If you only obey God’s word when it seems reasonable or profitable to you – well, that isn’t really obedience at all. Obedience means you cede someone an authority over you that is there even when you don’t agree with him. God’s law is for times of temptation, when ‘body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour.’
No one can ever seem to secure a life of sustained success, joy, and blessing. As hard as we try, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well things are going, something comes in to ruin it. Even the most talented, diligent, and savvy people can’t escape the undulations of life. ‘Ah,’ you may say, ‘but what if we did our part better? What if we lived good lives and obeyed God and prayed every day, asking him to protect us from all suffering and difficulty?’ The answer is, fine— go there. What if you actually could overcome all of your faults and flaws? What if you could become perfectly wise and understand God’s ways, the human heart, and the times and seasons— such that you always made wise decisions? What if you could have faith in God without wavering? What if your life were perfectly pleasing to God? Then – surely! God would protect you, and your own holiness and wisdom would guard you as well, and your life would always go well. Right?
Wrong. Because here stands the one who did it. God the Father has just said that Jesus’ life is perfectly pleasing to him. And the Spirit of God has descended on him to guide him. And look what happens. He is loved and affirmed and empowered by God, and then . . . then! He is ushered into the clutches of the devil. So here’s the order: God’s love and power, then evil, temptation, wilderness, terrible hunger and thirst. That little word ‘then’ is an amazing word. It is almost like Matthew is trying to tell us, ‘Read my lips: No one is exempt from trials and tribulations. In fact, this is often what happens to people God loves very much, for it is part of God’s often mysterious and good plan for turning us into something great.’