Resisting Temptations: Following the Savior’s Example

January: Matthew 4; Luke 4-5 

Jesus Christ prepared for the inevitability of temptation in this world by fasting and communing with His Father, as explained in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the following verses: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered and was left to be tempted of the devil” (JST Matthew 4:1-2) We have the same inevitability of temptations from the devil that will come during our earthly experience. We can learn from the Savior’s example how to resist the various worldly temptations that will certainly beset us during our personal earthly journey.   

Temptations 

The Tempter likes to sow seeds of uncertainty in our ability to resist His temptations by putting statements of doubt into our minds about our divine potential. Before tempting the Savior, he used “if” statements to try to cause the Savior Himself to question His divine mission: “If  thou be the Son of God…. If you be the Son of God…. If thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:3, 6, 9) These statements were used by Satan to tempt the Savior into unbelief and mistrust in the power of the Word, the power of His gospel, and the power of His Father.  

Satan focused on three different kinds of temptations. Jesus answered each temptation with a scripture from the Old Testament, which He, as Jehovah, had given to the children of Israel to help them through their wilderness journey. Each one of us will have the same types of temptations that the Savior experienced. We can conquer these temptations through personal devotions of reading and studying His words every day – for Satan does not relent in his desire to ensnare all of us because we are children of God. And Satan does not want us to remember that. 

In both the Matthew and Luke accounts of Jesus’ temptations, we read the same three temptations, though in Luke the order is a little different. In Matthew, the first temptation was to make stones into bread. This temptation was one of controlling physical appetites. Jesus would eventually eat after his fasting, but this was not the right time nor was it the right way for him to break his fast. Satan’s demand for the miracle was to satisfy physical lust and to seek a sign. As children of the covenant, we promise to bind our physical lusts to the laws of God. We “shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3) As children of the covenant, we fast, we obey the Word of Wisdom, we live the law of chastity, and we follow the prophet’s counsel to control our use of media. We must defy the Lord’s temptations to break these boundaries the Lord has set for physical appetites. 

The second temptation was an emotional appeal for Jesus to question who He is as the Son of God and to question His Father’s love for Him. It is important to note that the Joseph Smith Translation gives us the insight that the devil had no power to take the Savior’s place. Instead, “Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple.” (JST Matthew 4:5) While on the highest part of the temple, Satan tempted Jesus to cast Himself down to prove that God would send His angels to bear him up. The Savior reminded Satan that “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God” (Deuteronomy 6:16) by requiring miracles at His hands. During the children of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, they had asked for a sign and were reminded that such a request was tempting the Lord by requiring miracles at His hand while satisfying their own worldly lusts. In latter-day revelation, Joseph Smith was also warned that the devil flattereth the righteous into requiring miracles: “Require not miracles, except I shall command you….” (D&C 24:13).  

Finally, the Spirit took the Savior (JST Matthew 4:6) to a high mountain where Satan showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and offered all worldly things if Jesus would worship Satan. Jesus answered Satan by repeating the first commandment of the Decalogue: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:6-9). The importance of putting God first in our lives, rather than the world, is the basis of our faith in Him, the creator of the world.  

The Power of His Words 

Jesus Christ answered Satan’s temptations with His own words – the words of His gospel. In the JST version of John Chapter 1, we read: “In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of Go… In him was the gospel and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4). Satan had heard these words before. Satan, as Lucifer, would have been there at the beginning when these words were preached by the Son, Jesus Christ. Satan knew these answers; he had heard them in the councils of heaven. Yet, from the beginning, the devil chose not to follow the Word or the plan of salvation.  

Because Satan knew his temptations were hopeless, “when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee….” (Luke 4:13-14). We, too, can feel an extra portion of the power of the Spirit in our lives when we are successful in conquering our trials. In Moroni’s teachings on faith, he reminded us that “I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6) If we conquer the temptations of Satan, then we will receive the witness that our faith in Jesus Christ is stronger than we realized. That new understanding of the Spirit will give us additional power to resist future trials from Satan. 

Elder Holland, when he was president of BYU, talked about the demands of being a disciple of Christ. He described the call of the Savior as being often inconvenient. In sharp contrast, “Satan offers the easier way of ‘convenient Christianity.’ It is a temptation Jesus resisted, and so must we. Life was very inconvenient for him, and unless I miss my guess, it will often be so for you and for me when we take upon us his name. (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Inconvenient Messiah,” BYU Devotional Feb 2, 1982) The inconvenience of His call to us is supported by the power of His words. If we will follow Him and perform His unworldly behavior, which may bring worldly inconvenience, we will find additional spiritual power as we remember and obey His words. 

Following the Example of Prophets – Ammon’s Example 

We can also follow the example of prophets in the scriptures and latter-day prophets in resisting temptations. In the Book of Mormon, Ammon was tempted with many of the same temptations as the Savior. Even though Ammon had originally been led away from the Church, after his miraculous, spiritual conversion, he remained faithful during his trials as a missionary to the Lamanites.  

As Ammon and his brethren started on their missionary journey, they went through a wilderness experience where they fasted and sought help from the Lord. Ammon went through a time of spiritual preparation for the trials ahead. “And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness, and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his spirit to go with them and abide with them that they might be an instrument in the hands of God….” (Alma 17:9). After praying and fasting much in the wilderness, the Lord did visit them and teach them what they were to do during their mission to the Lamanites. The Lord warned them that their mission was not easy; they would suffer many trials, yet their hearts took courage because of the depth of their preparations and their faith in the words of the Lord. (Alma 17:10-13).  

The missionaries separated themselves to go into different parts of the Lamanites’ kingdom. Ammon was immediately bound and taken to the king. King Lamoni had the power to end Ammon’s life before he even started preaching the gospel. But the King recognized Ammon as a great man and offered Ammon to take one of the king’s daughters to be his wife.  

Ammon was being tempted by Satan to stop him from succeeding in his mission. He could easily become the king’s son-in-law, marry a princess, and live with luxury. Ammon’s answer to the king was: “Nay, but I will be thy servant.” (Alma 17:25). Ammon served the king, becoming a shepherd in charge of the king’s sheep. He served faithfully, going so far as to cut off the arms of the men who were scattering the king’s flocks. His prowess in battle caused the other servants of the king to claim that Ammon’s power was not of this world. Instead, his abilities in warfare were almost godlike. He seemed to be invincible.  

The king was now worried. He began to believe that Ammon was more than a man; maybe he was the Great Spirit and Ammon would punish the king for his past murders of his servants. Ammon discerned the king’s thoughts. The king asked Ammon: “Art thou the Great Spirit, who knows all things?” (Alma 18:18) Again, Ammon is tempted. This time, he is seen as a god. He could have easily said that he was the Great Spirit and received the power and glory that this title would give him with the Lamanites. Instead, his answer was, “I am a man, and am thy servant; therefore, whatsoever thou desirest which is right, that will I do.” (Alma 18:17) 

Finally, the king offers to give Ammon anything that Ammon desires. The offer includes worldly glory, honor, protection, and wealth. Ammon’s answer illustrated that he was “wise, yet harmless” (Alma 18:22). He only asked the king to listen to his words. Then, Ammon proceeded to teach the king the words of salvation. He began with the creation and taught concerning the fall of man, the coming of Christ and His redemption, and the power of living prophets. Ammon’s desires had become one with the desires of the Lord. He was not tempted by these convenient temptations of worldly lusts, wealth, and power. His answers to these temptations were the teachings found in the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

May we find the strength through the power of the Word and the example of prophets and our Savior to resist the temptations and trials that beset us during our life’s journey.   

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s