Recently, I saw a documentary on the discovery channel on the making and launching of NASA’s space rovers to Mars, prophetically named Spirit and Opportunity. One of the most interesting and dramatic parts of the presentation was the tests that the rovers went through. Some of which were potentially destructive shocks delivered to the rovers computer systems. As they delivered the shocks they explained that because of the high cost of the apparatus they could only afford to send the same equipment that had been tested into space.
The same is also true for us. God has no other equipment with which to work and we have our own spirit which has the opportunity to be tested and developed through the storms, struggles and temptations we face. In fact, that is what discipleship is all about. It is no accident that Jesus is baptized and then immediately sent to spiritual boot camp. (See Luke 4:1-13 in the gospel that is read for the first Sunday of Lent.) It is never pleasant, but it is true to life.
It never ceases to amaze me how obsessed we are in our modern culture with physical and emotional health and well-being, and yet how negligent we can be in tending to our inner spiritual life. It’s as if we don’t really believe we have a soul, or it is as if we think that somehow our spiritual lives will just develop on their own with no particular attention being paid to their nurture and growth. In fact, what too often happens is that we grow to maturity in body and intellect, but our soul is young and undeveloped because we are afraid to do the work required to challenge and stretch ourselves spiritually.
The choices Jesus is given were hard to resist. He was tempted to provide for himself using his own means instead of trusting in God. Aren’t we tempted to do the same? He was tempted to take a short cut to God’s purposes for him by avoiding the cross. Aren’t we also similarly tempted? And if the devil couldn’t get Jesus to succumb to the first two, why not tempt him with spiritual pride, i.e. “Throw yourself down from pinnacle of the temple” with a grand display of power and superiority.
In all of these trials Jesus had to rely on a source of truth outside of himself. And so he quotes from the Torah. His body might be dehydrated and famished and weak, but he relies on God to deliver him. And as a result, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit for having come through his own ordeal in faithful obedience.
During these weeks of Lent we can and should spend more time in prayer, offering ourselves up to God and asking God to show us what we need to see in order to draw closer to God. And when you do this kind of work, do not be surprised if you find yourself being tempted to do anything to avoid that kind of intimacy with God. What I am advocating is hard work. It is not easy. But when we are tempted to give up and give in, remember that we have one who has come to help us. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin. So now, he is with us as our great high priest to help us in our time of need.
May we journey with him, finding in him all the strength we need to overcome as we experience together a holy Lent.
Vicar, Christ Church – Lucketts