Friday, October 11, 2013


I've always been amazed at that verse in Luke 4 where Jesus encountered Satan in that temptation experience in the wilderness. You remember Jesus had been forty days without food. There is no doubt that hunger was very real at the moment. You will also remember Satan said "Since you're the Son of God, [There was no doubt in his mind about that fact and it isn't the word "if" at all.] command this stone that it be made bread."

I think we are all honest enough to admit that wouldn't be a temptation to any one of us because we couldn't have done that if our very life had depended on it. But He could. After all, He was and is the Son of God. It would be important for us to remember at this point that Jesus DID NOT DO ANYTHING during His thirty-three years on earth, as the second man and last Adam, in the power or authority of His Divine nature. He willingly laid aside all that authority and lived as MAN submitted to the will and purpose of the Father. He truly WAS our stand-in. This is why in verse 4, He responded  that "it is written MAN shall not live by bread alone but by every Word of God." He was MAN submitted to doing the will of the Father.

My point really is however, did you notice that His temptation came in the arena of the greatest strength in His life. He COULD have exercised His divine authority or power, but didn't. I'm thinking that might be at least an illustration of the fact that OUR temptation comes in OUR arena of strength as well__not our weakness__who would have thought? I've aways been so sold on the idea that I've got to strengthen/guard where I'm weak because, if I don't, I'll wind up failing/falling in that area. Satan attacks me where I'm weak.

Oh really? If pride comes before a fall, and it does, then I must be proud of where I'm weak. No wait__pride is usually a possibility__ only where I think I'm pretty good. Do you suppose we completely misunderstand this thing of temptation so that we guard our weaknesses, but are vulnerable at our strengths because of the very fact that we don't think we'll fall there?

As an illustration of this might help. Think about the ministers of days past who have fallen. Would you be surprised to learn their failure came at the very point where they were strongest in their teaching or reputation. Take a Jim Baker of several years ago who could raise money out of scarecrows. His fall came because of greed and misusing money. Or a Jimmy Swaggart, who was known for condemning those who were being immoral, choosing immoral behavior himself. Remember Gordon MacDonald who wrote the finest book on marriage I have in my library and yet he failed in his marriage vow. Enough said.

By the way, I wouldn't even mention these men were their failure not public in nature. And even with that said__I do not in any way judge or condemn them__they are not my servants after all. But they are my brothers and offer some insight to this thing of being tempted at the point of our strength.

We certainly could go to those in scripture who failed as an example as well. Peter, a man of extreme courage. Remember how he charged that large group at the arrest of Jesus sword in hand and yet failed hours later losing courage at the prospect of being identified as a follower of this one called Jesus arrested and charged with blasphemy. Or Moses who was extremely obedient after being taught by his mother of God's plan for him, in choosing to suffer the reproach of Israel rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt. Yet disobediently, struck that rock the second time rather than speaking to it as commanded. Or David, a man whose passionate heart was after God, in a moment of passion, gave his heart to another.

Add all these illustrations to that Luke 4 passage and we may be getting a picture that one would be wise to ask a friend this question. "What is my greatest strength?" Then, be open to the fact it could be at this point the enemy very possibly could gain a foothold in your life.

Were you to ask that question, the answer may be..."You're strong in doctrinal purity and truth" or "You're strong in mercy" or " You're strong in the family" or "You're strong in honesty" or__you get the picture.

For the first, we would generally find them may failing because someone disagrees with a minor doctrine or someone might not accept a doctrinal truth the same way [inerrancy] and the doctrinally strong one will separate from them because of pride in their understanding or way of explaining a certain doctrinal position.

For the second, they may need to stand for a truth at some point but, because of fear of hurting some one's feelings, they capitulate.

For the third, they maybe see a son or daughter divorce or a daughter get pregnant and cannot find it in them to embrace that one in love and acceptance, for the life of them. Because it would be [in their minds at least] a capitulation in standards for family life.

For the last one, they may fail to report a gift to the government or twist a word or phrase to cover a mistake and this would be because of a gain of something personal, such as reputation or financial gain.

The whole point is that failure comes because our eyes are tightly shut to our vulnerability at the point of strengths. We would never fail BECAUSE of our strength there__but we do. It is, after all, His strength that is made real in our weakness but, in Kingdom living our greatest weakness IS our strength, and
we just don't seem to get that fact down well.

May God never allow me to write something to anyone else without applying it to my own life first. I think I'll ask Mary, my wife, what she thinks my strengths are. She knows me better than anyone else and loves me enough to tell me the truth.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


Perceptive, to say the very least!

"Do you suppose we completely misunderstand this thing of temptation so that we guard our weaknesses, but are vulnerable at our strengths because of the very fact that we don't think we'll fall there?"


"... failure comes because our eyes are tightly shut to our vulnerability at the point of strengths."

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I've often thought that the idea of temptation that I've written about may be something that it is my perception ONLY, but I much prefer to see it the way you do, as a perceptive thing. Thanks, you've encouraged me in it.

Victorious said...

Great post, Paul!

Temptations of the flesh are caused by our carnal nature, but it's the spiritual strengths that the enemy is after.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks Victorious.

I've often said, if I fail where I'm weak people will say, "Oh that's just Paul, he's always been a little weak there. But we all have our weaknesses don't we!"

But let me fail where I'm strong and people will say, "Well, so much for God being real, it sure looks like all Christians are a bunch of hypocrites to me. Look at Paul."

So a failure in points of spiritual strengths reflect on God a whole lot more than do our weaknesses. Sometimes we forget that I think.

Aussie John said...


I think sometimes we forget that our Sovereign God became incarnate in our Lord, Jesus Christ, who, according to Isaiah 42 is the promised person of the New Covenant (v.6b), whom "....a bruised reed he will not break,and a faintly burning wick he will not quench..."(v.3).

Reading your article brought a picture to my mind of God's people being much like a tree which has had to withstand the prevailing winds where it grows. Some are bent almost to ground level, but are not broken.

All of my long life as a Christian I have been aware of the buffetting, which, until I understood more about Jesus Christ,the New Covenant Person, I felt would do me grave damage.

It was at a point where I thought I could stand immovable that I was bent to the point of being destroyed,especially spiritually, a genuinely bruised reed, faintly burning wick,of which my wife can attest, where He proved His great grace.

Somehow,I think you and I, again, share that similarity.