Mission Devotional - February 23, 2016

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to recognize the voice of temptation in our lives, no matter how subtle it may be. And give us the wisdom and the strength to stand in the power of your Word and your Spirit against the lies of the enemy. In your name and by your power we pray. Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 4:5-7

Journal: Where do you have a spirit of demandingness? What is it doing within you? How are you putting God to the test these days, the same way the Israelites did at Massah? How are the words of Jesus for you today?

Reflection: I wonder if the second temptation that confronted Jesus in the desert had to do with something I like to call demandingness. The backstory here is that the Israelites had put the Lord their God to the test at Massah (Exodus 17:3) - and not in a positive way, I might add. In fact, the way they put him to the test at Massah is referred to numerous times in the scriptures as something not to do. They were thirsty and demanded that God provide for them. And not only did they demand it, but they also quarreled and tested and grumbled. It was not a pretty sight. They had a particular idea of how and when God should show up for them, and they didn't mind telling him about it. In fact, we are told that God disliked their attitude so much that he actually named the place where this this event occurred Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling), so that anytime the encounter was remembered, this particular attitude would be on display (Exodus 17:7). It seems that a spirit of demandingness is something that God doesn't take kindly to.

So what in the world does that have to do with the second temptation presented to Jesus in the desert? Well, it would seem that this testing of God is at the root of this temptation as well. It is the temptation to try and force God's hand, to make him act as we please. "Throw yourself off the temple and force God's hand," he seems to be saying. "Make him operate by your agenda. Force him to intervene on your behalf." But, once again, Jesus knew better. "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test," he replied, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16. But he didn't finish the quote, which states, "...as you did at Massah." That is, when you quarreled and tested and grumbled. Jesus obviously knew God's heart. He knew that an attitude of demandingness and manipulation were two things that God would not stand for. So Jesus would have none of it. He entrusted himself completely to God's care and God's agenda.

How does this temptation play out for us? I guess the truth is that it plays out a little differently for each of us. In order to see the way it plays out for you, ask yourself, "What do I do when things don't go my way? What do I do when I experience suffering, pain, or disappointment? How do I deal with it? What does it do in me? Do I get angry, or blame, or accuse? Do I try harder, or perform, or try to butter God up? Or do I quarrel and test and grumble?" I don't know about you, but I tend to do all of the above. All in a feeble attempt to get my way, to get God to act the way I want him to. And when our feelings are hurt, or our demands are unmet, or we are disappointed that things aren't going the way we had dreamed or planned or hoped, we immediately ask why. We immediately accuse God of mismanagement. We begin to doubt the goodness of God's heart. Which, in turn, causes us to turn on him just like the Israelites did. We grumble and complain and quarrel, or we sulk and whine and pout. We withdraw. We distance ourselves from God. Oh it can be very subtle, but it is still there. And it can even appear to us as if God is the one who is absent, but we are in fact the ones who have moved. And until the root issues of our disappointment are identified, exposed, and wrestled with, there can never be any hope for the intimacy with God that we most deeply long for.

So help us, Lord Jesus. Help us to see this temptation for what it is. Help us to be attentive to all of the ways we are tempted to believe that you do not really care for us. Help us to recognize the ways in which we are demanding and manipulative of you. Give us the grace and the strength and the wisdom to respond to these temptations as you did. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Kenton Wood serves in Guadalajara, Mexico as a church planter. Pray today for Kenton who oversees a mother church that has six services on Sunday. Pray also for the Purépecha Indians in the nearby state of Michoacan that they may be reached with the gospel.

Old North Abbey is an Anglican church plant in Knoxville meets for worship on Sunday mornings in the Chapel at First Presbyterian Church, 620 State St. The church seeks to be a part of the community revitalization and restoration efforts as well as ministering to the deep needs of those living in that area. They have created Abbey Fields, a two-acre urban farm dedicated to rebuilding vacant or blighted green spaces for agriculture use. Pray today for this church as they seek to reach their community with the gospel.

Closing Prayer: Help us, Lord Jesus. Help us to see temptation for what it is. Help us to be attentive to all of the ways we are tempted to believe that you do not really care for us. Help us to recognize the ways in which we are demanding and manipulative of you. Give us the grace and the strength and the wisdom to respond to these temptations as you did. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Amen.