Thinking about the account in Mark chapter 1 of the temptation of God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ, and his subsequent commencement of public ministry, gives great encouragement to all who are going through their own times of testing, trials or periods of suffering.
The lessons are simple, but can be difficult to appreciate in a practical way.
In verse 12, we are told that ‘the Spirit drives him (Jesus) into the wilderness’. So straightaway, we learn something about God’s sovereignity. God is in control, not us. If it was up to us, we would make life one long bed of roses – or would we? I once heard someone say that if God gave them omnipotence for a day, they would go round the world putting right everything that is wrong, and putting an end to all suffering. However, this person continued, if God also gave them omniscience and divine wisdom, they would leave everything as it is. Why? For they would see the big picture.
Suffering can be a result of our own mistakes, that is true, but often God brings us into times of trouble, and seasons of suffering for a reason. That reason is to help us grow – to grow in faith, in holiness, in patience, in appreciation, in understanding ourselves, and in knowing our God. Ultimately, God wants us to draw closer to him. There is nothing like heat and hardship to draw people closer together, and the same is true of our relationship with our Lord and Saviour.
So lesson #1 – Recognise that your time of trial is in accordance with God’s sovereign plan.
In verse 13, we find that the trial lasted to a certain length of time – 40 days – and in verses 14 & 15, we find that at the end of those 40 days, when ‘the time is fulfilled’, the Lord Jesus moves on into his next sphere of service.
It is also important for us to realise that whatever it is we are going through right now, is not going to be unending. There is a definite period (a few days, six weeks, a year, or longer) and according to God’s sovereign timing, when that period is ended, the trial will be ended – the suffering over – and life will move on.
Lesson #2 – Recognise that your time of trial is limited and will end, in accordance with God’s sovereign plan.
Although this brings its encouragement, it does in no way minimise the prolonged effect of the suffering. 40 days was still 40 days, and in the midst of it, the suffering Servant of God, Jesus Christ, must have felt the pressing weight of the moment – a darkness that seemed unending. This is when we can feel despair, but we notice something else in this account, that while in the wilderness, ‘the angels ministered unto him’ (v13).
We are not only encouraged to trust God in the face of trial knowing that it is for a purpose, and for a limited time, but we are greatly encouraged to trust God knowing of his personal provision for us in the midst of the despair and helplessness of the suffering.
Sadly, at times we do not avail ourselves of his provision. We battle on our own, without any thought of God (except to blame him); without any trust in his sovereign power and purpose (except to complain that we don’t deserve it); and without any desire for his help and comfort (except in a selfish way to end the suffering).
Let this not be your situation, but humbly submit to God’s way for that moment, and look to him for all your needs of the moment, whether temporal, material, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or psychological. Our Saviour has walked the road before us, and having conquered death, he is now able to succour all who come to him, repenting of their sins, and fully trusting everyday.
Lesson #3 – Look to the Lord Jesus Christ for the sustenance and succour of every hour.
This is a wonderful message of God’s grace. It is a wonderful message of hope in adversity.
Trust him! There is none other.