Read: Luke 4:1-13
In these passages from Luke, Jesus had returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit, been led to the desert by the Holy Spirit where he had fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the Devil. First, the Devil tells Jesus to turn stone into bread but although he was tired and hungry, Jesus exhibited his unyielding faith in trusting the sufficiency of God’s gracious care. He would master his desire for physical food by subordinating them to His greater purpose of living to serve God. In the second temptation, the Devil offers to bestow upon Jesus great power and wealth if only Jesus would worship him. Jesus refuses the prestige, power and psychological need to exercise power and control over others and remains true to his mission of worshiping and serving God. As a third temptation, the Devil challenges Jesus to prove the existence of God by throwing himself from the highest point of the temple. Again, Jesus refuses to be tempted, knowing that if we truly believe, our faith and trust in God will sustain us.
The Devil tempted, tested, opposed and worked against Jesus often and we would do well to remember that the Devil will test us as well. In a society that often focuses on material possessions and status, we can be tempted to abandon God for ways of self-fulfillment, power, and spectacle. How easy it is to lose control over our time and commitments, testing us to practice the presence of God in our life. In subtle ways, the world makes it easy to draw away from God and to fill our lives with lesser things.
Millard Fuller, a self-made millionaire at 29, had seen his health, integrity, and marriage suffer as his business prospered and he amassed great fortune and power. With his marriage failing, his faith faltering and a great emptiness gnawing at his soul, he re-evaluated his values and direction. Prayer and soul-searching led to reconciliation with his wife Linda and the renewal of his Christian commitment to serve God. He and Linda sold all their possessions, gave money to the poor and sought practical ways to apply Christ’s teachings. In 1976, they founded Habitat for Humanity, an ecumenical Christian housing ministry whose mission is to eliminate poverty housing and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat helps families build their homes alongside volunteers and to achieve the strength, stability, and independence to build a better life for themselves and their families. Putting faith into action, Habitat now works in all 50 states and in 70 countries worldwide.
Thirteen years ago, I volunteered at a Habitat construction site in Boise, Idaho and was overwhelmed with the compassion and camaraderie of the volunteers who were helping the Etoka family build a simple, safe, affordable home for their family. I have been involved with Habitat for Humanity ever since my soul fed with this simple act of faith in action. I was heeding God’s commandment to love my neighbor as myself and to help others. I always feel closer to God’s living presence when I leave worldly things behind, help those less fortunate, listen to the call of chickadees, watch a golden sunrise through the cedars or read a book with my grandsons. I prefer these affirmations of the presence of a loving God over material possessions, political divide, hostile tweets, corruption, and greed. I try to practice daily Psalm 46:10: Be still and know I am God.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of this glorious day. Help us find joy in helping others, working for justice, mercy, and peace for all. Amen.