Steven Furtick - Life's Greatest Temptation
Peace comes after obedience. Jesus went down. Jesus came up. As he's coming up, the dove comes down, the voice from heaven speaks, and the validation of Jesus Christ came after his obedience. Stop waiting to feel like it. Stop waiting for people to understand it. Stop waiting until everything gets just right. "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice". "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart". "Then the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus". Peace. Here comes the dove, but this dove has a mind of its own. This dove, this Holy Spirit (that's what it symbolizes in the Bible). The dove comes down, and the dove is so beautiful. Then an abrupt change.
You have to get used to Mark, because he's our tour guide for this entire series. Verse 12: "At once…" He doesn't even give us time to hang out with the dove, get a selfie with the dove. "At once [immediately, suddenly] the Spirit [the dove] sent him into the desert…" Why is he going to the desert? Verse 13 fills it in. "…and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan". Why would the dove lead you into a place where the Devil was waiting? I don't like that dove. I want the other dove. Suddenly, right after the validation came the temptation. Anytime God speaks a promise over your life, you will immediately have the opportunity to prove the promise in the desert. The same dove that presided over his baptism now leads him into the desert, which seems on the surface to be a contradiction of the Lord's Prayer. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…" Jesus taught us this prayer. "…your will be done, on earth…"
I know people think a football locker room made this prayer up, but Jesus taught this prayer. "…on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation". So why did the Spirit of God lead Jesus into the very temptation he told us to pray against? See, Jesus was a savage, and he knew what to do in the desert. He knew the desert is the place where you prove the promise of God. I wanted to include this point, because some of you are not in the place of validation as I speak. Today you are in the place of temptation.
Remember, Mark doesn't really break it down. He just tells us really quickly, because Peter is just giving him the highlights. He's writing in a style that keeps the action moving, because this thing is headed to the conflict of the cross, and he has no time to waste. So he just tells us simply, "He was in the desert forty days…" He doesn't even mention that Jesus didn't eat in those forty days. "…being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him". That's all he says about it. If I went 40 days with the animals, I would want to describe every detail of it, but Mark says he was there and he was tempted, but it didn't work.
By the way, you don't have to explain every nuance of all of the trials you go through. Sometimes we are so busy describing what we are going through we miss the opportunity to declare the praises of the one who brought us through. He gives one verse to 40 days. "He was tempted, and then the angels came". But the angels did not come to protect him from the temptation. The angels came after the temptation. Sometimes we are expecting God to protect us from stuff when he wants to use the stuff to prove his power in our lives. So he puts you in a lonely place, but even in a lonely place you are under an open heaven. The greatest temptation of life is to find your validation in a source other than Christ. It is life's greatest temptation. Where will you find your validation? Satan says to Jesus, "If you're hungry, turn the stones into bread". Jesus said, "I don't need it. I don't live by bread alone. I live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God".
By the way, it's a bad idea to get in a Scripture quotation contest with the one who is the Word of God. He didn't just write it; he was it. Now you're debating Scripture with the one who is it in flesh? "Okay. Then prove it". This is life's great temptation: to find your validation in anything other than God. "Prove it. Throw yourself off the temple. Prove it. Make more money. Prove it. Show them how great you are. Prove it". Jesus said, "I don't need to prove it. It is written. I've already been validated in the waters, so I don't have to prove anything in the wilderness. I already ate". I do this any time I'm going over to somebody's house and I'm not sure if they can cook. It's just preemptive. It's wisdom. Jesus said, "I'm not hungry for that". "Bow down and worship me". "Why would I bow down to what is already under my feet"? And then the angels came. Not before the temptation but after the demonstration.
So if God has put you in a wilderness situation today… This could feel lonely. This could be emotional. This could be in your body. Every wilderness looks different, but the purpose for your wilderness is that you demonstrate the power of God in your life, and the power of God does not come until after. Maybe that's what faith is: believing before what you will only understand after. By the time Mark writes down these miracles it has been 30 years since they happened. Peter is talking to Mark, telling him what to write. He said, "I want you to use half of this gospel account to talk about the last week in Jesus' life". Peter was the one who told Jesus, "You can't go to the cross. It will mess up our PR campaign. You can't die. That's bad for ratings". But after he had risen from the dead, then they remembered his words, and the same disciple who spent all three years of Jesus' ministry trying to keep him from the cross took half of the gospel account he recollected to talk about the very thing he wanted to keep Jesus from.
It goes to show that some of the dry places we would avoid are the very places God will use the most. The key is…Can I believe it before I see it? Can anything good come from Nazareth? Can anything good come from my dysfunctional past? Can anything good come from this season I want out of so badly? Then the angels came. I came with an announcement. Your angel is already on the way. Your angel is on the way. Don't give in to the temptation to bow down and worship something that is less than God or to compromise your values in this season. You know who you are. You heard it in the waters of baptism. "This is my child. I am well pleased with him. This is my daughter. I am well pleased with her. That's my boy. That's my girl. I have a purpose for you".
Do not doubt in the wilderness what God showed you in the water. Your angel is on the way. Your angel is on the way. Don't turn the stone into bread just yet. You're about to get some angel food cake. Your angel is on the way. "And the God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong". The strength comes after the suffering. That's what Jesus knew. That's what he knew with the animals that was proven after the angels came.
There is something today you need to believe that you cannot see, something you need to believe that you cannot feel, and it only makes sense on this side of the cross. After you have suffered… What verse was that? First Peter. Same Peter. He finally got it. After. Let's just take a moment. Let's do something that'll really drive the Devil out of our desert. Let's go ahead right now at every location and praise God before for what we will only understand after. Come on, let's worship in the wilderness a little bit. If you don't feel it, good. That gives you a chance to prove that it's faith not feelings, faith not sight.