Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Scaling Walls & Climbing Mountains

"People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."  ~ Matthew 4:4

In our modern-day society, it might be more effective if this verse said, 'People do not live by Starbucks alone...'

But we sure try, don't we? People rely on all kinds of things to get them through the day. For you that might include a caffeine-fix, a nap, and plenty of hearty food, but the key word Jesus says in this statement is "live".  Just as we need bread for our bodies to be alive and active each day, our souls need nourishment (or a Grande Kickstart) from God Himself: To hear what He says to us, to believe it, and to live by it.

From Matthew Four we know what Satan said to Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness and how Jesus responded, but what do you think the Father (God) was saying to Jesus?

'Sorry, Son. I wish I could help, but you're on your own.'?

'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, suck it up, and do this! Don't be such a pansy.'?

'You got yourself into this mess. You're the one who wanted to try and save the world even though I told you it was pointless.'?

'This is nothing compared to what you're going to be enduring on the cross in a few years. You'd better get used to suffering because there's a lot more coming.'?

Have you ever had people, or God (you think), tell you similar things in hard times? While these phrases can be motivating and may help us endure suffering, I don't think they are particularly life-giving. "Survival" (caffeine-driven, food-driven, or driven by sheer will and determination) and "Living" are not the same thing. And Jesus was not talking about survival. He could have achieved that by eating the bread Satan offered Him, but He didn't because He knew it was about more than survival. It was about LIFE!

"People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."  What has God said that can bring you life? Not just to "get you through" the day, or a season, or a new challenge, but to bring life-changing joy, supernatural endurance and strength, purpose and passion? Things that make you want to wake up every morning and live the blessings and abundance God has for you?

We may picture Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by Satan as a tired, weak, broken man who can barely stand on two feet. After not having food to eat for so long, He's just lying around in agony and despair, fighting off wild animals with a stick and saying, 'O God. Why have you forsaken me? I'm helpless and destitute. Please save me from this cross I must bear.'

But Scripture doesn't say that. It just says He got hungry. He was still able to walk to Jerusalem and scale the walls of the Temple when Satan led Him to the top to see if He would jump off and trust God's angels to catch Him (which he politely declined). He was also able to hike a high mountain where Satan showed Him the kingdoms of the world that could be His if He would worship him (to which He replied, 'Get lost, Satan.'). I'm not seeing a weak, disabled Jesus here. He went mountain climbing! He scaled the walls of the Temple. I can't even do those things with a hearty breakfast and a grande hot chocolate!

Jesus was not a wimpy, pathetic victim of God's unfairness and life's battles. He was a mighty warrior! But not because He had superhuman strength and stamina. He was an ordinary man. But He was mighty, active, vibrant, and strong in this trial because He listened to His Father. "You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy!" (Luke 3:22) "You will reign forever and Your kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:32) "You have the ability to change the course of human history. The world will never be the same after You've been there!"

Jesus believed in the plans God had for Him. He believed He was dearly loved, a source of joy for His Father, and a blessing for all mankind. He believed in who He was: the embodiment of Love, Mercy, Goodness, and Hope.

So I ask you again, what has God said that can bring you life in the everyday struggles you face? Do you believe the things God says about you? That you are His beloved child (1 Jn.3:1), His treasured possession (Mal. 3:16-17), His ambassador to the world of His love, compassion, and goodness (2 Cor. 5:18-20), and His child capable of the things Paul writes to those who have been raised to life in Christ?

Set your sights on the realities of heaven...you share in [Christ's] glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don't be greedy...you used to do these things...but now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don't lie to each other...Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him...clothe yourselves with tenderheartedness, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowances...forgive [as] the Lord forgave you...clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts...and always be thankful. (Colossians 3:1, 4-5, 7-10, 12-15)

What is Paul describing here? He's describing what Jesus lived and died and rose from the grave for you to have! He empowers you to live as He did! So live-loved. Live the truth. Live by what God says about you and about Himself.

As David said, with Him you '...can scale any wall. God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection...God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.' (Psalm 18:29-30, 32-33)

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved

Photo of Robinson's Arch by Mark A. Wilson. Public Domain.

Mountain photo by Cindy Rae Riggs. ©2014. All Rights Reserved.