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“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1, NKJV). It seems like a contradiction, or incongruent, but temptation is the way in which we develop spiritual “muscles.”

When the Bible says “Jesus was led up … to be tempted by the devil,” it uses the word peirasthēnai for “tempted” from Ancient Greek, which suggests a “purpose.” Jesus was about to experience how the Holy Spirit guides us, not only to good things, but also to bad things, to temptation.

Sometimes, temptation needs to be faced or confronted, and sometimes, the temptation we experience is an opportunity not to fall for the bad things, but to face them. There’s no better way to face temptation than with a definite and decisive “no.”

The Greek verb peirazo (to test, make trial of, to tempt) is used in two ways: in a good sense and in a bad sense. The bad sense is tempting with the intent of making us fall or disobey. The good sense is trials—when God tests us to reveal and develop our inner character (Jas. 1:2-3).

Because God is sovereign, ultimately He is in control. The same event can simultaneously be a temptation by the tempter and a divine test to reveal and develop the inner character of the person being tempted, as was the case with Jesus in the wilderness.

Another example of this is Joseph in Genesis 37. His brothers initially plotted to kill him but ended up selling him as a slave to the Ishmaelites, who in turn sold him to Potiphar. Joseph finally ended up in prison for not giving into the temptation presented to him by Potiphar’s wife. Years went by, and when Joseph saw his brothers again, he made this powerful statement while revealing his identity:

I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. …. But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 45:4-5, 50:20).

Jesus was tested for 40 days, not in a garden, but in a desert, and he He overcame. In the same way, you can overcome in the desert of your life.

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. As you test yourselves, I hope you will recognize that we have not failed the test of apostolic authority” (2 Cor. 13:5-6, NLT).

Let us pray:

Lord, it is so good to know that Your purpose for my life is not lost or faded in the midst of temptation. But temptation can be the way in which I direct my life toward Your designed purpose for me as a Christian. I can fully rest in You, because You are my comfort, my helper, my eternal rock and redeemer. In the name of Jesus, I am so grateful. Amen.

Prayer Points

  1. Have I ever discovered how saying no to a temptation could make God’s purpose in my life more clear?
  2. How can I take steps in the midst of temptation to protect myself and stay within His divine purpose?
  3. How much does it strengthen me to know that God’s purpose is untouchable?

Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.

is a retired Foursquare Missions International missionary. He currently serves as a representative for Pure Desire Ministries to Latin America and lives in Panama.