It Will be Tempting for Sure, Part 3
Any temptation God permits is ordered in some way to our spiritual advantage. He clearly sees the value of what these extract from us, although we usually do not sense the profit amidst the heat of the battle, especially if we succumb. But even if that happens, our struggles can all work together for the good.
We should always be grateful that God has taken notice and visited us with an occasion to prove ourselves – which often comes by way of picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and drawing inspiration from the Man on the Cross so as to merit reward from God.
The devil wants us off the path to sanctity, he wants us in hell, and he is relentless in his pursuit.
But he cannot stand humility either, and so for those who prove themselves more resilient against his attacks, he adjusts his strategies so that temptation either emboldens or discourages us: “I am too good to be tempted in such a shameful way, especially after having fought for so long,” we may say on one hand. Or “I can never overcome this, I always end up falling even after a few victories, so what use is there in trying?” on the other.
Our Lord willed to undergo temptation – to subject Himself to suggestions of evil – so we can learn that valuable lesson in perseverance.
Since the servant cannot be greater than the master, the temptations Christ endured cover the entire spectrum of whatever can get thrown our way. True, we meet with these internally also, but that makes no difference.
The first temptation – turning stones into bread – involves all the material comforts of the body. The second – throwing Himself off the cliff – involves whatever entices us to vainglory. The third – bowing down before him – involves whatever entices us to abandon the Faith, which tend to be the most painful of temptations because they are of a higher order, involving darkness of mind and coldness of heart; it is obvious why the devil would prize these victories the most.
As Christ dismisses these suggestions, He gives us the truth and reality needed to assert (again and again) against the tempting so as to prove ourselves, by the grace of God.
We don’t live by bread alone: the needs of the body, though important, are subordinate to the needs of the soul.
We shall not tempt God: all our talents, however few or many we have, are gifts from God, to be put in service either directly or indirectly for His glory, and for that reason none of us are indispensable
We shall only serve the Lord our God: it is God who determines truth and falsity, good and evil, not us.
At the end of the day, assuming we are not walking into them or persisting in sin, if we are encountering temptations, then it is usually a sign of progress, as God tries those whom He loves. If there was a better way to get the results He wants, He would use it. But as He desires that we take responsibility in our salvation, and cooperate with Him, so He then expects that we employ well the Sacraments He provides, together with humble prayer and penance in order to share the joy of His final victory over sin and the devil.
So be sure to thank Him for every victory gained, for it is His work, through His grace, in us.
If temptations annoy us, let them serve to make us humble rather than proud; may they make us confide more in God than in ourselves; may they make us more sympathetic towards the mistakes and weakness of others; and may they spur us on towards heaven. Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith works patience…. Blessed is the man that endures temptation, for when he has been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which God has promised to them that love Him (Jas. 1:2, 12).
Sweet victory first requires the bitter battle. But do we not have a guarantee of victory if we would only trust that God is eternally qualified for the job He has, and that He is absolutely competent to give us a test we are capable of passing?
February 26, 2021