“Never Settle for Less Than Your Best”
Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
Calvary Baptist Church
March 10, 2019
Odd place to have a retreat. I doubt any of us would have selected this location.
When most of us go on a retreat to meditate, pray and make crucial decisions about our future, we head to the mountains, a lake, a monastery or a retreat center with amenities. I am confident none of us would choose to go to a desert.
Yet, this is where Jesus went.
According to Luke, this was not of his own choosing. He was led by the Spirit to this location.
I am not surprised Luke highlights this. The Spirit plays a prominent role in this entire gospel, including Jesus’ baptism and this time of testing.
I suppose the only good thing about going to the desert was the lack of distractions. This would allow Jesus to focus all his attention upon how he would conduct his public ministry.
Jesus did have to deal with one distraction, though. Satan showed up wanting a voice in how Jesus would use the power granted to him. He quickly proposed three ideas for Jesus to consider.
Turn stones to bread and you will never go hungry.
Worship me and you can have everything your heart desires.
Jump off the highest point of the Temple and you will become an instant celebrity when you are rescued by angels.
Look carefully at these temptations because they have something in common. They were designed to undermine Jesus’ call to serve. Satan was tempting Jesus to make his ministry more about him than them, the people who so desperately needed his help.
Thankfully, Jesus was grounded in a faith that taught him how to respond to such appealing temptations. In a place where water was scarce, Jesus drew from the deep well of his faith to remain faithful to God and loyal to the call to reflect the heart, mind, nature and image of the one he lovingly called Father.
All his life, Jesus faced the temptation to reverse direction and be lured into the old, self-serving ways of the religious establishment. Each time, Jesus refused to replace kingdom values with the values of the world. He stayed the course and remained faithful to God all the way to the cross.
What do you think Luke wanted his readers to take away from this story that Jesus must have shared with his disciples and had been handed down to him? As I pondered this question last week, these lessons came to mind I would like for you to consider.
Every promise made among friends will be tested in a hostile environment. There are no exceptions.
In Luke, before Jesus called a disciple, taught a lesson, preached a sermon or performed a miracle, he was tempted to be something less than God created him to be. This pattern will be true for us, too.
…make a promise, you will be tempted to break it;
…start a journey down an unfamiliar but necessary road, you will be tempted to turn around;
…accept a challenge, you will be tempted to quit;
…get married, you will be tempted to forget your vows and cheat on your mate;
…are baptized, you will be tempted to hide your faith;
…rededicate your life to be more faithful, you will be tempted to adopt the world’s values;
…go away to college, you will be tempted to neglect your studies;
…join a team, you will be tempted to become a superstar instead of a team player;
…start a diet, you will be tempted to give up;
…confront an addiction and decide to get help, you will be tempted to fall back into your old ways;
…encounter an obstacle, you will be tempted to settle for mediocrity.
No good intention, promise or commitment is off limits. Every decision you make that honors God and makes life better for you and those around you will be tested. I challenge you to name one that wasn’t.
Be careful whose voice you listen to when you are confronted with choices. Who you listen to determines who you are becoming.
Jesus had to choose between listening to the prophets or Satan. He chose the prophets, not because their advice was easy, but it was best.
Be leery of anyone who encourages you to break a promise you made in good faith. Carefully examine their motives, which are usually selfish.
Surround yourself with wise, loving people who will encourage you to do your best and hold you accountable. Jesus did.
Immediately after this experience with Satan, Jesus began calling his disciples. Why?
He needed traveling companions on this journey of faith who would listen to him, offer sound advice and pray for him. If Jesus needed a support group to remain faithful, how much more do we?
All of us need friends who will hold us up and hold us accountable. We need companions who will ask tough questions of us at the right time.
Do you really want to do this? Who will be hurt or helped by this decision? Whose heart will be broken? Whose life will be crushed? What relationships will be ripped apart?
Does this decision strengthen the promises you have made or undermine them? Does this decision reflect the values Jesus embraced? Do you need to think about this more before moving forward?
The people who really care about you and your family will ask these questions. Wise is the person who answers them. Always look at the short and long term consequences to every decision you make.
The Great Law of the Iroquois requires their leaders to think seven generations ahead before making a decision. Don’t we owe it to those around us and the many more coming after us to be concerned about their wellbeing?
Stay focused and disciplined. Keep your eyes on the people who need you to do the right thing. Never lose sight of them.
Every time Jesus met with resistance, he had to decide if this mission was about him or the people he came to serve. Had he decided at any point along his journey life was more about him than them, he would have thrown in the towel. The risks, dangers and frustrations would have become too much for him to endure. Fear and disappointment would have ruled and reigned.
Every door of opportunity you walk through closes other doors around you. There are some things you refuse to do because you are married, you are a parent, you are a leader, you are a student, you are a role model, you are a church member, you are a citizen, you are a neighbor and you are a child of God.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, as Jesus demonstrated in this text. Everything good is not always good for you and me. Learn when to say no as well as yes. Life will be much better for everyone when you do.
Rely upon God to help you. Yes, Jesus needed a support group and called the disciples to walk with him, but he also needed and sought God’s help on a daily basis.
This would not be Jesus’ last encounter with Satan. Often, he would return with new and better deals. It would be impossible to resist these temptations and remain faithful to God and loyal to his mission without God’s help. Others had tried and failed, and he would, too.
So will we. We cannot be true to God’s call upon our lives in the face of invitations to choose lesser goals without God’s help. Only when we rely upon God can we “face up to our dark side and soft spots,” as my friend, Dr. Colin Harris, teaches.
Jesus is described as “full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit” all throughout Luke’s gospel. He was never overconfident.
Neither must we be. “Deliver us from evil,” needs to be our prayer, too.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. No one lives a mistake free life.
Must we forever live with guilt and shame? I can tell you this is not what God wants.
Forgiveness is real and transformative. Hope springs out of being loved unconditionally.
Own up to your mistakes and ask for forgiveness from God and others. Seek to understand why you broke a promise or failed to honor a commitment. By God’s grace, change your flawed thinking and behavior.
What temptations are threatening to undermine your faithfulness to God? What did you struggle with last week that will surely resurface in the coming days?
How we handle temptation reveals what is important to us and what we value the most. Our decision will reveal more than what we are going to do next…much more.
All of us face many invitations to be something less than we were created to be. By God’s grace, be true to your calling in the face of opportunities to choose a lesser goal. Never settle for less than your best.