1st Sunday in Lent
February 28, 2021
“Doubt No More”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us today for the sermon is today’s Gospel lesson from Mark chapter 1 as previously read.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Well, that was quite the Gospel Lesson, wasn’t it? Mark 1:9-15, just 7 verses, tell us of Jesus’ Baptism, His temptation in the wilderness, AND the beginning sermon of His ministry…all in one lesson. Yikes. The temptation narrative in Mark’s Gospel is only 2 verses long! But that’s Mark’s Gospel for you: action-driven, concise, and very economical in terms of details. Today I would like to focus primarily on verses 12 and 13 which are the two verses that “mention” Jesus’ temptation by Satan. It’s so short in Mark’s Gospel we’re going to have to borrow the details from Matthew and Luke, but I think you remember them anyway.
Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting. As the time concludes, Satan tempts Jesus with three specific temptations. It is a common tactic used by the devil. He wanted Jesus to doubt God the Father. He wanted Jesus to doubt God’s provision such that He would provide for Himself a meal of bread from stones. He wanted Jesus to doubt – or at least test – God’s divine protection and put Himself in harm’s way. He wanted Jesus to doubt God’s power over humanity and rely on Satan giving Jesus all the power and riches of the world; as if it didn’t belong to Jesus’ in the first place! Satan wanted Jesus to doubt God and His grace, but Christ is preparing to walk the way of the cross to defeat Satan and to silence all doubts.
Doubt always has been and always will be Satan’s greatest weapon. In the Greek he is known literally as “the Adversary.” He is the constant enemy of both God and man, a supernatural evil being permitted to be God’s agent to present moral choice to man. And he did just that in the Garden of Eden: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). The devil loves to sow those seeds of doubt; worked well the first time out, right?
The old, evil foe in the wilderness again wanted Jesus to doubt God, but each time Jesus responded with a quote from Deuteronomy: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God;’” ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test;’” “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10 ESV).
How many times has Satan tried that same nonsense on you? My guess would be every single day of your life. As I said before, doubt is the devil’s favorite weapon. How many times has he convinced you that God is not going to provide for you? How many times have you felt like there will be no relief from the pain, or no let up from the financial pressure or no break from strain of the daily grind? How many times have you doubted God’s resolution for your situation? But…how many times have you had to go without? How many times HAS God provided resolution in His way and in His time? God has provided for you every single time in some fashion, hasn’t He?
Satan wants you to doubt God’s providence or His divine protection. “Yeah,” you ask, “where is that at? My life is falling apart!” God never promises us divine intervention. His protection in your life is always there whether you recognize it or not. There are times – lots of them – when you WILL fall and get hurt literally and figuratively. Welcome to life in a sin-filled world. But God will NEVER abandon you…ever (Hebrews 13:5). Your ultimate protection is in the forgiveness, life, and salvation that comes through Christ Jesus who overcame this temptation to show us how to do it – respond with the Word and assistance of God.
Nothing happens without God’s reason and purpose (Romans 8:28). Satan wants you to doubt that; to doubt God’s authority when your life is spinning out of control and you cannot find any balance or support and you want to know “why?” God doesn’t answer the question of “why” because He already is the answer. All of your fears, temptations, anxieties, and doubts are ultimately answered in and through your Savior who loves and forgives your sins and saves you by grace even when you doubt. There is no reason to doubt. Ever since Adam and Eve, humanity has fallen time and again for Satan’s temptations, and you have too, but Jesus’ resurrection victory is your victory by faith. You have no reason to doubt. You will overcome; you will prevail because you have a Savior who already did it for you at His baptism, in the wilderness, at the cross, and the empty grave of Easter.
Professional golfer Lee Trevino grew up poor. He joined the army and discovered that he could play golf well. He was so good that he supplemented his army pay by wagering with wealthy officers on the golf course. Trevino took huge risks. Sometimes he would bet sums of money so large he never could have covered them if he lost. When he turned professional, Trevino again found himself playing for large sums of money. During his PGA career, Trevino won either in a playoff or by one stroke 17 times! At one tournament, a single putt was worth $200,000. He made it. A reporter asked Trevino what the pressure was like when every shot means so much. Trevino replied, “There is no pressure in putting for someone else’s money. Pressure is trying to make a putt for a $10 bet with only $5 in your pocket.”
When it comes to pressure and worry and doubt in life, it may appear as though we believe we have only $5 in our pocket and no confidence that we can make the putt. You don’t need to; God already made it for you. You cannot re-write the past chapters of your life, but you can always affect the writing of its next chapters and eventual ending because your ending lies with Christ and there is no better place than His grace and mercy and life. Go forth today from this place and throughout Lent and doubt no more.