Lord, who throughout these forty days
for us did fast and pray,
teach us with you to mourn our sins
and close by you to stay.
As you with Satan did contend,
and did the victory win,
O give us strength in you to fight,
in you to conquer sin.
And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12, ESV)
Trusting God’s promises means nothing other than obedience. We do not set out to test them intentionally; we find that they are true by running the path of God’s commands.
Often the hardest request of obedience is to do nothing. Ray Johnston says, tongue in cheek, that the least obeyed command in all Scripture is “be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)
Faith knows that inaction is but one type of obedience. We have known God’s person; we have followed his precepts; now we remember his prohibitions.
Jesus was on a pinnacle, being pricked on both sides by his enemy’s forked tongue. He was sent to the desert by the Holy Spirit—but he was taken to the temple by the devil. He had chosen to face temptation, but he did not choose the circumstances. He carried authority as the Son of God. And yet he could do nothing there but simply abstain. “You shall not.”
We often err in the direction of needless activity. Sometimes there is nothing left to do in the fight against temptation but to say “no!” Sometimes there is no new strategy to be conceived. The soul stands bare between two unequal alternatives and says, “Be gone, Satan!”
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes his enemy, and the enemy leaves. The lynchpin in the enemy’s plan was not so much to make Jesus sin as it was to convince him that he was not the Son of God, which would cause him to sin. He tried Jesus in body, mind, soul, and spirit to doubt his identity as the Messiah and the Son, but Satan failed. He could not shake Jesus’ trust.
Jesus, thank you that you conquered every temptation. Let me never forget my identity in you, so that when the enemy tries to confuse me, I will simply rebuke him, and stand fast in my trust in you.