When I was a kid, my brother and I used to play a game on road trips: everything that I could see from my side of the car “belonged” to me, and likewise for him. We would compete and compare who had the nicest houses, the most horses, and the shiniest cars by the end of the trip!
Now that we are adults, we can still sometimes find ourselves competing and comparing—usually with our peers on social media. We still want beautiful homes, exotic holidays, the latest technology—we want the good life, whatever we think that is. We want the best that the world has to offer.
But what about those moments when our dreams of a comfortable, easy, or even luxurious life come into conflict with God’s plan for real abundant living? What about those moments when pursuing “the good life” means living contrary to our values in some way? Perhaps to move up the ladder we need to tell one seemingly small and insignificant lie. Or we skip out on spending time with our children because we’re so busy. Or we overlook some act of kindness because we’re preoccupied with ourselves. It can all seem so easy to do—much easier than following God’s way. After all, God’s design plan is all about love and selflessness, which isn’t always appealing for us at first!
In this week’s chapter of Messiah by Jerry D Thomas (Ch 13 – Jesus Gets the Victory), Jesus is confronted by Satan, who offers him a seemingly easier way than God’s. Satan offers Jesus a position of power along with the riches of the world—without the hard years and painful death that were a key part of Jesus’ mission of reclaiming earth from the Enemy. There was just one catch; if Jesus wanted to save himself from an unpleasant future, Jesus would just have to bow to Satan. It seemed like such a small, easy thing to do. A bargain.
But there was great significance in that proposed small bow. As the author puts it, “If Jesus did this, the great controversy would end with Satan’s victory. Satan had rebelled in heaven because he wanted to be greater than Jesus. If Jesus bowed to him now, he would have won… When Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world, he wanted Jesus to give up His true kingship of earth and become subject to Satan.” (Messiah p 82)
Thankfully, Jesus was not enticed. “Jesus could not be bought with the riches of this world, or even with the possibility of escape from suffering. He had come to set up a kingdom of righteousness and love, and He would not give that up…
“Satan often makes this offer to humans. He says, ‘If you want to be rich or powerful or famous in this world, you must serve me. Don’t get carried away with noble ideas like honesty or self-sacrifice. Ignore your conscience and think of yourself first.’” (Ibid.)
It’s an attractive offer. But it comes at a high price. “Satan offers them a world, which isn’t his to give, and by accepting his offer, they lose their right to inherit that world as children of God.” (Ibid.)
I have to admit, I’ve given in to this temptation sometimes, even in small ways. It’s easy to think of myself first and ignore the voice of my conscience in an attempt to make myself more comfortable. But Jesus’ victory over Satan can be mine, too. Even when I stumble in my resolve to follow God’s better way, His forgiveness and strength is always there to help me back onto the right path.
Our desire for a good life isn’t inherently bad. In fact, I do have hope for a good life here— thanks to God’s way of lovingly weaving things together into a pattern for my good, and His promises to provide what I need, with fulfilment and adventure and joy and peace in the journey. I’ve experienced so much of that already. Yet God doesn’t promise me an easy life, or a luxurious life. There will sometimes be pain, and there will be moments when it’s hard to live out His way of love and self-sacrifice.
In those moments, I can be tempted to give up on God in exchange for what I think is an easier way. As I face temptation, this story of Jesus offers me hope. “We can’t stand up to Satan ourselves—he is stronger than humans. If we try to stand alone, he will overcome us. But Satan runs in fear from the weakest person who hides behind the name of Jesus.” (Messiah p 83)
I want to remember that, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” As a child of God, I have something to look forward to that is even better than the best life can offer me now.
Join in our book club discussion in the comments below!
- Check out James 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; and Psalm 37. Which is your favourite promise to remember when you are faced with the temptation to take the easier way instead of the best way?
- Let us know how we can pray for you!
This chapter of Messiah is based on Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 if you want to read it in your own Bible.
Listen to Lynette share chapters from “Messiah” on The Breakfast Show every Thursday after 8am. Or catch up later via the podcast.
If you have questions, or you’d like to get a copy of “Messiah” by Jerry D Thomas or a free Bible, let us know.