My dear sisters and brothers, on this Lord’s Day, I hope and pray that this devotional finds you safe and well. Please know that each one of you are loved and missed.
“Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” Matthew 4:11
There is no doubt that Jesus was a “social butterfly.” He enjoyed “hanging out” with others. Although He was most heavenly-minded, He preferred to spend His time with down-to-earth people. It was not uncommon to find Him at the table, breaking bread with friends. (And let us be reminded that these friends of Jesus were people whom the religious elites referred to as “sinners.”) Although Jesus knew the importance of taking short periods of respite on the other side of the lake, in reflecting upon chapter four of Matthew’s Gospel, it must have been difficult for Him to leave His friends behind in order to follow the Spirit’s call, not just for a short boat ride across the lake, but into the wilderness, where He would be socially isolated, and even without any food, for forty days.
Although fully divine, Jesus intended to experience all that it meant to be human. He therefore was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). This means that as the days wore on, being deprived of any human contact, and with increasing hunger pangs, His mental stress intensified. As unscrupulous “persuaders” know all too well, deprivation elicits emotional vulnerability. Being the ultimate unscrupulous persuader, Satan thought this would be the perfect time to tempt Jesus.
Deprivation describes what many are feeling today. Millions feel deprived of precious time with family and friends; of easy access to groceries and household essentials; of services such as haircuts and teeth cleanings; of such necessities as secure employment; and of safe medical care should it be needed. The list goes on. Of course, some are fortunate enough to circumvent many of these deprivations. And some people are “made of steel,” so that they are not – at least not yet – experiencing such feelings. Nevertheless, for most people, the sense of deprivation is real, and it is a time of great emotional vulnerability. It is an extended wilderness experience.
We all can recall a wilderness experience, and I am thinking of one in particular, which was over thirty years ago. It was a time of great sorrow, and it surpassed forty days. As hard as I tried to overcome the anguish, it seemed hopeless. I remember spending more time in prayer and fasting over this matter than I had ever spent in my life for several months, and still there was no sense of relief. I can even recall being resentful of the fact that my wilderness experience, at least in number of days, had exceeded that of Jesus’ wilderness experience. (Self-pity and its ensuing resentment can be quite dramatic and impeding of our emotional healing!) In my feeling of deprivation, the time was right, and now, I was ripe for temptation. Eventually, I began saying to myself, “PRAYER DOES NOT WORK.”
After all that seemingly ineffective praying and fasting, one day while at my place of work, (not church work) I looked over at my Bible sitting on my desk. Not enthusiastically, I randomly placed my finger to the gold-leafed pages and allowed it to fall open to wherever it would. I looked down and saw the words, “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.”
I immediately felt the Holy Spirit’s calm. The anguish that had been squeezing my head as if in a vice was suddenly released, and for the first time in months, I felt perfect peace. In my heart, I know that the healing touch of the Holy Spirit that came to me immediately upon seeing those words was the result of all the praying and fasting I had been doing all those months before. What I had said, though without proper understanding, was actually true. Prayer does not work… according to my timing! But at that moment, Angels came and ministered to me.
The time we have already spent in this present “wilderness” is fast approaching forty days. The sense of deprivation is great, and we do not know how much longer it will last. My beloved sisters and brothers, I would like to encourage you to take this uncertain time and make something good of it.
While you have this opportunity, please consider spending more time in prayer than you previously had available. That time in prayer will not go to waste. It will generate spiritual power within that will help to sustain you – and your loved ones – through this difficult time. This situation will eventually end, whether by an earthly solution, or the promised Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which, according to Scripture, is the only real solution to this world’s pain and suffering. So please remain in prayer, share Christ’s love and encouragement with all whom you know, and you will see that before too long, angels will come and minister to you also.
With love in Christ Jesus until we meet again,