One of my favorite daily activities is running with my boys–my dogs. I run on a trail on our property, so I do not use leashes and for the most part, they stick right with me. But with spring here and summer fast approaching, they like to sneak off and make trips down to swim in the creek that runs along our property–they are LABS after all! So we are attempting to break them of that habit–with TREATS!
The other day was the first attempt and it went well. I took a tiny bag of little treats and every so often said, “good boy” and gave a treat as we ran along. It certainly didn’t take too many treats for my 3-year old chocolate lab, Luke, to catch on: stay with her, get a treat, stay with her some more, get another treat. Smart dog, huh?
We had gone several laps and things were going as planned. As I slipped Luke yet another “good boy” treat, the Lord spoke to my heart, “It’d feel a lot better if he was here at your side, just for you, huh?” Wow, yup–as his owner who loves him, feeds him, runs him, takes care of him, it would mean a lot more if he just ran with me to be with me–because he loved me…NOT because I was giving him treats.
The Lord continued to speak to my heart, “do you come to me for ME or for my ‘treats’? Do you love the Giver because of my good gifts? Do you value the Creator because of my creation?” Oh my.
Satan uses this very temptation in Luke 4 while Jesus is in the wilderness. I’ll begin quoting at verse 1.
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
Let’s start with the most OBVIOUS statement from Luke in this passage: “He was hungry.” OF COURSE he was hungry! Did we really need that spelled out for us? Forty days, ate nothing. Yup, my assumption is that Jesus is starving. But that is the key! Was Jesus going to use God (His own divinity) to meet His physical needs? Could Jesus have turned stones into bread? He could have turned Satan into bread if He wanted, for cryin’ out loud!
The temptation: to love the gifts of God, more than you love God Himself. To take a good thing, and make it an ultimate thing.
Jesus’ response: Physical bread is good, but God is the bread for my soul. My soul finds its completeness in God, not in having my needs met.
This is the temptation for us as believers. To treat God like a pinata, using faith as a whacking stick–to get His ‘candy’. The truth is GOD is the candy!
Have you allowed good things–marriage, children, schooling, ministry, money, occupation, friendships–to become God things? Do you find your satisfaction in having all your emotional, relational, or physical needs met, rather than in the God of the universe? Is there something in your life that you feel like you have to have and cannot do without in order for your soul to really be alive and full?
If the Holy Spirit is convicting your heart, please confess and repent. God is wholly good and completely worthy.
In his book, Breaking the Islam Code, Dr. J.D. Greear says, “Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God.” Jesus gives the perfect example in Luke 4. Holy Spirit, give me genuine love for the Father, regardless of His treats.