A God-given plan for avoiding the pitfalls of power, prestige and possessions
Have you ever wondered why God the Father would allow Jesus to be tempted by the devil? In the desert? In a weakened physical state after Jesus had just spent 40 days fasting?
I believe God allowed His Son, our Savior, to endure these kinds of trials to benefit us—the people He came to renew and redeem. He knew our lives would be filled with temptation. By allowing Jesus to experience the same adversity, He gave us the preeminent model for how we can and should respond to the enemy’s lures.
The Three P’s: Power, Prestige, Possessions
Just as Satan attacked and tempted Jesus with what I call the three P’s (power, prestige, possessions), we can count on Him doing the same thing to us—repeatedly.
Power. First, the devil tempted Jesus by appealing to Him to use His power to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:3). By refusing, Jesus not only showed us how to overcome temptation, He also reassured us that He understands our struggles firsthand (Heb. 4:15). Instead of using His divine power, Jesus enlisted Scripture and rested in His Father’s power.
Don’t miss this: Jesus refused to establish His identity on the basis of what He could do. Essentially, He told Satan, “My identity is based in My Father’s power, not Mine.”
Do you base your identity in what you do? For years, Satan used this “P” on me. I thought my power—or my profession of being an NFL player—defined me, and that people would accept and like me because of what I did. If I lost my career, who would I be? I bought the lie of believing that what I did defined me as a person. The big problem is that NFL stands for “Not for Long.”
When we ground our identity in what we do, we never win. It’s bondage.
Prestige. Second, the devil tempted Jesus with prestige: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6). Jesus didn’t find His identity in opportunities to promote Himself, but in being God’s Son. Once again, He went to Scripture to deflect Satan’s appeal to prestige (v. 7).
If you haven’t already been tempted with prestige, you will. We live in an age of self-preoccupation and self-promotion. Our culture values and worships superstars. The popularity explosion of Facebook and YouTube should tell us something: People love to promote themselves. Conversely, Jesus valued humility and called His followers to be servants (John 13:1-17).
Possessions. The third temptation was possessions—probably the No. 1 scheme Satan uses to shipwreck the common man. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-9). But Jesus, once again secure and grounded in His identity as God’s Son, refused to find His identity in possessions. He crushed Satan once again, using Scripture (v. 10).
Every advertisement or commercial screams, “Buy me and you’ll be better.” Granted, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things. But when things have you or when you find your identity in what you possess, something has gone terribly wrong.
Strength Training in the Wilderness
Jesus knew His identity was secure and anchored as God’s Son. By refusing to find His identity in power, prestige or possessions, He resisted (I like to think He drop-kicked) the devil. Because we are God’s sons and daughters through our faith in Jesus (John 1:12; 1 John 3:2), we too can resist and defeat Satan’s temptations.
Take time this week to think about and ask yourself these questions:
- Is temptation playing out (or about to play out) in my life?
- How is Satan using power, prestige and possessions to pull me away from God?
- Where do I find my identity?
Each day this week, send yourself a text or email, reminding yourself that power, prestige and possessions do not define you.
Derwin Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, S.C. From 1993 to 1998, he played football for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers. Gray is the author of Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart and is a highly sought-after communicator. For more information, go to tc521.org.