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On your Mark


At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12,13, NIV)

Mark gives us the Reader’s Digest version of Jesus’ temptation. It tells us all the essential elements we need to know when facing our own temptations.

First, how are we tempted in the first place? Three forces are always at work in the process of temptation: our own personal tendency to desire what is opposite of the Spirit, the activity of the enemy, and the prodding of the Spirit that directs us into engagement with the devil. For Jesus, it was the latter — but for us, it can be any of the three.

Second, the place of temptation is the wilderness, at least symbolically. The wilderness represents the barren and dry place. When you find yourself relationally, emotionally, and spiritually empty you are far more likely to be vulnerable. When everything is going well — in your life, your family, your marriage, your finances, your health, and your walk with the Lord — you are far less likely to fall into sin. But, the desert represents the places where you don’t have many resources to fall back on and are most likely to give an ear to the devil’s pitch.

Third, the time of temptation is always for a period. It is not forever — at least, in its intensity. For Jesus, the period of time lasted 40 days and then the devil left Him for a season (Luke 4:13). Your temptation likewise will not last forever. It will come at you thick and furious, but when you steadfastly resist the devil he will flee from you (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9).

Fourth, the agent of temptation is your adversary, Satan. For Jesus, no intermediate agent of testing was used — just the devil himself. For you, the temptation may come through the world or your sinful human nature. But, never forget, no matter how temptation comes to you the devil stands behind the curtain. He is the puppeteer pulling the strings. Your contest is with him (Ephesians 6:12).

Fifth, the atmosphere of temptation may involve frightful dimensions. Mark is the only Gospel writer to note the presence of wild animals. When the devil came to Jesus with the three temptations (as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4), he seems to have donned a rather civil appearance as he often does when he wants to subtly beguile. But, temptation also may involve a nightmarish time of danger. Jesus experienced in the wilderness the same thing Daniel did in the lions’ den. What “wild beasts” are present in your own time of temptation?

Sixth, God will protect you in the place of temptation as you put your trust in Him. Arrayed against the wild beasts are the angels of God. The angels did not assist Jesus in saying no to the devil, but they protected Him from the other ravages the wilderness could inflict on Him. Likewise, the Lord will protect you from that which seeks to tear you apart. He has promised to provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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