Episode 222: Hope for the Journey – Temptation

March 22, 2022

The Temptation is Real

“I can resist anything but temptation.” Oscar Wilde

Explore the temptation of Jesus through the eyes of leadership. Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness reminds us of two important questions: 

  • Who am I?
  • Who is God inviting me to be?

Sometimes we reduce temptation to hitting the snooze button on our alarms or eating an overly indulgent dessert. Temptation, however, is really about knowing who and whose you are. 

Temptation is not a measure of your weakness; temptation is a measure of your strength. At its deepest level, temptation is deeper than eating key lime pie or chocolate fudge. It is deeper than that piece of paper in your pocket that has the answers to the test. Temptation is this: What am I going to do with my life? 

Real temptation is when you do not know right from wrong. It is not a matter of choosing the right and resisting the wrong. It is a matter of asking, what is God’s will for me? 

As we continue to explore the themes of Lent, an understanding of the temptation of Jesus provides leaders with a lens to offer hope to the people around them. An understanding of temptation is necessary to experience and provide hope for the journey.

Through scripture and stories, Sara and Tim explore temptation so leaders can be empowered to offer hope to a hurting world.

Mentioned in this Episode

Episode 222: Hope For the Journey - Temptation


[00:00:00] Sara: You're listening to leadercast episode 222.

[00:00:05] You're listening to leader cast, transforming missions podcast with Tim bias and Sara Thomas. Providing you with resources to navigate the challenges and opportunities of courageous christ centered leaders

[00:00:22] Tim: you know, if you sit down with any group of people and you said today, our subject for discussion is temptation. I'm guessing there would be some laughter there'd be people nudging each other with their elbows and then someone else would quote Oscar wild, even though they don't know, they're quoting Oscar wild. They'd say I can resist anything but temptation and we'd all laugh and joke more about it. I know it sounds strange to say that our discussion today is on temptation. As we continue to explore the themes of lent, we find that an understanding of the temptation of Jesus helps us provide the hope people are looking for from their leaders. So an understanding of temptations necessary to experience and provide hope for the journey.

[00:01:19] Sara: So you haven't tempted us yet. Tim

[00:01:22] let me remind you that you can find show notes for this episode@transformingmission.org slash. 2, 2, 2.

[00:01:34] Tim: So Sara, over the years, most discussions I've had about temptation include someone. Telling of getting into trouble over some kind of mischief, like throwing a water balloon, hitting someone and yelling the devil made me do it.

[00:01:49] Sara: Or someone telling of waking up in the morning when it's dark and dreary, we haven't had any of those days, have we drizzling rain and how they gave into the temptation of pulling the covers up and saying, I'm not going to work today. And they just keep sleeping.

[00:02:04] Tim: Yeah, I think most of the time when I hear someone talk about temptation it's around food, though, they'll talk about being in a restaurant. Having an ice meal server comes around with a dessert cart saying this is German chocolate cake, and this is Kela pie and this is pumpkin pie. And oh, look at the orange spice cake. And I can hear someone now say, get behind me. And then they'll say, well, I don't know. Well, maybe this time, what do you think? Oh, will you split one with me?

[00:02:40] Sara: Because it's half tempting when someone else eats it at the other half. Right.

[00:02:45] Tim: that's Right.

[00:02:47] I'll take a. A piece of chocolate cake dribbles, some fudge over it and put ice cream on top of that and chocolate syrup on top of that, then whipped cream and a little cherry on top and say, oh, I don't know. Maybe this time it's so tempting. that's temptation. Isn't it.

[00:03:05] Sara: Oh, goodness. So the subject of temptation, Tim, you're talking about chocolate. Fudge and whipped cream. And we've all been out to eat and heard someone say when that dessert tray comes around, oh, you're tempting me. But temptation really is deeper than giving into a few selfish desires. Like not wanting to get up or eating foods that are maybe a little bit it indulgent.

[00:03:33] That's the word that I'm looking for.

[00:03:34] It's a strong feeling of wanting something or of doing something that is not always good to want or to do it is to be enticed to do something you want to do, even though, you know, you shouldn't do it.

[00:03:47] Tim: so Sara, could it.

[00:03:48] be like asking yourself, what difference does it make?

[00:03:51] Sara: Okay. Tim, say more.

[00:03:53] Tim: Well, I've known people who would never think of snatching a purse, but who'd not mind fudging on their income tax or inflating a expense account. What difference does it make? There's no one watching. There's no name attached to it. Who's it hurt? And actually earlier in my life, I experienced a friend taking a semester test in college who put answers on a little piece of paper and put it in his pocket. He later told me, he thought, while taking the test, he thought there's a big difference between an a and a C. And I have the answers on that piece of paper who would know who gets hurt. If, if I look at those answers, Now I, what I'm thinking is for our purpose today, what difference does it make to a hope field leader?

[00:04:42] If you're tempted to trade faithfulness for success, if you get the job done, what difference does it make?

[00:04:53] Sara: Tim, you know, that being successful by itself, isn't a bad trait, but how you get there can be. Whether you're a pastor, a parent, a small group leader, an executive, the temptation to be someone other than who God created you to be is always present. And sometimes overwhelming.

[00:05:12] Tim: Well, I like that. Let's let's look at temptation from Matthew's perspective. This comes from. Matthew's story of the temptation it's immediately after his baptism, the spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. I always wondered why that was there. The spirit is what leads, leads Jesus into the wilderness. after fasting for 40 days of nights, he's hungry. I'm gonna say he is really hungry. And the tempter comes to him And says, now, since you're God's son, Command these stones to become bread. And what Jesus says is it's written people don't live only by bread, but by every word, spoken by God.

[00:05:59] Sara: And then, you know how this unfolds, the temper brought him to the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. And he said to him, Since you're God's son, throw yourself down for its written I'll command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won't hit your foot on a stone.

[00:06:18] And Jesus replies. Again, it's written, don't test the Lord, your God.

[00:06:23] Tim: And then the tempter brought Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, I'll give you all these, if you'll bow down and worship me and what, what we know is the, how Jesus responded. He said go away Satan, because it's written, you'll not, you will worship the Lord, your God and serve only him. And then it says the devil left him and the angels came and took care of him.

[00:06:54] Sara: This is real temptation. This is not about a devil in a red suit with horns and a Pitchfork. As much as that image might be coming into your mind, this is about. When you don't know the difference between what you are thinking and what you are attempted to do Jesus is alone with his thoughts, deciding who he is and how he used to live out his call as the son of God.

[00:07:16] Tim: Yeah. And I'll, and I'll add, as I usually do, don't let the fact that Jesus is tempted, bother you. I mean, over the years of ministry, I've met people who don't feel comfortable with the idea of Jesus being tempted, but he was tempted in every way. You. And I are tempted. He was tested as you're tested.

[00:07:42] Sara: Okay. Say more about that, Tim. why are people bothered that Jesus was tempted because he was the son of God,

[00:07:48] Tim: I think Sara that the way I understand why people are are bothered or uncomfortable because Jesus was tempted is because they somehow we've, we've worked into the life of Jesus, of him being perfect, which then being perfect with mean he would not be tempted. Somehow we've worked into the life of Jesus that he's he really isn't like us.

[00:08:09] As much as we say that he was one of us, but he wasn't really like us because if he were really God in the flesh, he would not be tempted.

[00:08:22] Sara: I think we'll get to this. Maybe we'll get to this, but isn't the difference between, I mean, there's temptation around us all the time. The question comes, what's your response to that temptation?

[00:08:41] So I might be really bothered if Jesus responded to the temptation, in a very different way and, and gave in to what he was tempted by.

[00:08:54] Tim: I think we'll as we continue to talk, we can get to that point, but I think the real struggle is that Jesus is deciding. Who he is and what he's going to do in the scripture, and to be tempted, to do anything else other than who he is and what he's supposed to be doing created by God to do that. For some people that puts them in a place of, actually having to look at themselves a little more, it's easier to have Jesus on a pedestal. Perfect. And not as much like us than it is to have him like us. And then we feel that then maybe it's a little easier to become who God would create us to be, because God is with us in Jesus.

[00:09:44] Sara: Oh mercy. Okay. Let's keep going.

[00:09:46] so when we think about temptation, temptation is not a measure of your weakness. Temptation is a measure of your strength. The stronger you are, the more capable you are, the more opportunities you have, the more power and influence you have, the greater your temptation will be. And that's, that's what we experience in and through Jesus.

[00:10:09] So let's look at Jesus as a, the person to follow

[00:10:14] Tim: well, see if this helps. Matthew tells us that Jesus was fasting going without food. 40 days out there in a barren desert burning sun cold nights. Mark says that the wild beasts were were with him and the angels were with him. In other words, we're now talking about two temptation. We're not worried about dessert or telling a lie or school or cheating on a test.

[00:10:38] We're really going to something deeper.

[00:10:40] Sara: as we go to something deeper why don't you turn the stones to bread? That's reasonable. Even as the son of God, he's hungry. He's gone 40 days without food. Why not? after all he has never worked a miracle.

[00:10:54] Maybe there there's a miracle, just waiting for him there in the desert. He doesn't wanna be embarrassed when he is out in front of the crowd. Why doesn't he give it a little try? I now attempting you to tempt Jesus.

[00:11:06] Tim: So why not jump off the pinnacle of the temple? The scripture says, God will protect you. You won't be hurt. Hey, it's in the Bible. And if it's in the Bible, you should just follow what it says. So I guess Jesus.

[00:11:22] might be thinking if I do that, it'll help a lot of people believe and what's wrong with the, and something that helped people to believe makes sense to me.

[00:11:34] Sara: Then the temperature shows them the kingdoms of the world. These two are yours, if wouldn't that have been wonderful. If Jesus had said yes and gained more influence over the social and political nature of our world. I could wish for it, especially right now. a little more justice and fairness and equality in the world.

[00:11:53] Makes sense to me.

[00:11:54] Tim: Jesus. As we find in this scripture is approached and tested at the point of what is reasonable and what's helpful. What's good. Fundamentally. The temptation's not about would you like to do something wrong? I mean, if you look at Adam and Eve in the garden, the voice of the tempter said, would you like to be like God they didn't say, would you like to live like the devil. The voice said, would you like to be like, God, and what's wrong with that? Isn't that what we're about?

[00:12:28] Sara: So Tim and to our listeners, I hope you hear us being a little bit sarcastic and also recognizing that temptation at its deepest level is deeper than any key lime pie or chocolate fudge. it's deeper than any piece of paper in your pocket that has the answers on it, or candy sitting on your desk.

[00:12:50] Temptation was this, what am I going to do with my life? Real temptation is when you do not know right from wrong, it's not a matter of choosing the right and resisting the wrong. It's a of asking what is God's will for me.

[00:13:08] Tim: Sara, as you just said, that's the real test. Jesus never preached a sermon, never healed. Anyone never taught a lesson. He had not even started his ministry. So I'll just do this. Jesus. What are you gonna do with the rest of your life? I think I asked my son that question once it's like, we've been saying all along for, for weeks who you are is how you lead.

[00:13:38] Sara: As your ministry grows and gains complexity, the demands increase. You can be an easy target for temptations. Temptations can lead to loss of integrity. You can be tempted to over exaggerate something in a message or bend under financial press pressure to use money designed for one thing for a completely different purpose.

[00:14:00] Tim: Yeah. Pressures tempt you to be impatient or harsh, be angry with others for no legitimate reason.

[00:14:09] Sara: So I'll say it again. Who you are, is how you lead.

[00:14:14] Tim: There's also a temptation to use your position to control or take advantage of people rather than serve them, especially when you use people to build your ministry.

[00:14:27] Sara: So Instead focus on the strengths of the people around you and assist them to be the people that God has created them to be. And you've heard me say this several times and I'll say it again. The people that are in leadership with you. God has gifted them with unique strengths and unique abilities. When you come to know and recognize what their strengths and abilities are as a leader, help them to live those out in the, in the mission and ministry that God has placed you in.

[00:15:00] And then they'll become more of who God has them to be.

[00:15:05] Tim: There's also a temptation to live by a different set of rules, a different standard that actually you hold others accountable to.

[00:15:16] Sara: Tim now you're talking about one of my favorite things. You're going down the road of integrity and accountability. The other temptation that happens there is holding people down rather than. Training and empowering them and freeing them up to, to do the work that God has gifted them to do. And once again, I'll say it, who you are is how you lead.

[00:15:41] Tim: I'm tempted to stop here, Sara, but I'm gonna keep going. There's a temptation to slip into a behavior that's less than genuine And becomes performance oriented where performance becomes more important than mission.

[00:15:56] Sara: And then there's the temptation that happens when very loving pastors and church leaders lose their perspective. And it often happens under all of the demands of ministry. And instead of a loving heart, the temptation is to be critical.

[00:16:16] Tim: And some of you get hurt and you're attempted to become tentative in developing relationships. So you do everything at an arms distance.

[00:16:30] Sara: Tim, we could continue with the many temptations in leadership, but we can also be tempted to look at the best in people and be generous in offering grace.

[00:16:43] Tim: Now, I've heard you say that before.

[00:16:45] Sara: I might have said that to someone yesterday and it wasn't even, you , what's the most generous interpretation you could offer here. And, and let me just say a bit about that. the conversation was unfolding and, and what I said. About that statement of what's the most generous interpretation you can offer here is let me rewind back to those moments that you're either under pressure.

[00:17:16] There's a lot of stress , or you're just irritated. Let's face it. We're human. We can be irritated by other human beings from time to time. And that, that question of what's the most generous interpretation you can make here. What's the most generous assumption you can make here. However you wanna say, it helps me to reframe and to stand in a different position to what is happening.

[00:17:44] And so it's a very real way to stand on the other side of the temptation

[00:17:49] Tim: So I'm thinking Sara, how cool it would be if we were attempted to be generous.

[00:17:54] Sara: yeah. And that's exactly. What I'm saying, when, I ask that question, it calls you back to the center of who God's inviting you to be. And so, yeah, let's be tempted to be generous. Let's be tempted to offer grace and there are going to be times that you'll say. Okay. I was generous and that bit me in the butt, if we were recording, I might use different language, I would rather be a generous person and a grace-filled person and give people the benefit of the doubt and let them prove prove me wrong then to go the other way. because if I am limiting someone,

[00:18:43] I am not being an effective leader.

[00:18:46] Tim: So I'm gonna say what you've said several times in this conversation who you are is how you lead. I think the good news in all this as difficult as it might be, you can say no to temptation and with the help and encouragement from a friend, you can know that when you give into temptation that God's not against you, there's a God that still loves you.

[00:19:13] And each day is a new day and a fresh start.

[00:19:18] Sara: Now don't hear that as a permission slip from your district to superintendent to go do something stupid.

[00:19:25] Hear that as a word of grace.

[00:19:30] Tim: As it was

[00:19:30] Sara: exactly. I do have a couple of questions for you today. I want you to consider, take time, time this week and ask yourself, who am I? What am I all about? Knowing who you are, and your purpose is essential in being the leader that you were created to be, and to recognizing the temptations that are around you.

[00:19:59] So, Tim, what are your last thoughts?

[00:20:03] Tim: So, Sara to be frivolous, I'd say, well, I'm tempted not to say anything, but I'll go on. say. I think we wanna reduce temptation down to what we can manage. And I think we can manage desserts and and some behaviors that that may be mischievous or that we even think no one else will know. The real temptation that each of us faces. Is are we going to be who God created us to be? And every time we run into the idea, and this is what, what I've been thinking throughout the podcast, when we have the idea to love someone, the way God's loved us, and we choose not to, we've given into a temptation. That every time we have the opportunity to recognize God working in our midst, and we've not set our sights upon God in such a way that we could recognize God and God's work in the lives of people and the situations.

[00:21:03] I think we've, we've fallen to temptation. That's really what this is about and to being a hope field leader, isn't that you're. Aren't going to be tempted and it isn't even that you might even give into temptation. Occasionally being a hope field leader is that you help people become who God created him to be, so that when they are tempted, they can be who God created him to be.

[00:21:32] Sara: So, let me remind you of the two questions that, that I offered. Having heard Tim say that. Let me remind you again. These are the questions sometimes this week, answer the question. Who am I? And what am I all about? Those questions are also on the show notesPage@transformingmission.org slash 2 22. And remember who you are is how you lead by for now.