Early on in his ministry Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. If you are familiar with the life of Jesus, you’ve probably heard this story. Here’s part of it:
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For 40 days and 40 nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” – Matthew 4:1-3.
Huh. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to test him, and that testing came to him by way of a temptation from Satan. And the way that Jesus lived through both was by a reliance on the words of God.
And one of the lessons (among many) that we can take from this scene in the life of Jesus is we should follow his example. Namely, we should also live a story-shaped life, a word-of-God-shaped life. What does that mean?
Well, I don’t think it means we should come to the Bible as merely an answer book or rule and regulation book as so many have treated it. It is God’s words to us, the words of a story. And we are meant to live out our stories in light of that story.
Which I think means we should be so familiar with the story that it becomes like a heads-up display in our brains, constantly feeding us data as we observe the world in which we live, as we go about our day, as we engage in interactions with people and all of God’s creation. It’s like this:
If I am worried or anxious, the word tells me that God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, “don’t you think he will take care of you?”; it tells me that he knows every hair on my head, and by my worry I can’t even change a hair from white to black, so my worry will not accomplish anything, it will not add a day to my life. So why worry?
If I am afraid, the word tells me, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”
If I feel burdened down by the cares of this world, the word tells me to cast my cares upon the Lord, for he cares for me.
If I am surrounded by those for whom things are hard, the word tells me to weep with those who weep.
If I find myself weeping in grief, the word comforts me, letting me know that he stores up every tear that falls from my eye in a bottle.
If I find myself wondering if God loves me, the word tells me that God so loved me that he gave his only begotten Son, and that if I believe in him, I am his, and will be forever.
Are you getting a feel for it? I have about 40 more examples like that I thought of, but this article is supposed to be around 600 words, so let me just give you nine more focused on Jesus:
If I feel lonely and alone, the word tells me that Jesus will never leave me or forsake me.
If I feel friendless, the word tells me Jesus has not only called me a servant, but his friend.
If I feel the weight of my sin, the word tells me that Jesus is my Passover lamb, who takes away my sin.
If I long to be righteous, the word tells me that Jesus died on the cross so that, in him, I might be the righteousness of God.
If I feel in danger, the word tells me Jesus is my rescuer.
If I feel I need saving, the word tells me that Jesus is my Savior.
If I feel like I owe God something, the word tells me that Jesus canceled the record of my debt when he allowed himself to be nailed to the cross;
If I am soul-thirsty, the word tells me Jesus is living water.
If I am soul-hungry, the word tells me Jesus is the bread of life.
Do you see, dear reader? Oh, do you see how to truly live? “By every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
The Rev. Matthew Molesky is head pastor at Grace Church.