temptation

Ephialtes

300

So, if you know me, you that one of my absolutely favorite movies of all times, though it is rated R, is 300. If you have seen it, I don’t need to explain why; if you haven’t seen it, I won’t explain, just rent it and you will understand the greatness of this movie. There are amazing and dynamic characters and so many great one-liners, and truth be told, I considered it before, but not until I last watched it that I finally was able to put thoughts together to write.

With all that being said, it is one specific character that caught my attention, whose story reflects what I attempt to share as I write. Ephialtes. He was a deformed Spartan whose hearts desire was to fight like his father, however when he approached King Leonidas, Leonidas respectfully denied, yet gave him another option to aid in the battle for freedom, which Ephialtes did not like. Thus, he betrayed his allegiance and long story short went to the enemy’s camp, Xerxes, god-king of Persia, to get the “honor” he wanted.

It made me think, so often we have in mind what we want to do solely on the culture around us; we want to fit in. However, God tells us no, we get upset, frustrated, and tend to do stupid things. However, like Leonidas, God will tell us or show us where how He can best use us, highlighting our strengths, but because sometimes it is too “small of a task” we take things into our own hands, we don’t like the background, we want to be in the front. The problem is that these “big tasks” can’t function, let alone succeed without those behind the scenes, those bandaging the wounded and giving them water or collecting dead bodies. Just like a body, every enzyme not seen with the naked eye is significant, and without it we would falter gravely. Ephialtes was blinded to this by his pride. As a result, he did the worse possible thing.

He went to Xerxes, asking for the same thing as Leonidas, and like Satan, Xerxes played to his pleasures and stroked his ego, and all he had to do was kneel, the exact same way that Devil tempted Jesus. This kneeling was not out of reverence or love, but of greed, arrogance, and manipulation. The Devil comes the same way, as an angel of light, appealing to our desires and pride, but it is not in God’s will or timing, thus we need to run far from it. Like Xerxes, the only thing Satan has in mind is destruction, giving in to those temptations is what damages our relationship with God, families, reputation, honor, and testimony. The problem is that we want when we want it how we want it.

If you look back in the conversation Ephialtes had with King Leonidas, you notice that he asked him to stand. That is so profound to me, because God has called us to stand, to be strong in Him and confident to face whatever Hell has to throw at us, trusting in His power and love, His mercy and grace, His provision and protection. Kneeling before Him and worship is a given, but it’s a choice we make on our own; those under Leonidas’ rule gladly knelt before him out of respect and a genuine love for him, Xerxes on the other hand, if not coerced, they just did so out of duty and to keep “getting.” Like the Devil, Xerxes just gave him what he wanted so he could get what he wanted, not because he actually cared, but he wanted to destroy the other kingdom.

So many get caught in that web and we miss the great opportunity that God has for us in serving Him in a way that brings out the best in us; we want someone else’s gift and hinder God from using us and Him shining through us. Like God sees in us, Leonidas saw the best in Ephialtes and catered toward his strength; like Satan does to us, Xerxes saw the worse in Ephialtes and played to his weakness. It wasn’t until he sees Leonidas again face-to-face that he realizes how completely wrong he was, just through Leonidas’ compassion; he still blessed Leonidas. In the same way whenever we come back to the loving arms of our King, His arms are open and He still desires to bless us, even though it was our betrayal that lead Him to a glorious death on the as was Leonidas. As well, pleasure and satisfaction only lasts temporarily when Satan gives it to you, operating outside of purpose and your function, and the aftermath is destruction, brokenness, emptiness, ineffectiveness, and guilt.

Being you for a purpose is accepting and embracing the strengths God has given you, not being prideful or jealous of other people’s gifts. God already knows how He can and wants to use you, and in whatever way, big or small, it will bring glory and you will shine in your differences, so don’t try to blend in; God doesn’t like to use blenders. God wants the best for us, and He truly cares and sees the best in us, even when we don’t; He knows how we can be most effective for His kingdom. He does not try to manipulate us or have impure motives. Trust the wisdom and knowledge of God, don’t do as Ephialtes did and compromise who you are and minimize who you were created to be because things don’t go your way and or God doesn’t do as you wanted Him to. Our king, like Leonidas, has been doing this for a while and has a pretty good track record, so I think He knows what He is doing. Just trust His judgment.

Be you for a purpose, not only yours, but other people’s freedom depends on it.

Temptation

unbearableSo 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except which is common to man; but God who is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you will be able to bear it.”

I actually heard Tony Evans speak on it not long ago. Long story short, this verse is used too often the wrong way. When people normally go through various trials or hardships, they quote this verse as motivation that they can get through. In a sense that’s good. Although, I think what people are missing is the word “temptation.” Paul specifically says that we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear. That is to say that whatever the Devil could ever use to tempt you, there will never be a situation so compromising that you would not be able to resist the attempt of the enemy. That’s it. Still, if you are truly being tempted, you can overcome rather than succumb into falling into sin.

Nonetheless, in most cases when it is used, it’s as if life will never get so bad that we can’t bear it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. How many times have you or someone you know been in a situation that you honestly could say was unbearable, and this has nothing to do with being tempted. Just think of characters in the Bible like Job (Job 3:21; 6:9; 7:15-16), he lost everything and everyone in his life, apart from his friends, most of which didn’t help the situation at all. Do you think he could bear it? Or Jeremiah he almost lost in (Jeremiah 20), or Moses (Numbers 20) when he lost his cool dealing with the Israelites, or Paul (2 Corinthians 11:22-29; 12:7-8), or Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), or even Jesus (Luke 22:42). All these were great men of God, but they couldn’t handle it. So why should we think we will go through life with just situations that we can bear?

The truth of the matter, when we are put in those situations, God shows His awesome power and glory, and grace and mercy all the more. When we get to those unbearable times in life, He wants to prove that He can. As we face those situations, God’s purpose is to show us how much we truly need Him; He never meant for you to bear the unbearable alone (Matthew 11:28; 2 Corinthians 12:9). So I encourage you, if you are going through something you can’t bear, that’s okay. Why? God can, so lean on Him, cry out to Him, and hold on to Him, because your life hear and after depends on Him.

Desire

So yesterday, I went to church and the message was on the story of the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4). I loved most how Jesus went through this to prove his humanity, and desiring to show us that we can live victoriously, even in the face of dire trials and temptation. However, the catch is being full of the Spirit. Even as Christians, we still go through things, we still are put in adverse situations, even though it may not be out fault. Yet, this story proves that we can be conquerors.

The particular temptation we looked at in the sermon yesterday, was the first, the personal temptation, of Jesus in the wilderness. Satan had probed Jesus to turn the stone into bread, being as though Jesus was hungry from not eating 40 days. Still, Jesus said no and replied “it is written…” The sin in this situation wasn’t turning stone into bread; he hadn’t eaten in so long and it can be assumed he desired to eat. However, being in a close relationship was God, he knew it was not God’s timing, and blatantly going against God’s timing is the sin. Our flesh is a monster, still, our God is greater and we can fight the temptation of self, of the flesh, no matter how practical the temptation may be, and lets be honest sometimes we want it bad, real bad…but just as Jesus was in the wilderness, we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37).

Furthermore, it was a great reminder to me that life is full of desires and things we want, and they aren’t all bad or sinful. However, we have to understand that God has a time for everything. It gets hard to wait, especially when you have your mind made up and planned the who, what, when, where, and how. Still, as it is written, we may have our own plans, but God orders our steps and it is His purpose that will prevail and it will always be greater than expected  (Prov 16:9, 19:21). He knows the desires of our hearts, and will give them to us (Ps 37:4). Yet, we must delight in Him and His will first, so that we can know His voice when the answer is yes, no, or wait. Your desire may in fact be good, but I pose the question, is the timing bad? That’s answer can only come from God Himself, so don’t get discouraged. He wants to bless you, and truth be told, He already has. Talk to Him…What is He saying…to you?…