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Showing Faith, Reliance and Humility

Jesus' tests give us an important example to follow as we serve God.
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Tests and trials will always be part of a believer’s life. Throughout Scripture, God talks about how He refines us like one purifies metal1 and will chasten us so we become partakers in His holiness (Heb 12:5–11). We see very little of this process with Jesus. Still, we know he had to learn obedience (Heb 5:8).

While his training took place before his ministry began, we do see a final test immediately after his baptism when the Spirit drove him to the wilderness (Matt 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–14). In these tests, Jesus had to show that he completely relied on God for his needs, that he trusted that God would protect him without demanding proof of that protection and that he had humility. These tests give us an important example to follow as we serve God.

When Jesus was tempted to turn the stones into bread, he responded by saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:3–4). I used to think Jesus was saying that spiritual food was just as important in our lives as physical food. Closer examination shows this statement is about a complete reliance on God. The spiritual nourishment involved in developing and maintaining that reliance means we will trust God to provide everything we need, including food.

This idea is one of the first things Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes. After talking about how God takes care of the animals, he says:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or Wherewithal shall we be clothed?… for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:26–34). 

By seeking God first, He will provide us with what we need to survive. By refusing to turn the stones into bread, Jesus showed that he trusted God would provide him with food without abusing the Holy Spirit then and throughout his ministry. We see this happen when the angels minister to Jesus in the wilderness and throughout his entire ministry.

It would have been a legitimate concern for Jesus to wonder how he would be fed and clothed during his ministry. Without a job, buying food and clothes was not an option. How different would his ministry have been if Jesus had to work or beg for his food and clothes?

Jesus knew this reliance on God was something he had to teach his believers.

One way God provided Jesus with his daily bread was through the women who ministered to him (Luke 8:1–3, Mark 15:40-41). There are numerous other examples of Jesus having meals in homes, such as Matthew’s feast for Jesus and his friends (Luke 5:29–32). 

Jesus knew this reliance on God was something he had to teach his believers. In addition to the Beatitudes, he taught this when the disciples asked how to pray. In the Lord’s prayer, he told people to ask God to “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11). It is reasonable to think Jesus prayed about this every day. Jesus continued to tell the disciples to take no food when they went out to preach because they would be given what they needed (Mark 6:8–13; Luke 9:3–6; 10:1-12).

Jesus wanted them to act on their faith. At the end of his ministry, the apostles confirmed they lacked nothing when they preached (Luke 22:35). This example shows that Jesus expects us to rely completely on God in the same way he did. By no means does this mean we should sit back and wait for God to provide for us, but our trust in God should be a fundamental part of how we go about our day-to-day business.

Jesus truly believed that, just as God provided the Israelites with manna, God would provide him with the food he needed during his ministry. How well do we rely on God like this in our life? How often do we let God work through us as He worked through the women who provided for him?

When Jesus was tempted to cast himself off the pinnacle of the temple, he responded by saying, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matt 4:7), which is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16. An important question here is how casting himself off the pinnacle of the temple would tempt God. The full quote is, “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah,” which refers to when the Jews were at Rephidim and demanded water. The underlying issue was that the Jews didn’t trust God would provide for them, causing them to make demands of God.

Jesus expects us to rely completely on God in the same way he did.

Jesus had good reason to be concerned about his safety since he knew his work would stir up the wrath of the religious leaders of Jewish society because they “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43). Jesus, knowing he would die, had to have known violence would be an ongoing threat during his ministry. There’s a certain logic to wanting to see a sign that God would protect him. Because Jesus knew that demanding proof that angels protected him might anger God, and he decided to trust in God rather than tempt Him.

Jesus faced danger throughout his ministry. Before his crucifixion, ten passages in the Gospel records state the Jews wanted to kill Jesus.2 At one point, the chief priests and Pharisees had a standing order for the Jews to report where Jesus was (John 11:57).

So how do we see Jesus was protected during his ministry? After giving two examples of when the Jews lacked faith, they became so angry they tried to kill Jesus by throwing him off a cliff. The Jews led Jesus to the cliff, putting him in imminent danger (Luke 4:24–29). Jesus escaped by “passing through the midst of them” (Luke 4:30).

It’s important to note that the only action Jesus took was walking through the midst of them. There is no record of Jesus using the Holy Spirit to escape. If Jesus didn’t use the Spirit to escape, the only possibility is that the angels protected him, making it possible for Jesus to leave unseen.

This incident is not the only time Jesus escaped death. He hid in the temple to avoid being stoned (John 8:59), and he fled the Jews on two other occasions to evade being killed (John 10:39–40; 11:53–54). In these cases, we see examples of Jesus taking action to dodge danger. He never used the Spirit to escape trouble. Instead, he trusted God would ensure his safety and allow him to escape the peril.

In his final test in the wilderness, Jesus’ pride was appealed to when he was promised the kingdoms of the world. Rather than exalt himself and claim the kingdoms for himself, Jesus quickly shut down the temptation by saying, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt 4:8–10). Jesus knew, and more importantly accepted, that only God had the authority to exalt people.

Once again, this test of character had a practical purpose. Jesus spent much of his ministry surrounded by crowds who wanted to hear his teachings and be healed.3 It is easy to see how this kind of attention could feed a person’s ego and cause them to think highly of themselves.

In addition to having to deal with the crowds, there were some people who worshiped him.4 Many people, including his disciples, were astonished by his wisdom, doctrine, and miracles5 and were amazed by what he said and did.6 All of this attention caused Jesus’ fame to spread throughout Judea.7

How quickly would our pride grow if we were so greatly noted for our wisdom and abilities that we were one of the most famous people in the country? A quick look at the world will give us a pretty good idea of what unrestrained pride looks like (though even controlled pride is to be avoided!).

Now imagine what it would be like if people thought you should be king! There are four times in the Gospel records when people talked about Jesus being king: when he met the wise men as a child (Matt 2:2), when he met Nathanael at the beginning of his ministry (John 1:49) when some of the Jews wanted to take him by force and make him king (John 6:15), and when Jesus entered Jerusalem at the end of his ministry (John 12:12-13).

Knowing he was the Son of God, and a descendant of David, taking the kingdoms of the earth must have been a strong temptation. In addition to his “right” to the throne, he could have justified it further by saying he would lead better than the corrupt Jewish leaders and the Romans. With twelve legions of angels at his command (Matt 26:53), his hypothetical military victories would quickly surpass David’s.

Fortunately, Jesus had the humility required to reject this temptation. By rejecting this temptation in the wilderness, Jesus proved he was ready for the temptations of pride that would repeatedly present themselves during his ministry. Before his ministry began, Jesus understood what he explained so clearly to Pilate: that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He knew the pleasures of this world would last for a short time and focused on the joy God offered (Heb 12:2).

When we go through a tough trial, it is important to think about why we are experiencing it. It could be that God is testing us to see if we are ready for some upcoming work He wants us to do. Or it could be that God wants us to further develop certain traits in our lives.

Whatever the reason for the trials and tests in our lives, we must always try to absorb the wisdom God will give us (Prov 2:6; Dan 2:21-22; Eph 1:17) and develop the faith, character, and reliance on God that Jesus showed. The more we become like Jesus, the more we will be filled with God’s righteousness. Let us be motivated, like Jesus was, by the joy that God has set before us and always strive toward the Kingdom.

Tim Jennings,
Verdugo Hills Ecclesia, CA


  1. Psa 66:10; Prov 17:3; Isa 1:25; Dan 12:10; Zech 13:9; 1 Pet 1:7.
  2. Matt 12:14–15; Mark 3:6; Luke 4:28–30; 6:11; 5:16–18; 7:1, 25; 8:59; 10:39–40; 11:53–54.
  3. Matt 4:25; 5:1; 8:1,18; 9:8, 33, 36; 11:7; 12:15; 13:2, 34; 14:13-14, 34-36; 15:10, 29-38; 17:14; 20:29; 21:8; 22:33; 23:1; Mark 3:8, 20, 32; 4:1; 5:31; 7:33; 8:1-2; 9:14; Luke 5:19; 6:17, 19; 8:37; 9:12; 12:1; 18:36; 19:37; 22:6; John 5:3, 13; 6:2.
  4. Matt 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; Mark 5:6; John 9:38.
  5. Matt 7:28; 13:54; 22:33; Mark 1:22; 5:42; 6:2; 7:37; 10:24, 26; 11:18; Luke 2:47; 4:32; 5:9; 8:56.
  6. Matt 12:23; 19:25; Mark 1:27; 2:12; 6:51; 9:15; 10:32; 14:33; Luke 4:36; 5:26; 9:43.
  7. Matt 4:24; 9:26, 31; 14:1; Mark 1:28; Luke 4:14, 37; 5:15.
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