“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.” (Luke 4:1-2)
THE TESTING OF OUR COMMITMENTS
Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. This is generally seen as the act which begins his active ministry. The Holy Spirit descended on him and a voice was heard from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
But before the ministry of healing and proclaiming the good news of God begins, Jesus is sent out into the wilderness. “Led” by the Holy Spirit, according to Luke (see above). Driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness, according to Mark (Mark 1:12). In whatever way that the Spirit sent him, Jesus was sent into the wilderness. It was a time of contemplation, a time of fasting, a time of testing and temptation.
I believe this pattern is present in our lives, too.
Whenever you or I hear some kind of call from God, and we make a firm commitment to move forward in response to that call, that commitment will be tested. And the test usually comes sooner rather than later!
You hear a call from God to get married. It won’t be long before some challenge arises in your marriage. God is testing whether or not you are fully committed to those vows you made on your wedding day.
You and your spouse hear a call to become parents. That commitment will be tested, usually right away. What does it look like to act with love and patience, when you have not slept well for a number of weeks in a row? Did you realize how much and how often you would be putting this tiny little child’s needs ahead of your own?
You take on a new job, perhaps even your dream job. In the first year there is a steep learning curve (maybe even in the first five years). Oh yeah, you realize. I still have a lot to learn!
You hear a calling to do something new with your life, and you fully commit in that new direction. You had a certain picture in your mind of how it was all going to unfold. A few weeks or a few months or a few years down the road, you hear yourself saying to someone, ‘Wow! I never realized that I would be getting into all of this!”
When you make any kind of significant commitment in your life, one that involves taking vows and taking action, your commitment will be tested. Your commitment may be tested by God. Your commitment may be tested by Satan. (see Luke 4:1-13) So be prepared! And when the time of testing (or temptation) comes, you can think to yourself, “Oh, right. I am being tested right now. God wants to know if I am really committed to this path, if I am fully “in”.”
There is another piece of this pattern. When we are being tested, God is available to us - in one form or another. I think that is a huge part of what the testing is all about. When you encounter the test, when you encounter the days or months of struggle, to whom will you turn? Will you rely only on your own strength and wits? Or will you reach out to God, and to others - for people are often God’s ambassadors - even more?
In Mark’s story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we read this: “He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:13)
Are you in a wilderness time right now? If so, does that relate to a commitment that you have made? How might Satan be trying to pull you away from your path, from your calling? What are your “wild beasts”? Who are your angels? And how are you experiencing God’s presence with you - in the midst of the wilderness?