No. 71 - 18th February 2018

Last Wednesday was not just St Valentine’s Day, it was also the start of Lent. I would imagine most people think of Lent as a time for giving up some luxury that they really enjoy.  Chocolate or biscuits or something like that.  Usually something that’s not very good for you.  However, that’s a very pale reflection of the original concept.  The 40 days of Lent that lead up to Easter are supposed to be a reminder of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness without eating anything at all.  He had just been baptised and we’re told that the Spirit of God led him out into the desert to be tempted by the Devil.  We’re not told any more than that, but we do know that he would often spend the whole night up in the hills, praying to his Father before he had a big decision to make.  Well, this time in the wilderness came just before he launched his whole public ministry.  So I imagine that was very much on his mind and he wanted to know what his strategy was going to be.

Think of it.  He’s been out there for forty days without food, and now he’s feeling very hungry.  Around him on the ground are lots of stones, which to his mind, look like little round loaves of bread.  If he really is the Son of God, it would be so easy to turn those stones into bread and just relieve this desperate hunger.  In fact, if he’s the Son of God he could feed the whole world like that and win them over to God.  Give them what they want and they’ll follow him anywhere.  Suddenly Jesus realises what is happening to him.  This is no strategy.  This is nothing less than the devil himself putting notions into his head.  The very idea that satisfying someone’s appetite is going to solve all their problems, is ludicrous.  And yet today’s advertising is full of it.  I get a barrage of junk email every day trying to persuade me to fulfil all my desires, to their financial benefit of course.

Jesus’ reaction to this rather unsubtle temptation was to quote the Old Testament at Satan.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”.  In other words, Life is not just about fulfilling my every desire and longing.  Life is about listening to God and obeying whatever He tells me to do.  That’s not intended to diminish me in any way.  God knows what I need, and He’s promised to supply all those needs if I just concentrate on what He wants.   “I know the plans I have for you,” God says, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.  Life is far more than just bread and jam.

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