We all want God’s best for our lives. You might be seeking a promotion, praying for a spouse, or even desiring more influence in the ministry. There’s nothing wrong with wanting God’s best. However, you must realize that nothing of eternal significance comes without a price. God will allow the devil to bring tests into your life to “prove by fire” that your faith is genuine. The testing is designed to bring you into greater maturity by revealing your motives, character and reliance on God. To get to the next level, you must pass three specific tests.
As our high priest, Jesus was not exempt from the same tests we experience today. After His extraordinary baptism in the Jordan River, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness “to be tempted” by the devil. Jesus had to overcome the same tests that Adam and Eve failed thousands of years prior. The wilderness temptations took place immediately after the start of His public ministry. Jesus was required to prove by fire that He was worthy of the responsibility of the mission.
The Apostle John writes, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). It’s these three categories of testing that Satan uses to delay or derail believers from getting to the next level in their lives. Jesus was tested in the same way and yet He never sinned. As believers, however, we will not pass every test the first time, so we must learn from our mistakes. If you want God’s best for your life, you can’t just go to the next level, you must grow to the next level.
1) Lust of the Flesh: Pass the Test of Your Desires Dictating Your Destiny
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:1-3).
The lust of the flesh are temptations that appeal to our appetites, cravings and desires. In our physical bodies we are subject to certain urges that our flesh wants, such as sex, food and lashing out when we feel angry. We also have thinking patterns and old coping mechanisms that can lead to failure. The devil knows we have these urges. He leverages them in the form of temptations, many that lead to life-altering bondage. The devil tried to capitalize on Jesus’ hunger while fasting in the wilderness by asking Him to turn stones into bread—thereby disobeying the Father.
In the same way, the devil tempts believers to disobey God in ways that may not seem to matter. After all, what’s the point of starving to death in the wilderness, Jesus? Just turn the stones into bread and satisfy the cravings of your flesh. The Apostle Paul reminds believers that in our flesh nothing good dwells. Your flesh is not motivated by the purposes of God. Therefore, we must learn to live by the Spirit and not follow the dictates of the flesh. Until that happens, you will not graduate to the next level in your life.
Jesus answered the devil, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4).
2) Lust of the Eyes: Pass the Test of Your Fantasy Frustrating Your Focus
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
The lust of the eyes are temptations that manifest when we focus on the wrong things. The world is full of riches, possessions and lifestyles that have strong temporal appeal. We are bombarded with advertisements, billboards and social media posts that enter our consciousness through the eyes. If we keep looking at the wrong things, the desire to accumulate those things and covet what does not belong to us will grow in intensity. The devil showed Jesus the splendor of worldly kingdoms so that He might desire what the world can offer more than God’s purpose.
In the same way, the devil tempts believers to focus on things that will ultimately lead to failure. It happened to King David when he spent too much time watching Bathsheba bathe on her rooftop. It happened to Eve when she saw that the fruit would taste good. The more we focus on something, the larger it becomes. We must learn to protect what we choose to see so that we don’t develop fantasies that keep us from focusing on Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:10).
3) Pride of Life: Pass the Test of Your Pride Poisoning Your Position
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:5-6).
The pride of life are temptations that manifest when we desire superiority and want to look good to others. People who succumb to this desire often use deceit to posture themselves above others. They use character assignation and gossip to push those they perceive as threats down. King David had a son called Absalom who stole the affection of the people and tried to unseat the rightful king, his own father. His insatiable desire for power and glory opposed God’s plan, and destruction came upon him. Similarly, the devil wanted Jesus to throw Himself down and force God to bring Him safely to the ground, creating a miraculous display of glory for the public to see.
The devil tempts believers to miss God’s best by distorting motives and provoking our egos with the promise of glory. This is the same temptation that caused Satan to rebel against God and be cast to the earth. Instead of trusting God’s plan, the pride of life will lead people to poison their future and derail what God could have done in their lives. Scripture reminds us that pride goes before a fall, so it’s in our best interest to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God. It’s through humility that God will exalt believers into greater levels of influence.
Jesus responded to the devil, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7).
You Can Pass the Test With God’s Help
If you’re struggling to pass a test (or many tests), perhaps it’s time to surrender. You weren’t meant to live the Christian life on your own strength. It’s time to take every struggle to the Lord and trust Him to help you overcome. Take your addictions, burdens and failures to God. He wants the best for you and will not let you down.
Consider this your invitation to grow to the next level in your life.