“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil .... When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit …” (Luke 4:1-2 and 13-14)
Sometimes, I think we forget that Jesus wasn’t tempted with just the specific temptations recorded in the gospels. Those three trials were the culmination of over a month of hellish whispers. He was tempted continuously for forty days – Satan tried everything, the above passage notes. And in Hebrews 4:15, it affirms that Jesus was “tempted in all things.”
But the Holy Spirit brackets the temptation – Jesus was led by the Spirit into this time of testing, and he was filled with the Spirit upon his successful completion of it. And I paused to consider: does God often, or perhaps even always, allow this period of extreme temptation prior to launching a new ministry?
It does make sense. Temptation is a test – not of the mind, but of the heart. It reveals our answers to questions such as:
Do I trust God even when life seems to be falling apart?
Will I obey God even when nobody is watching?
Am I engaging in this ministry for fame and fortune, or for grace and goodness?
Do I have the determination to persevere through difficulties?
What or who am I relying on to see me through life?
If you are trying to launch a new ministry, don’t be surprised if you experience delay, doubt, temptation, trial, despair … in fact, a spiritual desert. I know what the wasteland looks like. I know it seems endless, and that you’re hungry for God, thirsty for his Spirit, longing for the touch of Jesus.
The Spirit of God may have led you to this very place, and done so for a very distinct purpose. Trust him. Persevere. Purge your life of sin. Pray without ceasing. Rely entirely upon God and his Word. When you are led out into the place of ministry, it will be “in the power of the Spirit.”