Unexpected: Tested

This morning, we’re continuing our series entitled, “Unexpected” where we are going to recall the truly unexpected ways in which God worked in the past and some of the unexpected places and times where He showed up. 

These reminders of God’s faithfulness and miraculous power and authority will serve to encourage us in our present and give us hope toward our future.

This morning, we’re going to pick up where we left off last week remembering how we are stronger together.  We learned how we are all parts of the body of Christ and how we all need each other to be whole and complete and to reach the full measure of Christ.  Before Paul teaches about this reality, he says:

Romans 12:3

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Proverbs also teaches us that:

Proverbs 11:2 (The Passion Translation)

When you act with presumption,

    convinced that you’re right, (pride in other translations)

    don’t be surprised if you fall flat on your face!

    But humility leads to wisdom.

And also:

Proverbs 16:18 (CSB)

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

Some people think more highly of themselves than they ought to and are setting themselves up for failure. 

Proverbs 16:18 (The Passion Translation)

Your boast becomes a prophecy of a future failure.

    The higher you lift yourself up in pride,

    the harder you’ll fall in disgrace.

We all know that, “Hold my beer.” guy who always think they can do things that they just can’t.  Although it makes for some good stories, it’s also a really good way to get hurt.

There’s also that arrogant guy who one-ups your every story, has the solution to your every problem, and is the hero in every one of their stories.

The thing about strength is that there’s really no way to know how strong someone or something is until it is tested.  Action speaks louder than words!

Anyone here ever been let down by someone?  You had full trust and confidence in a relationship and found out that it wasn’t as strong as you thought?

Maybe you’ve had a situation like this.  This looks like a nice sturdy chair that could fully support you, but as soon as you put your full weight on it, it collapses underneath you…

That’s why most people prefer products that have been around for a while and were manufactured by reputable companies who have been tested and tried.

We would trust a coffee from Starbucks before one from Buckstars, the taste of Froot Loops before Fruity Hoops, listening on our Airpods before Comfopods, bathing with soap from Olay before Okay.  We trust brands that have been tried and tested before we trust their knockoff counterparts.

However, we still can’t be sure of how strong someone or something is until it is put to the test.

Sure, some people are prideful and think that they are stronger or better than they really are.  Most people, however, don’t realize how strong they truly are!  It’s not until they are put to the test that it is proven to them the strength that they possess.

Although we know this to be true, it almost always is unexpected by us when God puts us to the test.  God takes us through these testing seasons not to break us or to harm us, but to prove to us just how strong we are and to show our genuine faith off to others.

1 Peter 1:6-7

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Now to pick up where we left off last week:

Matthew 3:16-17

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 4:1-11

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

So the Father was like, “This is my Son, whom I love and am well please with.  Now, Holy Spirit, take Him off into the wilderness and let the devil tempt Him.  Oh, and angels, leave Him all on His own.”  More than the survival reality shows popular today, Jesus had to not only survive the natural elements, but also the spiritual ones!  And, the devil didn’t exactly come running in to test Him right after this spiritual high after His baptism…

2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him

The devil waits for just the right time to pounce.  He somehow knows our weaknesses and exactly how to leverage them to turn us away from God and His promises, plans, and purposes for us.  And being the deceiver that he is, he does it by quoting God’s word and calling us on an alternative path to God’s promises, plans, and purposes.  The deceitful thing about deceit is that it is deceitful and the deceitful thing about the deceiver is that he is deceitful.  He even masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)!

3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

    and they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

The devil questioned Jesus’ identity each time:

“If you are the Son of God.”

The devil provided a way for Jesus to “fulfill” His purpose in the wrong way at the wrong time:

miraculous provision (becoming the bread of life)

laying down His life (the cross)

becoming King of kings (the resurrection)

This entire event was such an unexpected way for God to work.  The Father having the Spirit lead the Son out to be tempted by the devil.  I struggled for a while to understand why this happened.

I understand that Jesus had to be born of the flesh and live victoriously and sin-free within it.  He had to do for us what we are incapable of doing on our own.  He had to fulfill all righteousness as a human in order to gift it to us.

However, this life is challenging enough and full of temptations as it is.  Why did Jesus have to face the devil alone and face this ultimate temptation?  Then, God reminded me of this simple scripture:

1 John 3:8b

…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Miraculously providing eternal life, paying the price for our sin on the cross, and resurrecting to ultimate place of authority were all ways to destroy the devil’s work.  God could talk about it and Jesus could boast about doing it, however, that talk had to be put to the test. 

Without any angelic assistance, without the Father’s covering, without the Spirit’s intercession, in full and weak human form, Jesus had to face the devil and overcome the ultimate temptation.  Otherwise, this could not be said of Him:

Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.

Jesus destroyed the devil’s work not only from His throne of ultimate authority as the commander of angel armies.  Jesus also destroyed the devil’s work face-to-face from a place of weakness within our very flesh.

What an unexpected, but exciting way in which God worked!  Jesus can completely and totally relate to us!  He was tempted and tried in every way which we are.  He empathizes with our weaknesses, He knows exactly how we feel because He felt that way.

However, He not only relates to where we are at, He has gone ahead of us into the ultimate victory over it all!  He relates to our weakness, but from a place of strength!  Regarding the weakness of our flesh, Jesus said, “It is finished!”

The weaknesses of our flesh, all temptation, our sin, even death, itself, have been overcome!  Jesus has risen to life victorious over it all!  Then, He freely offers us that same victory!  What an unexpected and yet awesome way for God to work!

Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 12:10

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When we face weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, we face opportunities to let Christ shine through our lives.  Other can see His mighty victorious hand intercede on our behalf.  When our faith is put to the test, it is an opportunity for it to truly be proven and revealed!

We are stronger than we realize because our strength is not our own.  When our weaknesses are put to the test, when our faith is put on trial, the strength displayed is none other than Christ’s strength through our weaknesses.

1 Peter 1:6-7

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

We rejoice because Jesus Christ is being revealed through our weaknesses and trials.  We live in this flesh and those trials are not joyful themselves.  We count them joy even as Jesus endured the cross counting it for joy.

Friday’s disappointment was Sunday’s empty tomb, right? 

There’s nothing too hard for our great God!  There is no such thing as impossible to Him!  There is always an abundance!  There is always life!  There is always hope!  Nothing can stop our great God!  His great promises are always “Yes” and “Amen!”