Better and stronger together: Man in the Wilderness

Mat 4: 1-11
In the beginning God made man and God made woman both in his image and through them God made people. There is a sense in which we will account to God First as Men and as women before we account to God as people.

Man was made from the dust of the earth and when we die we will return to the dust. Yet everyday man tries to run away from the dust that made him and conquer the world, explore the skies and reach for the stars. We forget that men are made not in the skies or in the stars but in the dust of the wilderness.

Today we look at Man in the wilderness. These are wilderness experiences that have questioned your identity, your manhood and possibly even altered your faith in God especially so as a man or woman.

Early on from childhood, many African men will tell you that again and again the world presses that red button on them “ Kama wewe ni Mwanaume” or If you are man enough?

Recall your story through this guidelines
1. What are some bad decisions that you made or were made that affected you in this journey as a man, are there scars and how do you feel about them now

2. Are there key men that either affirmed you or said somethings about you that have shaped your life since
3. Have you come round to know if you carry any wounds/scars and who do you blame- How have you wrestled with God during some of these seasons

4. So what was your turn around point- How are you walking through it- what would you appreciate from fellow men here as the body of Christ?
You will be glad to know that Our Lord Jesus Christ was also tempted as a man and we can draw great encouragement from Him.

Turn now to our key text Mathew 4:1-11. (Read)
First of all, the previous event was the baptism of Jesus recorded in Chapter 3.

And when He came from the water – The heavens were opened and the Spirit of God came upon him in the form of a dove and settled on him and a voice from heaven said “This is my Son, Whom I love and with Him I am well pleased”

These are perhaps the most important words that spoke identity, the relationship and to the significance of God the Father to His son. These were very strong words of affirmation. In these words God was saying
You belong to me, I love you and I am proud of you- even before Jesus went on to face the world and carry out His mission. This is what spoke to his manhood. These word gave Jesus a standing of who He was and His mission.

As African men, we pride ourselves in saying that we are the sons of ……… Some say You will know that I am son of …………….
Sadly as men, many of our wilderness experiences start off without these important words of affirmation from our fathers. Our manhood was shaped by absent fathers, abusive fathers, drunkards, so we never know how to face our wilderness experiences, we lack grounds to face the enemy in times of temptations.
Men, our sons and children need to hear these words from us and to remind them that They belong to us, We love them, we are proud of them. This are the words of investment to say to our sons and children every-day. I am your dad, I love you and I am proud of you.
Notice how the devil approached Jesus- If you are the son of God….then….
But secondly temptations are real and the devil is real. This becomes very clear in the wilderness experiences. When a Man is pushed to the dust and he is on the edge, when we are vulnerable especially when we feel we are alone in the wilderness. Remember Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and nights. Temptations are not bad, but they are a great opening to evil.

Temptations prompt us to settle not necessarily for a bad choice but a lesser good in place of God’s good. The devil makes the most of these opportunities. Everyone is tempted. And too often at the bottom of temptations Is the answer the devil gives you that you are man enough without God, or the help of others. The result is often we sink deeper in our sin and self made prisons.
But let’s explore these temptations of Jesus and How did Jesus respond. How can we as men respond in our seasons of wilderness?
If the first Adam was tempted in the Garden of Eden, the Second Adam- Jesus Christ was here tested in the wilderness and where Adam failed to re affirm what God had said, Jesus prevailed.

With these and the preceding verses we have Jesus beginning his mission to the world. The problem which Jesus faced was how to carry out this mission. As William Barclay has said, “He had come to lead men home to God. How was he to do it? What method was he to adopt? Was he to adopt the method of conqueror, or was he to adopt the method of patient, sacrificial love?

First is the temptation of Bread (Physical need) – the need to provide as a man. The devil seems to say you are not Man enough if you can’t provide even for yourself.
This is perhaps the greatest challenge for men to provide, to survive. The pressure that comes from those we love and care about when they look up to us to work our hands and bring forth something. This is an area that leads men to great lengths of sin, we lie to ourselves to others, we manipulate, we refuse, we breed selfishness because of this area of temptation.
I remember my dad’s efforts to provide for us when we were growing up. We lived through debt and borrowing. I could tell it was not easy for him and on occasion- the beer came in handy to bury the stress when it was too much. We know some who have walked away from family responsibility all together.
But what was Jesus response- Man shall not leave on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
A careful examination of Christ’s replies to the temptations, seen in their contexts, may open a deeper level of interpretation. The first answer (vs4) is from v.3 in Deut.8:1-10 which is based on Exod.16 and 16. The Israelites in the wilderness certainly needed bread but when they were in a tight corner, with supplies running out, would they rely on the word and command of God, and trust him, or start a revolt? Christ, facing the same temptation, trusted God’s Word.
A key principle from Christ response was that Life is not about the functionalities of survival and self –existence, but more importantly a relational reality with the word of God. We need God to complete us, not things, not even food. And too often God will sometimes take us through this journey to remind us as Christian men we are called to a higher calling.
The danger for us as men is to seek God after we have provided for ourselves. Serving God is always secondary to providing for ourselves and family. The risk is what God warned the Israelites…
“When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied…Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:12-13, 17; NRSV).”
The risk is God will become irrelevant to you. It is no wonder that men are missing in the places of faith building, churches and fellowships in the name of Unga.
In the process we miss out that our families need not just our unga, but our presence and words to live. Our sons need these words. Mwanaume si effort pekee, Mwanaume ni Mungu wake.

The second temptation: The Temptation to be spectacular- The devil asked the Jesus to do a stunt, by jumping off from the heights of the temple and because He was the son of God He would be Ok. The devil was tempting Jesus to be a stunt man that would certainly give him the centre stage and draw attention from the world. They would surely know who He is and what he is made off, they would tremble at His power and control and how He is in charge of it, How He is a master at his game.
The second answer (7) from Deut.6:16, also reflects Exod.17. The people were not content with what God chose to do. They wanted proof that he was with them, so they had the nerve to put him to the test (cf. Mark 8:11-13). Jesus did not require such proof. What God chose to do was sufficient for him.

This temptation to men to be spectacular, heroes of some kind- The devil tempts men to walk on hot coals, swallow fire, put your head in the lion’s mouth, Walk on a tight rope…to prove to the world that you deserve their attention.
Men’s ego’s are built on these kind of stunts. We want to feel like heroes, to move masses and sometimes we do these crazy things to draw attention to our-selves. No one wants to feel insignificant, inconsequential, we want heads to turn, heads to be raised when people hear our names. So we pride ourselves in self-made titles, doctor, engineer, Right honorable e.t.c

Christ response was simple “ Thou shall not put your God to the test” In other words the principle here is that
God is to be trusted not to be tested. Your character as a man is not seen in the show off, but in how you prove your faithfulness.
Your manhood is not seen in the numbers of women you have slept with, but in how faithful you were to one, Not in the places you went to, but in what contribution you made to the one place you were in. Your Manhood is not in the titles you carried but in whose you built their identity in Christ. Mwanaume sio stunts, Mwanaume ni Uaminifu.
The last Temptation was what He would receive if He compromised his mission, and worshipped the devil for a lesser glory. The temptation of false glory.
The third answer is from Deut.6:13 in the context of vs.10-15. The people of Israel were to enter a good land, but they would be surrounded by pagans. Would they serve God alone, or compromise? Again Jesus faces a similar temptation. For him, God alone was more than sufficient.

This is the ultimate temptation for man to become a god by himself and entirely do away with god by building his own kingdom. Where others worship him and where others cannot do without him, where he is king in his own throne. Where he is fully in control of his own and other’s world.
Men like that, our ego’s drive us to build these little empires for ourselves, where even God has to ask for our permission to get in. The cost is the exchange of our lives, who we are with the ultimate lie that the devil offers us. You will become a God.
That’s what political power, office power, family power struggles are all about. People who want to pontificate and rule over others. It is the height of being a man, In the process we become insensitive, arrogant, proud and insolent. We become God haters.
And usually at this point it takes a great downfall for us to realize how far we had risen in our pride and ego.

God’s response was simply, that only God is worthy of such worship and we can never replace God no matter how high we rise.
The principle here is that The best a man can be is a man under God’s authority, never above Him. That was Satan’s ultimate fall. Men under God’s authority is what we seek to be? When we come together as MAST we yield our controls and kingdoms to God and allow His will not our will to be done. The world will be a much better place, then again God calls us not to make a better world but to allow His kingdom to come to this world. Mwanaume si Empire, Mwanaume ni Kingdom.
As we said- Jesus came to bring men back to God; would he bribe them with bread?  would he display his power like a magician to woe them? Or would he compromise and seek his own kingdom instead?  Instead He chose the way of the Cross. God’s will. This then was the true test. He passed that He was Son of God, He passed that He was Man enough, you too can do it, but only through Him.


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