Monday, July 18, 2011

Matthew 4: The Complete Sufficiency of Jesus


"It is written."

The first recorded words of Jesus' after His baptism reflect a principle we will see over and over in His ministry. He didn't come on His own agenda. He consistently reflected the heart and will of His Father.

This principle is key to understanding Jesus' ministry - but also to understanding our own. For ultimately, our goal should be the same as His: to follow where God is working, do what He is doing, and say what He is saying.

In the context of the temptations of Jesus in this chapter, these words speak of the sufficiency of God. "It is written" is in the perfect tense, meaning, "It has been written and stands written." In every case, what God said was sufficient for what Jesus faced. It was more than enough.

That's been a principle I've been (re)learning lately. I've recently faced the reality that we live in a "never enough" society. Many businesses run around the clock; the Internet has made it easily possible for ministry to do the same. It seems that from the world's perspective, no matter how much we pour out there is always the possibility for more. Most employers will not question you for working through lunches or after hours - in fact, to get ahead it's frequently expected. As a wealthy man once said when asked "How much money is enough?" - "Just a little bit more." We so easily buy into that mindset.

And yet I can't find anywhere in Scripture that testifies to the "never enough" mindset reflecting God's heart. In fact, quite the opposite - whenever God is behind something, it is always more than enough. Think with me of a few examples: Manna in the wilderness. Loaves and fishes for a crowd of thousands. 12 men chosen to "turn the world upside down". In every case, more than enough. In fact, the only time I see Him expect more is when He asks us to give Him more of ourselves - in that case, He wants ALL of us. And even that is for our good - so He can fill us with His Holy Spirit which equips us to pour out His love in our world.

"Never enough" thinking is not of God. Even when applied to "religion", its source is the world, the flesh, even satan. But when God is behind something - even natural things - it is always more than enough. The Spirit-filled life equips us for more than enough for the temptations, the trials, and the opportunities to serve that we face every day. Like Jesus, we can hold onto the truths that are written, and know that the same God who was sufficient for Jesus is more than enough for us.

Ultimately, that's the lesson for me in Jesus' temptations. The author of Hebrews says that His temptations should encourage us to draw near to God (Hebrews 4:15-16). Similarly, as we share in His sufferings we gain an authenticity in our ability to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). In the midst of it all, His Word will be more than enough for us. HE will be more than enough.

Just as Jesus left the time of temptation with intentionality and purpose - bringing light into great darkness by His presence; calling the disciples to follow Him; and holistically ministering to the physical and spiritual needs around Him - so our awareness that all God gives us is more than enough should lead us to look outward. For God doesn't ask us to solve all the problems of the world. He just asks us to yield to Him, so He can fill us with His Holy Spirit, become more than enough for all our spiritual and physical and emotional and relational needs, and with the overflow, bless a needy world, one person at a time.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 NASB) 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts. Thanks