As we continue through the gospels, we read that after Jesus was baptized, He decided to go out to the desert to spend some time with God. Personally, if the heavens talked and doves landed on me while I was being baptized, I would be looking for answers, too. Jesus headed out for some time of prayer and fasting, trying to understand what this ministry that God has put on Him. However, as much as Jesus went to the desert in search of answers, God was also leading Him to the desert for a reason. 3 of the 4 gospels record that Jesus was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘led by the Spirit’ to go into the wilderness so that He could be tempted by the enemy.

I feel it is necessary to stop here and explain the difference between when the ‘Spirit leads us into temptation’ and when ‘we run into temptation.’ When we put ourselves into temptations, usually it is because we are NOT following the Holy Spirit’s prompting in our lives. There is no excuses or justifying sin here, because there is no sin. The Holy Spirit was not putting Jesus in a compromised position to allow Him to sin, but was rather proving (to Jesus Himself, to the angels nearby and to the enemy) who Jesus was. When you look at Matthew and Luke, they both say that Jesus had been fasting and praying and alone with God for 40 days and 40 nights when the enemy was allowed to offer Him 3 times when He could have walked away from God’s will for His life. Jesus is completely in line with God’s will here, so exactly what was the reason for the temptations? In this article, we will look at 4 ways the Holy Spirit helps us during periods of temptation…

  1. Temptation helps us remember our identity. For each of the temptations, the enemy starts the taunting with, ‘if you are the Son of God…’ If you heard God’s voice when you were baptized, if you have a calling on your life, if you are something special, if you are going to make a difference. It’s amazing to me how often the enemy attacks me by causing me to doubt who I am in Christ or what my value is to God. The other 50% of the time, I am asked if God has really put a calling on my life, just like he did to Jesus here by taunting Him by asking Him, ‘are you truly the Son of God?’ You can clearly see the Holy Spirit’s working for Jesus here, because Jesus is so strong in His identity, that He never answers the taunting of His calling. Jesus said that part of the Holy Spirit’s job is to be an Encourager and a Counselor to us (John 16:7). When the enemy is whispering doubts and discouragement to you, the Holy Spirit is right there reminding you of truth that you have read from the Bible. If you are living a Spirit-filled life, the temptation to make you question your value or your calling will be turned into a victorious shout of faith, because the Holy Spirit will give you promises about your identity to claim and believe.
  2. Temptations allows the Holy Spirit to show us truth. Jesus, during His ministry said that part of the Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal truth and that the truth He brings comes straight from the throne of God (John 14:16-17 & 26). During Jesus’ temptations, the Holy Spirit was right there, helping interrupt the lies from the enemy for what they were. Jesus never struggled to know the difference from truth and lies, because He was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Too many times, a lie offered by the enemy is able to undo our faith, because we are not walking close enough to the Holy Spirit to hear His interpretations of what is running through our heads. The enemy will try to get us to believe half truths about God or ourselves, knowing that we can finish growing the seed of doubt into a full forest that can choke out our faith. For instance, many times when I am not close to God, I have had to spend over an hour in distress and fear just to figure out if my insecurities were truly me or from the enemy. However, as I am more consistent in keeping my time with God, I can see those lies immediately and can tell the enemy (as Jesus did) to leave me alone, because I know what the Holy Spirit has shown me as truth.
  3. Temptations show us Scriptural truths. Notice here that the enemy is tempting Jesus by QUOTING SCRIPTURE! The enemy is not ignorant about what Christians believe, about the salvation plan or even that they are defeated. Notice in Matthew 4:6 the enemy says, “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” If Jesus had not spent time in prayer and fasting, the enemy could have persuaded Him that this verse said He could basically commit suicide and still be protected from death. The correct interpretation of this verse is that angel are sent to ministry to us when we don’t have the strength to carry on (as seen a few verses later at the end of the temptations). The enemy would like to take verses out of context or to interrupt them as a challenge for who God really is. This specific temptation is bringing into question God’s character. which is why Jesus answered with, ‘Do not tempt God,’ Jesus knew that the enemy was tempting God to proof who He was, so Jesus just answered the challenge with trust in God’s sovereignty. With the Holy Spirit filling Jesus’ and our mind, we will easily know when we are getting fed a challenge against scripture or if it is truth from God that we are hearing.
  4. Temptations are meant to teach us something. I truly do not believe that we go through hard times without a reason, so, what would be a Biblical reason for why Jesus was allowed to go through this hard time? Remember that Jesus had been seeking God for 40 days and nights at this point, so why was He put in a situation where there seems to be no hope or reason to what God is doing? I believe that He was there to learn something, that the Holy Spirit needed to teach Him something. The very first blog I wrote for Outlook was on Psalm 107, where it says that God specifically leads people into ‘desert times,’ so that they will find their trust in God and be able to lean completely on Him. Jesus’ temptation was no different. The Holy Spirit was trying get Him to the point where Jesus would say, “I will not worship, bow down, turn aside or need anything but God and God alone. I will not worship my needs, my hunger, my pride, my doubts, my power, my potential or anything else that can be thrown at me!” At the moment when He made the declaration for God, the enemy left Him. This was the moment that the Holy Spirit had led Him to the desert for – to watch Him grow in His faith until Jesus could stand against EVERYTHING in the world that the enemy could use and this is the same reason God will lead us into temptation. We are not tempted to fail, we are tempted so that we can find our fighting stance for God and we (and the enemy) will finally know where our allegiance stands.

In closing, remember that Jesus did win against the enemy’s attacks. He spent time with God, He was praying and fasting, He knew the Scriptures by heart. The Holy Spirit had filled Him and led Him into this situation, and the enemy was waiting for Him. It was not an easy situation, but it was right where He needed to be at. It was at the end of this temptation that Jesus began His ministry. If you will allow them, temptations and trials will propel you into a new understanding of God that you never knew before. You can’t expect to do great things for God if your faith has not been tested greatly. When the Holy Spirit leads you into temptation, it is for the ‘forging of your faith,’ so that you are found to be unbreakable (1 Peter 1:7). If you are in temptations right now, lean into God with prayer and fasting and Bible study, until you can finally know that the Holy Spirit is your Comforter, Encourager, Helper and Teacher as Jesus said He would be to us.