“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written,
‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ”
In difficulties, we fall back on what we know best; what we have been instructed in and trained to endure. When things are easier, it is also easier to spend more energy covering up our inconsistencies or character flaws. But when that energy must be redirected to handle some problem, or we simply get tired, we don’t have enough juice to keep the façade powered up. This is why training programs and boot camps push us so hard. Difficulty will reveal the gaps in our training. But they also push us so we can be trained in how to handle trouble when it comes again. We need to have a baseline that makes up the foundation of our character.
In Matthew 4:1-4, the Holy Spirit subjected Jesus to incredible difficulty. Not only was Jesus fasting for 40 days, but He was expressly led into a difficult place to be tempted by the tempter; the Adversary. When the critical moment arrived, and Jesus was at His weakest, He showed us his baseline.
I normally save a question like this for the end, but I want to ask it now. What is your baseline? Your foundational character? The central idea of what you believe? When everything else is stripped away from you, and you are as tired as you’ll ever be, what would come out of your mouth? What would enter your mind? What have you trained yourself to do when temptation comes? I will say that I am not what I want to be in this regard. I am thankful to God for difficulties and all the more thankful for the grace He gives when I fail them, giving me another opportunity to prepare. But that is indeed what we ought to do now. Prepare.
Jesus was already prepared. And how did he respond? “It is written.” Of all the things in His head, His baseline was God’s written words. How often do people rely on a feeling, the counsel of a friend, or even some inclination that the Holy Spirit was directing them, and not the written Scripture? And what does the Scripture say? Bread and safety do not constitute the life of the living, but “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” All creation heeds His every word! “Let there be light” and it obeyed. “Peace, be still” and it listened. Why shouldn’t we? Do we hang on His every written word like the Psalmist and the Son? If we do now, we will survive the temptation of the evil one. As it is written, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13).