Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said in reply, “It is written You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hand they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.
Most atheists I’ve met, of course, insist that they believe there is no God. But, if you believe in God, they are very quick to tell you what you’re supposed to believe about God and how you’re supposed to act because you believe in God. “If you believe in God, then …” Or, “If God exists, then …” This is not a rational argument. It is an argument from faith. They are claiming that, if God exists, then He must be a certain kind of God, and He must act in a certain kind of way. If He isn’t that kind of God, or if He doesn’t act in that sort of way, then He must not exist. In other words, atheists believe that, if God exists, He must be a certain sort of God, and He must act in a certain kind of way. This is an argument from faith. An example of this is the woman, who calls herself Halley the Heathen, who challenged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Catholic and paraplegic, “If your god is real, then you will be able to get out of your wheelchair right now and run a marathon.” Abbott replied, “That’s not God’s design. I’ve won races that people with legs could never run. God’s plan is bigger than walking.”
Halley the Heathen insists that, if God is real, then He must be a certain kind of God and He must act in a certain kind of way. He must be the kind of God who heals every person with a physical handicap. This is an argument from faith. This is what Halley believes about God, and insists that it’s what Abbott is supposed to believe about God. Abbott’s reply makes the point that Halley’s God is too small. God is bigger than walking.
The devil uses the same technique on Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, then …” Jesus doesn’t take the bait. He knows that God’s plan is bigger than magic tricks, and that His own mission is bigger than proving His credentials to the devil. The devil isn’t trying to prove that Jesus isn’t the Son of God. He knows He is. The devil is tempting Jesus to trade in the mission the Father has given Him for another mission, a much smaller one, a mission of worldly glory, honor, or power.
We each face that same temptation to trade in what God has called us to for a smaller mission, a smaller purpose. St. Irenaeus of Lyon, the newest Doctor of the Church, once said, “The glory of God is man, fully human, fully alive!” That is who we are called to be. Fully human. Fully alive. 2 Peter 1:4 says that we are to share in the divine nature. Imagine that! We mere mortals, broken and weak, are nevertheless called by God, redeemed by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to share in God’s own nature.
But the devil tempts us to a much smaller mission, a much smaller purpose. He wants us to become less than what we are called to be by God. He wants us to settle for less by tricking us into thinking he’s offering us more. He’s offering magical powers, worldly kingdoms, the personal care of angels. But what does that compare to the fullness of life? What does that compare to sharing in God’s nature? On the surface, and at the moment, when we’re tired or hungry, it seems a lot. But if we take time to sit back, pray and think about it, it’s nothing. It’s all hot air, and even less than hot air. It’s smoke and mirrors, magic tricks meant to dazzle the eyes with nothing of substance behind them.
How do we resist these temptations? Jesus turned to the Word of God, the promises of God. Oh, yes, when the devil made note of this, he tried to turn it back on Jesus, using the Word of God against Him. But Jesus knows who He is, and He knows the truth of the Word (it’s His Word, after all!). He wouldn’t fall even for this trick. No. He relied on the Word of God, on the promises of God. The devil had no answer for this, so he left Jesus … but only for a time. We know he’ll be back. When we resist him, it’s certain that he’ll be back. So, strengthen your heart, your mind, and your will against the tricks of the devil. Know who you are in the eyes of God. Know the Word of God and the promises of God. When the devil comes back, he won’t stand a chance.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.