1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where 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. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Reflection: 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.
Take a look at the image above. I took this picture in my front yard a week or two ago. Last fall, when I was planting hyacinths in the front yard, I tossed a bulb into the pine straw next to my planters. It had what I judged to be a moldy spot. I thought that it would not be healthy enough to grow and that it might infect the other flowers in the planter. So, I discarded it. Or so I thought.
Two weeks ago I was surprised to see that the bulb was sprouting a flower. It was shorter than the flowers that were now blooming in the planter, but just as beautiful and rich in color. When I reached down to pick up the bulb (for the bulb itself was above ground), I realized that it was firmly rooted in the pine straw. Here was a testament to the determination of life. Cast aside and dismissed, with no good soil and no care given to it by the gardener, this little bulb had persevered and blossomed. It found a way to thrive in a virtual wilderness.
We have all faced the wilderness in our lifetimes. We have felt discarded and forgotten. We have struggled with the harsh elements while experiencing a lack of resources. And yet when we have persevered, we have been able to take root. By the grace of God, we have not only survived, but we have thrived, finding ways to bloom and grow.
In Scripture, the wilderness is a place of testing and refining. God does not lead us into the wilderness to destroy us, but to give us the resources to bloom in or out of season. My other plants are thriving and growing big and strong. They are flowering with multiple beautiful blossoms. But they are largely untested. They have been given every advantage and have had little need for perseverance. If they faced harsh conditions now, they might not “know” how to survive.
It would be nice to be “planted” in a big comfortable barrel, watered and fed on schedule, with rich soil always around us and the sun always shining on us. But that is not life. We face many more wildernesses than we would care to count. We must know how to bloom outside of ideal conditions. We gain those resources of endurance when we trust God in the times of struggle. A season like Lent, when we are encouraged to face the dry, barren places, is a gift of love from God. It is God’s way of reminding us that we can thrive regardless of circumstances, if we only stay rooted and grounded in him. It may be that the flower blooming in the wilderness brings the most brilliant color to the world.
Journaling Focus: Jesus answered him, “It is written…”
Jesus responds to each of the devil’s temptations with Scripture. When we stand on the promises and commandments of God in Scripture, we are equipped to overcome any trial or temptation. As you write and reflect in your journal this week, identify some scriptural promises of God that give you strength in times of struggle. What is it about these particular Scriptures that strengthen you? How have you rooted yourself in these promises during previous struggles and trials? What happened as a result? Search Scripture and find several “new” promises or words of power that can empower you to endure difficulties. Write them on a separate page of your journal so that you can go back and reference them when you need them.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Prayer Focus: He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
Sometimes we can exert so much physical and spiritual energy that we become depleted. This week, pray that God will fill you with the Holy Spirit and nourish every part of you. Ask God to fill you with goodness and holy satisfaction. Trust that all of your needs will be provided by the one who loves you and cares for you. Receive the spiritual gift of sustenance as you feast on God in prayer.
Meditation Focus: For forty days he was tempted…
I was reflecting this week on the importance of the biblical number of forty. This is a time of refinement, often accompanied by strain or struggle. Whether it is 40 days of fasting or 40 years of wandering around, these experiences are used by God to grow his servants into maturity. I began to think about what was so significant about the number itself, and then it hit me: full-term human gestation is 40 weeks. Just as God uses the womb to prepare us for full human flourishing, the wilderness acts as a womb to prepare us for full spiritual flourishing. This Lenten season, take some intentional moments to picture yourself within a spiritual womb. Imagine God cradling you within the womb of the Holy Spirit. Notice your umbilical connection to the God of all life. What strength flows from God into you today? What is God doing within and for you as a preparation for new birth? Perhaps just imagine yourself resting in the womb, receiving nourishment from God. Carry this image with you throughout the season.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How have I been tempted?
- How have I responded to temptation?
- In what ways does Scripture address the temptations and struggles I have experienced?
- What priority have I given to the Word of God in my day/week?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Consider what your Lenten fast will be and commit to it for the next seven weeks. Our Lenten fasts should be focused on giving up those things that distract us from following God fully. We lay down certain practices and attitudes in Lent so that we can pick up the cross and follow Jesus. What gets in the way of following Jesus or bearing your cross? Whatever it is, set it aside for this season and receive a renewed spirit of focus and dedication to God.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, lead us to the cross.