What does Thanksgiving have to do with the Temptation of Christ?
Well, maybe not much at first glance, but I keep thinking about it after the story I wrote for you last week.
When Jesus was vulnerable, alone, hungry, and tired, he fell back on his Father’s true words and wielded them against the devil’s deceptive suggestions. For Jesus, the way out of temptation and accusation was to quote God’s word to talk back to the devil.
I, on the other hand, am prone to entertain the devil’s reasonable suggestions when I’m weakened by stress or vulnerable because of insecurity.
Just give that person an angry tongue-lashing. Don’t they need to hear it from someone? If not you, then who?
The suggestion seems reasonable.
I’m supposed to speak truth. Isn’t this righteous anger?
Subtle deception always sounds reasonable. In my vulnerability and stress, I’m convinced that a tongue-lashing is exactly what the situation calls for, and instead of talking back to the devil, I end up talking back to God.
“God, make them listen to me!” Spoiler alert: It ends badly.
What if, instead of talking back to God, I used God’s words to talk back to the devil, not in a way that encourages conversation, but in a way that shuts him up. Like Jesus did.
When I’m tempted to unleash a verbal smack-down, I could refute the devil’s suggestion with God’s truth: “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires” (James 1:20, NLT).
But what happens when you can’t recall any fightin’ words like that? In the face of temptation, you try to wield “the sword of the spirit which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), but you draw a blank.
Maybe you don’t have a 40-year history of Bible reading to draw from. Maybe your memory isn’t sharp. When you open your mouth, nothing comes to mind.
In those instances, followers of Jesus have an ace in the hole. It’s called thanksgiving.
If you don’t know what words to speak in the face of accusation or temptation, start thanking God.
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” wrote the apostle Paul, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
When you’re stooping under the weight of an accusation from which Christ has already pardoned you, start thanking God. When you’re tempted to speak when you shouldn’t, thank God for one thing, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to the situation at hand. You’ll feel the grip of temptation and the roar of accusation begin to weaken.
Temptation talks us into relying on ourselves and what we can see. Accusation tells us Christ’s work on our behalf wasn’t enough. But thanksgiving reminds us that every good gift originates from our good and generous God.
Thanksgiving fixes our gaze on Jesus. When I’m looking at Jesus, that high-volume tirade I was about to deliver no longer sounds like righteous anger. It sounds like sin.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so and sought my good.” (The Complete Words of C.H. Spurgeon, Volume 41.)
God promised he would not allow us to be tempted beyond what we could stand. When we are tempted to act or believe wrongly, he promises to provide a way out. Sometimes the way out of temptation is to wield God’s words. Sometimes we wriggle out of temptation’s grip by thanking God.
Happy Thanksgiving, Friends. God is glorified by your gratitude.