“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NIV)
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Anticipating that temptations would come, Jesus prepares us so we may overcome them – and not be overcome by them. Watch – keep a vigilant guard, stay alert to your surroundings. The normal state of affairs for the Christ follower is spiritual warfare, and Satan uses temptations as part of his arsenal of weapons against believers. He appeals to our selfish appetites and desires. The body wants what the body wants – and is often in conflict with the desires of the spirit. “The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” Watch where you’re going. Watch what you’re doing. Watch what you’re thinking so that you will not fall into temptation. Watching is the defensive position. There’s an offensive position that we’ve been given as well – the power of prayer. Prayer gives us full access to the throne of grace where we obtain mercy and find help in time of need! Here’s a great promise to claim in prayer when you see temptation coming at you.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)
Wow! We’ve been given direct access to the very throne of God through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who understands exactly what we’re going through and is standing ready to help us when we call! In fact, your prayer is like a 911 call to heaven when you face temptation. I like the way the Amplified Bible describes the response time that Jesus promises in Hebrews 2:18,“For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].”
“When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13b
Temptation – we all deal with it, sometimes better than others if you’re like me. Temptations can leave you feeling battered and overwhelmed at times, even trapped. The good news is that you are not alone in the temptations you struggle with. Even Jesus faced temptations. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus “understands our weaknesses since He had the same temptations we do, though He never once gave way to them and sinned.” Because God clothed Himself with our humanity, He subjected Himself to the same trials and temptations that we face. He understands. He cares. And, He is able to deliver us through the temptations we face! Hebrews 2:18 says, “For since He Himself has now been through suffering and temptation, He knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and He is wonderfully able to help us.” How does He help us overcome temptation? Our passage today gives us some practical insight:
* “The temptations you face in your life are no different from what others experience.” (You’re not alone, so don’t feel like you’ve been singled out. Others have resisted the same temptations, and so can you.)
* “God is faithful; He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.” (Even when tempting you, Satan must have permission as to how much he may tempt you. See Job 1 and 2.)
* “When you are tempted, (God) will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (Look for the way out. Run for it!)
“Learn from Me.” Matthew 11:29 (NIV)
A disciple is a learner. We learn best by association. That was the classroom for Jesus’ disciples. They learned from Him through their association with Him. Their classroom was life. They observed how Jesus lived in relationship with His Father. He showed them how to live, how to pray, how to be men as God intended man to be. Seminars, conferences and bible study classes are wonderful, but the greatest truths you will learn will always be in your association with Christ. That’s why the first invitation in this passage is “Come to me …” in verse 28. When we come to Christ, we begin learning the unforced rhythms of grace. I love the way The Message paraphrases this passage:
“Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus is more than a teacher. Oswald Chambers said, “If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I cannot attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. … I must know Jesus Christ as Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be.” Have you come to Jesus Christ like that? You’ll never learn from Him how to live freely and lightly until you do.
“ … lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5b (NIV)
What are you leaning on in life? All of us lean on something or someone. You may be leaning on your abilities, your intellect or your resources. So far they’ve proven stable enough to support you. But what about in a real crisis – when the storms of life come and you don’t know what to do? It could be an economic setback, a layoff, an unexpected diagnosis or worse, the sudden death of a loved one. Life happens; and when you live long enough, you discover that sorrow and suffering are indiscriminate. It doesn’t matter how wealthy or intelligent you are. Ask yourself if what you are leaning on can sustain you no matter what happens in life. If you’re wise, you’ll admit you need something greater than your own ability, someone far more capable than you are to lean on in life. The wisest man who ever lived other than Christ Himself – offers us this advice. He said, “Lean not on your own understanding.” I’m so thankful Solomon didn’t leave it at that. He prefaced it with what we should do. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart …” Your understanding, your talent, your skills, your resources can only take you so far. But, when you put your trust in God, you have an illimitable supply! Moses taught the people of God that truth in a wonderful promise found in Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV).“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Lean on Him! He will never let you fall!
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
“Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts.”
Hebrews 4:7b (NLT)
We’ve increasingly become more heart conscious today. It’s a good thing and causes me to consider what I’m eating more than before. Is it heart healthy? Will it increase my cholesterol? What’s the fat content? We read all the labels and try our best to make the best decisions for ourselves and the ones we love. But, beyond the physical condition of our heart, there is a much deeper issue. Maybe it’s not what you are eating that’s having the worst impact on your heart, but what’s eating you! How can you guard your heart from hardening? I used to think that a hard heart was something only people without God suffered from. Pharaoh certainly had a hard heart against God and the people of God in Moses’ day. Israel even suffered from hardness of heart and lived forty years in the desert as a result of it. The religious leaders that rejected Christ specialized in it and missed their Messiah. Jesus even told His disciples that they had hard hearts when they forgot the miracles He had done. The truth is none of us are immune to our hearts becoming hard and calloused. The older I get, the more intentional I must be in keeping my heart tender and open to God and others. If we are going to guard our hearts, we must know the warning signs of a hard heart. Recently, I came across a list that Pastor Carey Nieuwhof put together. And, I really connected with it. Here are the warning signs he gave:
1. You don’t really celebrate and you don’t really cry. Well, you might on the outside, but in reality you don’t feel it.
2. You stop genuinely caring.
3. So much of what’s supposed to be meaningful feels mechanical. From your personal friendships to your family, to work, the feeling’s gone.
4. Passion is hard to come by. For anything.
5. You no longer believe the best about people. Even when you meet someone, you’re thinking about what’s going to go wrong, not what’s going to go right.
These symptoms are subtle and almost imperceptible at first. Left unchecked, they can lead to a hard heart where you no longer hear from God and lose your passion for life. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it’s time to take action. Acknowledge it to God and ask Him to soften your heart. Listen to what He says and respond. Take time in worship this weekend to give yourself a heart check-up. Let God revive your heart.