If you could live your vision of the ideal life right now, how would you live? Let me guess. Remember, I am asking you about your concept of the ideal life. I am talking about your dreams becoming your reality.

If our dreams came true, for most of us, it would involve these things. (1) It would involve a house. (2) It would involve how that house was furnished. (3) It would involve the location of that house. (4) It would involve a car. (5) It would involve money. (6) It would involve a job. (7) It would involve how much time that you had to do what you wanted to do. (8) It would involve eliminating the things and people who create stress in your life. (9) It would involve your concept of peace and happiness.

Bottom line: if we lived the ideal life, if our dreams became reality, our lives would be free from struggle. We could not have our dream life if there was struggle. The key to having the best possible life is eliminating difficulty. That would be a blessing.

  1. The gospels of Matthew (4:1-11), Mark (Mark 1:12,13), and Luke (4:1-13) inform us that Jesus' earthly ministry began with a wilderness experience.
    1. The first thing that happened after Jesus' baptism was this: the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
      1. God through the Holy Spirit guided Jesus into the wilderness.
      2. The purpose of sending Jesus to the wilderness was to face Satan.
      3. Jesus' ministry began with a major confrontation between Jesus and Satan.
    2. Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for forty days before Satan confronted him.
      1. During the forty days his focus was exclusively on God and his mission.
      2. He fasted.
        1. For forty days he did not eat anything.
        2. For forty days he focused on who he was, why God sent him, and what the purpose of his life was.
        3. For forty day he focused his mind and his heart as he committed himself to God's objective.
        4. For forty days he gave 100% of his thinking to spiritual understanding, and 0% of his thinking to the physical.
    3. At the end of his forty day fast, the tempter [Satan, the devil] came to him.
      1. Who had the advantage?
      2. Did Jesus have the advantage because he spent forty days considering nothing but his spiritual reason for existing?
      3. Did Satan have the advantage because Jesus had been alone for over a month and was in severe physical need?
      4. The advantage was not determined by Jesus' state of mind or physical needs.
      5. The determining factor was Jesus' ability to trust God.
    4. If you want to gain a powerful insight into the way that Satan tempts Christians, look at the way Satan treated Jesus.
      1. Satan did not use power in an attempt to overwhelm a physically weak man.
      2. Satan used deceit in the attempt to get Jesus to place himself in opposition to God.
      3. The first two temptations are ingenious attempts to deceive.
        1. "If you are the son of God..." which can also be translated "Since you are the son of God."
          1. "Jesus, you have spent a month concentrating on who you are and why God sent you."
          2. "You think that you have a unique relationship with God, a relationship that no human has ever had with God."
          3. "You say to yourself that you are God's son...not God's prophet, but God's son."
          4. "Prove your faith in your unique identity and relationship with God."
        2. This was the ingenious approach of the first two temptations.
          1. "If you are God's son, turn these stones to bread."
            1. "You are hungry."
            2. "You are in the wilderness to preparing to begin God's work."
            3. "If you are too weak to get back to civilization and food, you will starve to death."
            4. "If that happens you will do nothing for God."
            5. "If you really believe you are who you think you are, make some bread and eat" (not a banquet; just some bread).
          2. "If you are God's son, jump from this temple high place."
            1. Satan surrounded Jesus with God's presence: he took him to Jerusalem, the holy city, and to the temple, where God's presence existed as no where else on earth."
            2. He quoted scripture to Jesus: Psalms 91 says that God will protect the son of God with His angels.
            3. "You say to yourself that you are God's son; let God confirm that you are right; jump."
      4. The third temptation is a simple, straightforward attempt to bargain with Jesus on a high mountain.
        1. "You are right. You are God's Son. You have nothing to prove."
        2. "But you are going about your mission the wrong way."
          1. "You came to be king."
          2. "You came to rule the world."
          3. "You came to change the world because you would be king of a world wide kingdom."
          4. "All this struggle you now face is unnecessary."
          5. Satan enabled Jesus to see the kingdoms of the world.
          6. "I control them--all of them. I will make you king of the world right now and you can change anything you want to change."
          7. "Just fall down before me and worship me, and it will happen."
    5. If you want a powerful insight into the way a Christian defeats temptation, understand Jesus' responses.
      1. Jesus did not quote a proof text to give Satan a pat religious answer.
      2. If you see Jesus just quoting a verse from memory, you miss the point.
        1. All my life I have listened to people quote random Bible verses to prove what they want to prove or to defend what they want to defend.
          1. Every false teaching that exists quotes Bible and uses proof texts.
          2. People justify adultery, abortion, murder, division, evil attacks on Christians, and all kinds of unbiblical restrictions by using "proof texts."
          3. A person can use "proof texts" to justify anything he or she wants to justify.
        2. Jesus did not succeed in rejecting Satan's temptations by quoting random verses from the Bible.
          1. The scriptures Jesus quoted dealt with the temptation and the situation.
          2. Jesus understood what God wanted.
          3. The context of each of those scriptures powerfully addressed the deceit.
          4. Jesus was not deceived because Jesus saw the deceit.
          5. Jesus saw the deceit because he understood God.
      3. Satan deceives Christians right and left today because they do not understand God.
        1. They worship when they were told they were supposed to worship.
        2. They do the things in worship they were told they were supposed to do.
        3. They take the doctrinal stands they were told they were supposed to take.
        4. But everything they do has little to do with God.
        5. They do not do these things because they understand God.
        6. They do them because that is what the church has told them that they should do.
        7. It is a matter of accepting instruction, not a matter of understanding God.

  2. I call your attention to an essential question: why did God send Jesus to the wilderness?
    1. First, I want you to see that God has always used the wilderness experience to prepare and mature His servants.
      1. Abraham had a wilderness experience; he wandered as a nomad in a land that never belonged to him, and that experience matured his faith in God.
      2. Moses had a wilderness experience; he spent forty years in Sinai wilderness before he became God's leader of Israel.
      3. David had a wilderness experience; he spent years in the wilderness before he became Israel's great king.
      4. Elijah, Israel's greatest prophet, had a wilderness experience; God used that experience to teach Elijah a lesson that he needed to learn.
      5. Jesus had a wilderness experience; that experience inaugurated his ministry.
      6. Evidence suggests that even the apostle Paul had a wilderness experience; he said in Galatians 1:17 that he spend time in Arabia before his work recorded in Acts began.
    2. Second, I want you to understand the answer to the question, "Why?"
      1. Look at these facts:
        1. Abraham was in the wilderness because he was following God's instruction.
        2. Moses was in the wilderness because he failed and ran for his life.
        3. David was in the wilderness because Saul was trying to kill him.
        4. Elijah was in the wilderness because he wanted to die; he wanted to die because he failed to accomplish his expectations.
        5. Jesus was in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry.
        6. We are not told why Paul was in Arabia.
        7. That list is the Bible's elite list: Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Jesus, and Paul.
      2. Why did all of them have wilderness experiences?
        1. Certainly, different experiences placed them in the wilderness.
        2. But they all were in the wilderness for the same basic reasons.
          1. Reason one: so that they would decide in their deepest being to place God in exclusive control of their lives.
          2. Reason two: so that they would decide on the deepest level of life to trust God, no matter what they faced.
          3. Reason three: so they would understand the reason for their lives.
          4. Reason four: so that God could equip them for greater service and usefulness.
    3. One of the great problems in the lives of American Christians is that they want to do wonderful things for God without any struggle.
      1. Satan has powerfully, successfully deceived the American Christian about God.
        1. He has made us believe that God promises us a life without struggle.
        2. He has made us believe that God protects the true Christian from struggle.
        3. He has made us believe that Christian peace produces no struggle.
        4. He has made us believe that the Christian hope is fulfilled by a struggle free physical existence on this earth.
        5. And, he has made us believe if these things do not happen, God is the one who has deceived us.
      2. Satan has powerfully, successfully deceived the American Christian about the purpose of life. According to Satan,
        1. The purpose of life is found in the physical.
        2. The fulfillment of life is found in pleasure.
        3. The meaning of life is found in selfishness.
        4. The security of life is found in money.

Satan does not care how religious you are as long as you do not place your faith in God. Satan does not want you to go the wilderness with God. It is in the wilderness that you decide what life is really about. It is in the wilderness that you learn to listen to God. It is in the wilderness that you find faith. God can powerfully use the man or woman who leaves the wilderness with a deeper faith in God.

[Prayer: God, help us learn that wilderness experiences equip us to serve Your purposes.]

The truth: you and I live in the wilderness. Just like Israel, we will reach the place God has built for us by surviving the wilderness. God cannot help you survive the wilderness if you don't trust Him. But, God can bless and use you beyond imagination if you place God in control of your life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 20 February 2000

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