The temptation to give up

Today is the first Sunday in Lent and the Gospel reading prescribed by the Lectionary is Luke’s story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
The season of Lent lasts for 40 days. The gospels state that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. During Lent, therefore, I will try to think about the temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness – and I will record my thoughts in 3 separate blogs, one for each temptation.
In all three temptations, “the devil” speaks to Jesus. I envisage these “conversations” as taking place in Jesus’ mind. After days without food, in a desolate place, with no human company, I can imagine how easily such (fevered?) thoughts would dominate his mind.
In the first temptation, Jesus is tormented by hunger. When he began the fast he believed it was what God wanted him to do – what God had called him to do. Yet the inner voice (“the devil”) is telling him that he doesn’t need to persevere: he has an escape route. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread”. You’re the Son of God – you’ve got freedom of choice – why pursue this pointless suffering? Use your God given power to make some bread and abandon your fast.
There are times in my life when, having been reasonably sure that God has led me to the place in which I find myself, things become almost too hard to bear and I desperately want to take an easy escape route and back away from God’s call to carry on. More often than I care to acknowledge, I have given in, given up, backed away, taken the easy way out.
Jesus resists the temptation. “One does not live by bread alone” is his answer to the inner voice.
I think Jesus is saying that there is a dimension to life that is more than seeking to satisfy one’s own material needs and comfort: that life in its fullest sense involves faithfully persevering to remain true to God’s call.
Lent gives me the opportunity to look back: did I embark on my present course believing God had led me – called me – here? Am I now being tempted to give it up because it is so hard?
Luke tells us that at his baptism “the Holy Spirit descended upon” Jesus and that when he went into the wilderness he was “full of the Holy Spirit”. I think that was why Jesus was able to resist the temptation to give up.
I thank God that we are not left alone to fight the temptation to give up – but that the very same Holy Spirit has been given to us – to enable us to remain true to God’s call, however hard it may be.
Andrew B.


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