Hi everyone, it’s Mick here – welcome to Friday’s Podcast at STC. This first week of a new season of Podcasts has been about ‘beginnings’. On Monday the beginning of the Jesus story as we read through his family tree culminating in the birth of Immanuel, God with us. Tuesday saw the visit of the Magi seeking ‘the one’ and then the beginning of worship as they presented their gifts.
On Wednesday, the disturbing story of the killing of the innocents by Herod reminding us that human nature is set on rebellion and that true connection with God begins with our submission to him – the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart. Yesterday, John the Baptist – begin each day being immersed, baptised in the Holy Spirt. And today, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as he is tested on the desert by the devil – battles and blessing! Our reading is Matthew 4:1-17 and you can hear it after the prayer. Our focus verse today is verse 1a: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
We read yesterday how Jesus’ ministry begins with the blessing of the Holy Spirit at his baptism but, as often happens after great blessing comes a great battle.
We read this in the opening verse of today’s reading: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus had a great test set before him; a test of his identity – ‘if you are the Son of God’ – which ultimately is a test of his relationship with his Father. ‘If you are …’ is one of the great spiritual tests or battles we often face – ‘If you are a Christian you are a superior person and better than others’ or ‘If you are always given guidance by God why do you get things wrong and fail?’ Or ‘If you are a follower of Jesus why do you get sick?’ Or ‘If you are always forgiven by Jesus it doesn’t matter what you do or how you live because he always forgives you’.
How do we respond to these tests, these ‘battles’? Jesus gives us the model here when he says ‘It is written…’ Jesus faced three great temptations; three great battles – listen to them in the reading after the prayer. His response was to turn to the word of God in the scriptures: ‘It is written …’ he said. His answers come from the book of Deuteronomy 6 – 8.The Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible and as we read, reflect upon and apply God’s word in the Bible to our lives it reveals God to us, his care and concern for us, his wisdom and guidance and most of all his love for us. As I do this, my relationship with him deepens and I experience his peace and protection in any test or battle I face. Keep listening to these Podcasts – an amazing way to get God’s word into your life!
Rick Warren is the leader of a very large church in California on the West coast of America called Saddleback Community Church. He once said that he used to think that the Christian life was a series of battles and blessings, a season of blessings followed by a season of battles – like a roller coaster! However, experience showed him otherwise – the blessings of leading an extraordinary church and being a brilliant author are balanced by the battles he and his family have faced over many years.
He now sees life as being on two tracks, like railway tracks. They run alongside each other and even in the midst of the greatest test or battle you face, there is a blessing waiting for you. Rick Warren is a great communicator with a real gift of connecting with people; he is also, very open and honest about his life. Tricia and I have had the privilege of hearing him speak live after which I spoke to him and thanked him for being so vulnerable when sharing about his life – his battles and blessings. He is also a very funny guy!
Battles and blessings … St Paul put it so well in writing to the Philippian church.
Philippians 4:6-9 NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things …. And the God of peace will be with you.
I don’t know what battles you are facing today but be assured of this, as the Holy Spirit led Jesus into and through his battle he will lead and equip you in yours. This day begin to trust Jesus deeper, begin to open your life afresh to him and ask his Holy Spirit to baptise you afresh this day because just around the bend is an amazing blessing just waiting for you!
Thank you for journeying with us in this week of ‘beginnings’ – enjoy this wonderful Friday and this coming weekend and why not share the blessing on as you pass this Podcast link on to someone else. God bless you and your family.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your Bible being my guide book in life and thank you that in the middle of the battle, there is always a blessing. Help me to see it this day, give you the glory and pass that blessing on to others. Amen.
READING: Matthew 4:1-17
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘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.”’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles –
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.’
From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’