“I used to have such a passion to read and study God’s word. Suddenly, that passion is gone. It is difficult for me to even pick up my Bible. What has happened?”
“I used to have such a close relationship with the Lord. I haven’t heard from Him in a long time. I am no longer interested in reading the Bible or praying. I don’t even want to go to church.”
“I’ve fallen into sin – big sin, after all these years of walking with the Lord. I feel so far away from Him. What has happened to me?”
“It’s like someone slammed a door in my face. I no longer get anything out of reading my Bible, and I don’t hear from the Lord. I feel like all my prayers go unanswered, I don’t even feel like praying.”
For John of the Cross it was a Dark Night of the Soul. For Some it is a Crisis of Faith. Most Evangelicals refer to it as a Desert experience. Some hearing this know exactly what I am talking about-and others can’t believe that any good Christians would ever has such a doubt.
Make no mistake—if you continue to serve God-you will go through a period of emptiness before God. You can be scared of these times or you can recognize them for what they are-periods of growth. They are those times when we learn to depend on God. They become seasons when we experience God as much through our emptiness and his apparent absence as we do during times of refreshing and God’s nearness.
How is that possible? Its possible because we learn to trust God rather than our feelings. There is only one way that our faith can mature to the point of full reliance of God. We have to experience need rather than emotion. We have to long for God rather than rest in his rich presence. We need this kind of love for God because we live in a world that still separates us from him in part. We need this kind of faith because we still live in a world that is often controlled by the demonic and the spiritual forces opposed to God’s work.
We need to learn to trust God because our feelings, our passions, and our hungers lie to us. Only God’s voice can tell us truth and lead us through the darkness of this present world. Did Jesus go through the desert? Yes!
Immediately following his baptism-he was driven by the Spirit into the desert. Where:
Matthew 4:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
God leads us, at times to places we are reluctant to go. Very few will choose struggle and pain. But these are the things that God uses to grow us. Without trial-there will be no maturity in the faith. This is one of the costs of discipleship.
From this account we learn that Jesus has fasted. He has taken his body to the limits of human endurance. A human body can not go much beyond 40 days without food and live. Jesus has denied his flesh. He is most certainly weak, lonely, and vulnerable to temptation. Any of us dying of hunger and removed from all support would be emotionally and physically broken.
We learn from this passage that the devil still tempts even the son of God. Spiritually he is tested in one of his weakest moments. This seems to be the pattern too for our lives. We are often tested when we are at our weaknesses, and immediately following a spiritual victory. We tend to want to rest in our highs and resist our lows. We find ourselves, sick, or hungry, or sad—and we withdraw from God.
But Jesus did not withdraw—he leaned on the presence of his father. How did he resist the devil?
3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
The first test is one of physical desire. Jesus is terribly hungry and the devil challenges him to feed his flesh. This is a challenge in that his relationship with God is challenged, his pride is challenged, and his hunger is emphasized. Turning the stones into bread was a selfish misuse of God’s gifts. It was a miraculous way to satisfy his own desire. Satan tried to misdirect Jesus by doubting his sonship-but the real test was one of Jesus’ obedience. Was Jesus truly weak and vulnerable as any other human? Yes! He was fully man and fully God. In his humanness, he needed food. Would he misuse his power to meet his own needs?
He answered with scripture-His sustainer wasn’t food. Jesus was leaning on God the father to meet his needs. When you go through a period of emptiness and spiritual drought, remember that there is only one way to get through temptation in a weakened state-lean on God alone to provide for you.
Sometimes God doesn’t answer until just when you need it. When I was first married, there was more than one occasion when I was overwhelmed with bills. We would pray for God to take care of us and—I kid you not—A check would come in the mail for exactly the amount that we needed to pay the bills. Once down to the penny. God knows what we need, but there are times that he waits to meet our need. In learning patience, we learn to trust God and not our own wits or abilities to make due.
Wait for God to meet your needs.
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
The second test really hit Jesus with pride. If he really was the son of God-no harm would come to him. The temptation here is one trying to get Jesus to “prove himself.” Pride is an ugly thing. When you see a bully-they are usually trying to convince everyone else that they are in control of the chaos. It is hard to just trust God to take care of you when everything else seems to be falling apart. The devil was trying to make Jesus feel small and insignificant. He was challenging his ability to prove his own worth.
I think the toughest challenges we face are those that strip away our self worth or question our integrity. That means to question how we see ourselves. We will often react very emotionally when someone does that to us. But Jesus didn’t take the bait. He responded again-don’t put the Lord your God to the test-He is claiming his own divinity here. He is God. The devil is not to put him to the test.
1. Police in Wichita, Kansas, arrested a 22-year-old man at an airport hotel after he tried to pass two (counterfeit) $16 bills.
2. A man in Johannesberg, South Africa, shot his 49-year-old friend in the face, seriously wounding him, while the two practiced shooting beer cans off each other's head.
3. A young teller was new to the job when she was approached by her first robber. Noticing that the man's grammar was not the greatest, the teller figured that the would be criminal was slightly slow. She told the robber that he had to have an account to rob a bank. Disappointed, the man left.
4. A company trying to continue its five-year perfect safety record showed its workers a film aimed at encouraging the use of safety goggles on the job. According to Industrial Machinery News, the film's depiction of gory industrial accidents was so graphic that twenty-five workers suffered minor injuries in their rush to leave the screening room. Thirteen others fainted, and one man required seven stitches after he cut his head falling off a chair while watching the film.
5. The Chico, California, City Council enacted a ban on nuclear weapons, setting a $500 fine for anyone detonating one within city limits.
6. A criminal who broke into a couple's house started to take the TV, but instead he turned it on and began to watch. He supposedly liked the program that was on and laid down on the bed. Since it was at night he was tired and fell asleep. So when the couple came home the next day they found him and called the police.
7. A bus carrying five passengers was hit by a car in St. Louis, but by the time police arrived on the scene, fourteen pedestrians had boarded the bus and had begun to complain of whiplash injuries and back pain.
8. Swedish business consultant Ulf af Trolle labored 13 years on a book about Swedish economic solutions. He took the 250-page manuscript to be copied, only to have it reduced to 50,000 strips of paper in seconds when a worker confused the copier with the shredder.
9. David Posman, 33, was arrested in Providence, Rhode Island, after knocking out an armored car driver and stealing four bags of money. Each bag contained $800 dollars. However, the bags weighed thirty pounds each since they all contained pennies. The hefty bags slowed the fleeting criminal to a sluggish stagger. Police easily ran down and arrested the suspect.
10. A convict broke out of jail in Washington D.C., then a few days later accompanied his girlfriend to her trial for robbery. At lunch, he went out for a sandwich. She needed to see him, and thus had him paged. Police officers recognized his name and arrested him as he returned to the courthouse in a car he had stolen over the lunch hour.
11. Police in Radnor, Pennsylvania, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine. The message "He's lying" was placed in the copier, and police pressed the copy button each time they thought the suspect wasn't telling the truth. Believing the "lie detector" was working, the suspect confessed.
and last but not least...
12. When two service station attendants in Ionia, Michigan, refused to hand over the cash to an intoxicated robber, the man threatened to call the police. They still refused, so the robber called the police and was arrested.
We are not to test God foolishly
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;
9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
The third test was one of greed. Jesus could be given all the wealth of this world-if he would worship satan. Stuff gets in the way. When we focus on wealth-Greed seduces us. We lose sight of God’s will and we begin to serve wealth. And no amount of it will ever be enough. Worship of anything but God is false worship. Jesus knew where his loyalties belonged. He refused to bow down to any other than the Father.
Only God is to be worshipped
Jesus met three challenges in a weak state and found the strength to resist temptation. How did he do it? He used truth to fight deception. Satan deceives God’s people with lies, greed, lust, and pride. Jesus answered with truth. He answered with the truth of scripture. The devil couldn’t argue that.
There are many times that we desire to do our own thing, depart from God’s rules, and fill our desires. God’s word should always bring us back to center. It should reveal to us where we fall short. It should light our way when no other seems clear. It should reassure us when we doubt.
How do you spot a liar?
You can start trying to figure things out by listening to the person’s voice. Does it crack or change from the normal pitch?
We’ve all seen images on television where a character experiences a change in voice tone whenever he or she is telling a lie. These examples are all accurate. Sometimes, the voice gets louder. Sometimes, it gets smaller.
Lying is not natural for us. This is why a liar, especially an inexperienced one, freezes up whenever he or she is in the middle of telling something false.
As mentioned earlier, deception detection techniques rest a lot on non-verbal cues. By being just a bit more observant, you’ll be able to decide whether what you’re hearing is the truth or not.
They say that people who are lying cannot look you straight in the eye. But what if you’re dealing with seasoned liars here? And what about introverts and extroverts?
Well, deception detection techniques will tell you to first understand what kind of person you’re dealing with. If the liar is an introvert, he or she is likely not to meet your eyes. On the other hand, if your liar is an extrovert, he or she may confidently look into your eyes more.
How do you spot a liar you can’t see?
Truth is greater than the devils lies and temptation
The primary vision God has for our lives is discipleship. We are learning to imitate Jesus. When and how do we do that? We do that significantly during our desert periods. When you feel dark and empty-remember that God is still present and begin to experience him in what you don’t feel and sense.
Remember to hang on to God in times of weakeness. Be aware of temptation when it comes and resist it with truth-gleaned from scripture.
We have been called to base our lives on the truth revealed in the Bible. Through it we meet Jesus-Through it we learn to live as he lived. We learn to follow after his dreams for us. We learn to resist sin. We learn to be made whole.