Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The perfectly good and acceptable life of abundance and temptation.

 Matthew 4:1-11 says, "The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, and there he was tempted by the Devil. (This was right after he was Baptized and heard God's voice say, "This is my beloved son,  in whom I am well pleased).

 (Duccio di Buoninsegna  (c.1255 - c.1319)
The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, 1308-1311)

We only see three recorded temptations in that Matthew passage, but the Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). So that includes lust, greed, shame, judgement, sex, money...you name it, EVERY WAY.

Satan even tempted Jesus with suicide by throwing himself off the temple.

That's eye opening for me.
I'm both comforted and frustrated.

I'm comforted because I'm not alone. Neither are the millions of people who have heard the lying whispers (or shouts) that their life is worthless, or to throw their body off a bridge, or in front of a car, or worse.

Jesus was not only tempted to kill himself, but to betray his Father and deny his identity. (That is probably the biggest daily human battle. To believe our identity as loved ones of God).

I'm frustrated because I'm no different, but I expect to be.

I expect that because I'm promised a full abundant life (John 10:10), it should go with out saying that temptation, pain, conflict, depression, and confusion (to name a few) would not be included.  I thought the "blessed" life would be easier.

The scriptures teach otherwise.

Somehow it is perfectly acceptable to God to allow Satan's pitiful suggestions to make it to our ears.
This past weekend at our All Church Retreat I confessed some lies I believe.  I realized I often let the words, "You are a screw-up," enter my mind. A few people approached me after, in shock. How could you believe that about yourself?

 I'm human, Satan hates me, and unfortunately I fall short by believing lies.
 I wish it wasn't true.

 God allows us to make bad choices, label ourselves negatively, and to endure the hurtful actions of others.  We don't like to hear that, but he does. Instead we demand God enclose us in an impenetrable bubble where we could never experience pain. But the Bible says, God will go so far as to lead us to places in which those things might occur (he did for Jesus and many others in the Bible).

What? Why?

 Because he's powerless? No. Because He's sadistic? No.

In God's divine wisdom he grows our trust in Him through/despite pain.  He can raise us up to places where we can help others with what we've gone through.

Some of the most godly servants and leaders are those who've gone through gnarly trials and endured much conflict and death, living to "testifiy" to God's faithfulness amidst it.

God uses what the devil intended for evil. He shapes our character which can result experiencing life abundantly. He doesn't remove us from the trials, temptations, and pain the world inflicts because in enduring them we become more like Jesus.

Does God want to hurt us? NO!

God values us. And he values His choice to give us free will. He uses all things for our good. He helps us in our weakness learn, and grow strong in his love for us. (But I'd also say it breaks His heart to see us in pain, that's why he promised someday, he would make ALL THINGS NEW, in Heaven).

But please know:

He gave us his Spirit and his word's promises to shape us, and to guide us to live good lives.
He also gave us each other. He gave us people to care, to pray, to hold us, to affirm us,  and to love us at all times. We are meant to be family. But when this doesn't happen (and it will because humans hurt others), we must know God is always constant and present with us.

I've come to learn the most secure people in the world are the ones who understand their insecurities AND confess them, replace them with truth, and invite others in to uphold them in encouragement.

That's why we have the Holy Spirit, the word of God, and His people (the Church)... to help us.  

Living in that love and truth is what makes the abundant life.

May we all get better at that.

 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Hebrews 3: 12-14