Proving Ground

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 3:1-4:11

He comes to the river that day and His cousin, who wants to worship Him, baptizes Him instead. John’s hands of flesh bear God down into the water, down into death—a foreshadowing. And as Jesus rises, the Spirit descends visibly, the voice of God speaks audibly. “This is My Son, with whom I am well pleased.” A public announcement. It’s time.

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Let’s read that again. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

On purpose. He goes on purpose to be tempted by Satan. He doesn’t go to pray; He doesn’t go to worship God; He doesn’t go to prepare for ministry, though all those things do happen. He goes to be tested. He goes to face His enemy. 

Do you see Him, walking alone in the desert sun? Do you see His head bowed, His heart writhing? Do you feel His hunger as He forgoes everything but prayer? 

Satan doesn’t tempt Him only through those three famous exchanges in Matthew 4. Luke tells us Satan torments Jesus for forty days straight (Luke 4:2). Satan, you see, knows what Jesus is up against. He knows the human heart. He has seen, too, the heart of God. Satan may not know the whole plan, but He sees that sin will break Jesus. He understands the agony Jesus is walking into, and He takes full advantage. 


Do You really want to do this? Is this really the only way? 

They won’t believe You. They won’t listen to You. They will hate You. They will break Your heart every day. 

They bear only their own pain, but You will bear all of it. You will see all of it. 

They will kill You. You know that. I will make sure of it. 

You will suffer as no man has suffered. And You will be alone. 

Do You hear Jesus weeping, knowing what He faces, knowing the love He bears the broken world? Do You hear Him crying to the Father? He fasts because He knows that only His Father has what He needs in these days. 

He wants only God.

Forty days in the wilderness. Forty days of testing and preparation. Forty days of hunger and thirst, heat and cold, dirt and sky and loneliness. This is the proving ground, where God so often gets ready to do something new, something that will change the world. 

Are you in the wilderness? What is the enemy whispering to you? What pain are you facing? Do you fear the path ahead? Maybe the enemy is coming after you because he knows God’s about to do something amazing.

Stop a moment. Breathe deep. Do you see Jesus? He’s there. With you. 

Take heart. He went before us so we wouldn’t have to go alone. He knows what the enemy doesn’t know, that the greater the pain, the more deeply God meets us. The more we hunger, the more we experience Him. The end of the path is triumph. 

The enemy is already defeated. He knows this, but he doesn’t want you to know it. You don’t need to fear the wilderness or anything that comes after it. Draw near to God as Jesus did. Remove the distractions. Go beyond the whispers of the enemy and into the words of His promises. 

If you let Him, He might just prepare you for something new. Something that will change your world.

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