In the Wilderness

In the Wilderness

****This morning I woke up super early (earlier than a normal Sunday morning) to the sounds of the snow plow clearing my street and creating a heftier barrier between me and the road as the end of my driveway (I imagine) only gets compacted with more snow. I haven’t gotten up to look and assess the situation just yet. I know that it is still snowing and while the plows have been out working throughout the early morning hours, the decision to cancel worship was a wise and safe decision.  However, I’m still tempted to stay in bed and not go outside to begin to shovel.

While this reflection is not the sermon one would have heard had we been able to worship together this morning, it is just a few thoughts I share with you today. ****

Matthew 4:1-17

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. 12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Being out in the wilderness by yourself seems like a lovely thought, right? Well, at first it does. But odds are that after a day or two (give or take a day or two for some of us) after experiencing a moment of solitude, we find ourselves in a space where we begin to feel all alone, where we begin to feel insecure, for some fear and anxiety settle in, we doubt ourselves and our decisions, we question the other people in our lives because they let us go out into the wilderness alone, we question and doubt the authenticity of every relationship we’ve ever had… we begin to question everything … we dream of what we need, what we want and eventually the longer we might be in the wilderness, the more things will make us happy and content, and eventually there is a sense of depression that might set in.

Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, and at the end of his time, we read that the very hungry Jesus was tempted. We read that the tempter shows up on the scene and tempts Jesus three times with a variety of things … food, power, control, security, prestige, and more. 

Chances are you have been tempted in one way, shape or form over your lifetime. Whether it is tempted to have that last piece of dessert, tempted to buy that bigger and better item, tempted to sleep in, call out sick (when you’re not really sick), to click on that link, or take that drink, temptations exist and depending on where we are in our lives, it becomes a slippery slope and we can easily fall into temptation. 

When we are in the wilderness, temptations are harder to resist. We begin to become desperate and might find that we will do whatever we think is best to help us feel better, even if it is short lived.

When we are in a space in life in which our perspective is tad healthier/clearer, we are not isolated from others and we find ourselves grounded, it is most likely that we will be able to process and talk ourselves out of needing or wanting that one thing that we absolutely believe we cannot live without. We are quicker to find value in the relationships and community to help walk us through the challenges and temptations of life. 

When Jesus was tempted, he responded in a way that quoted Scripture. He responded in a way that was reflective of his life and what he knew: Scripture. Each time the devil, the tempter, Satan tempted Jesus with something, Jesus used scripture to respond. He used what he knew and believed. Was it to prove to the tempter that he didn’t need all that was promised through the temptation? Or was it to remind himself that he didn’t need it because he had all he needed for that moment

What is it that tempts you today? How will you respond? What do you know that will help you respond in a way to ward off the temptation?  Jesus quoted scripture and what he knew. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, facing temptation or alone, we can remind ourselves that we are not alone, that God is with us, and that our strength and refuge comes from the Lord. I simply leave these few verses as possible reminders that might help …

Philippians 4:13“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Psalm 121begins with: “I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 18:2“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 46begins with “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Philippians 4:6-9  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths.”

Matthew 22:37-40: “He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Yes, yes, I know these are just a brief selection of verses. And it might seem like they won’t work or help us resist temptation, but they do have the potential (if we allow it) to transform our hearts, to re-focus our hearts and our minds on the things that matter, on the ONE that matters. And sometimes to get our mind off that one fixation, that one temptation, we just need to refocus.

When you find yourself facing temptation…before plunging in full force, stop and take a deep breath, pray asking God to refocus your heart and mind. Recall the words of Scripture that are shared here, ask yourself if you really need that thing, will it truly fill your life with all that is promised? Are you in a wilderness? Who can you share and talk with to help talk you through what you are facing? And then remember, even if you feel you are in the wilderness, you are not alone.. God is surely with you, and all it takes is one phone call or text to reach out to someone to be reminded that God’s people are also with you as we walk on this journey together.

Please know that if you are feeling in the wilderness and reading this, and feel you have no one to call, please reach out to me by sending an email ( or call me. My prayers are with you all.

Be safe out there this week, it is going to be cold, so exercise caution when traveling. Pray for the many folks out in the cold. 

And may the peace of Christ be with you today and always.

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