This story in Matthew drops us into a time when Jesus was vulnerable (verses 1-2) and being tempted by Satan (verse 3). What we too often fail to recognize, but is apparent in this passage and others, is that our enemy knows God’s Word. He knows it and he twists it. If we don’t want to fall victim to his deception, we must know it better. In verse 6, Satan uses Psalm 91:11-12 (out of context) to tempt Jesus into choosing his plan over God’s. Jesus doesn’t even hesitate and responds with Deuteronomy 6:16 (in context). Even with that, Satan doesn’t stop, he attempts to appeal to Jesus’ pride, but that doesn’t work either. Three times Jesus responds with the Word of God and the devil finally leaves Him alone until another opportunity (Luke 4:13).
What I realized in reading this passage is that when we don’t consume the Word of God, we are spiritually starving. It is good to fast from the physical, but it is never good to fast from the spiritual. Although Jesus hadn’t had physical nourishment in 40 days, He had been spending time with His Father. We know this because He wasn’t weakened when the spiritual battle came. If you are feeling weak in your life right now, lacking the strength to keep going, I encourage you to make a list of what you’re consuming. Many doctors will advice people with certain dietary issues to keep a log of what they’re putting in their bodies as a means to try and identify what might be the source of their symptoms. If you are experiencing spiritual weakness, you can do the same. Keep a daily log for a week or two of everything you are consuming in your heart and your mind; include the quantity! Things like social media, sermons, television, podcasts, movies, news broadcasts, conversations with others (be sure to note if they are life-giving, or life-draining), God’s Word, and anything else that impacts your spiritual health. At the end of the time, calculate the amount of time spent ingesting things that sustain life and the amount of time spent consuming the spiritual “junk food” of the world. It is true on many levels that “you are what you eat!”
Any healthy diet ensures that nutrition is part of your eating plan. In the same way, we can not remove the nutritional aspects from a spiritual diet; we must continue to consume every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is our prayer time, the time we spend reading and studying Scripture, and the time we set aside to be in community with others who are on the same diet and can offer us healthy spiritual nourishment. These are the “good” foods of our spiritual sustenance. If we want to be healthier we cut out the food that isn’t life giving — refined sugar, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, fried food — we all know what they are. Well, spiritual health is similar. If you look at your “food log” you can see what things are not from “the mouth of God.” If you want to build your faith muscles so you are in better shape when the enemy comes to tempt you, then it’s time to focus on your diet. Fast from the things that weaken your spirit. The more you remove what is unhealthy and replace it with what is healthy, the quicker you will see results. Starting small is certainly a start, but how soon do you want to see growth?
There are many ways that God speaks to us today — sermon messages, worship, circumstances, people, prayer, creation — but at the heart of each of those is the Bible. We must read, study, and memorize His Word. It is not always easy, but it is necessary for us to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. In order to model our lives after Him, we must know what He looked like. In order to know what He looked like, we must study His life and we must know His Father.
- What is your spiritual BMI? How would you describe the health of your spirit self?
- Prayerfully ask God if there is anything you are consuming that is making you spiritually unhealthy. If so, make a list (even if it’s one thing!) and resolve to fast from it for a set period of time. Each day of your fast journal about that particular thing – why you feel God wants you to give it up, what impact it has had on you, the changes you see with it not being in your life, etc.
- Make a list of things you know about Jesus and another of the things you know about God’s character. When you’re done, use a resource like BibleGateway.com or the YouVersion app to see if God’s Word supports your beliefs. If you find something that is not supported by Scripture, cross it off!