something spectacular to gain attention and impress those watching us. Its not what we do but why we do it that is the problem in these situations. Letting angels minister to Him wasn’t wrong for Jesus, but doing it to impress others was not God’s will for Jesus. Neither is it His will for us to use our ministry or gifts to impress those around us.

The temptation to acquire power. Jesus could have had authority over all the kingdoms of the world if He would have recognized Satan as the one who gave it to Him. Power. We all want it, need it, crave it. It feels good. It enables us to accomplish what we want to accomplish. We all want to be the best, the first, the foremost. We want people to trust us and look up to us, to be awed with us and need us. That gives us power. But God wants us to be powerless so we depend on His power. He wants us to serve others, not have them serve us. It’s hard not being in control of everything, but the temptation to control circumstances or others is often Satan’s way of turning us from God’s will.

Satan uses the same temptations on us that he first used on Jesus. Even though they didnt work on Him they often do on us. Jesus had victory by quoting the Word. It’s only as we quote and apply God’s Word to these temptations in our lives that we will have victory. Jesus was ready for the temptations when they came. Are you?

Scripture
Matthew 4:1-10, Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

Reflect

  • When are you most tempted to do something to help another so they will think well of you?
  • When are you most tempted to do something spectacular to impress people?
  • When are you most tempted to do something to gain attention, recognition and power?
  • What Scriptures can you use when tempted in these areas? Write them out and carry them with you. Read them often. Use them when tempted.

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Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 14 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!

[ This article may be based on Henri Nouwen’s article of the same title, published in Fall 1982 in Leadership Journal ]


Posted on November 9, 2009

  • Paul

    This is barely reworked content from Henri Nouwen's article of the same title, published in Fall 1982 in Leadership Journal. Please give credit where credit is due.

    • Thanks for the heads-up about that, Paul. I had no idea. I'll update the post with that credit.

      Also, next time it would be great if you identified yourself when you comment. It's just common courtesy. Last name and email address would be great so you don't appear to be someone with a lot of free time who just browses the internet and makes accusations. Thanks!

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