“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means,” C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. “This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.”
In the fight against impatience, we might not think of Jesus as a sympathetic friend. After all, he lived his entire earthly life without once grumbling in a slow-moving crowd, questioning God’s timing, or griping about the ignorance of his neighbors. Unlike us, from infancy to the day of his death, Jesus always resisted the temptation to sin.
Jesus lived his entire earthly life without once grumbling in a slow-moving crowd, questioning God’s timing, or griping about the ignorance of his neighbors.
But, as Lewis points out, this makes Christ the most understanding friend we could have.
Tempted to Instant Gratification
At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Christ was led into the wilderness by the Spirit “to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). You and I usually come into temptation by our folly—our “own desire” lures and entices us into the wilderness (James 1:14). But Christ’s perfect righteousness gave Satan no opportunity for a chance encounter. He had to make an appointment. And, at the arranged place and time, Satan came prepared with every tool at his disposal.
Jesus was weary and weak after 40 days without food (Matt. 4:2), and Satan’s first maneuver was to tempt him to instant gratification: “Command these stones to become loaves of bread,” he told our Lord (Matt. 4:3). Why trust God to give what is best? Why look for satisfaction beyond your immediate desires? Why rest in God’s perfect timing? Why wait a moment longer?
Alone in the wilderness, our Lord met the full force of Satan’s pressure. He withstood temptation far beyond what any of us has borne, eventually to the point of shedding his blood (Heb. 12:3–4). While we often give in to temptation after only moments, Christ resisted for a lifetime.
While we often give in to temptation after only moments, Christ resisted for a lifetime.
Christ, Our Sympathetic Friend
Just as he did with Christ, Satan regularly waves fast food in front of hungry people and suggests that giving in to impatience is only reasonable. Why trust God in your singleness, your childlessness, your unemployment, your hard relationships, your unexpected inconvenience? Why wait a moment longer?
Although these temptations are extremely difficult, they are not unique to us. Jesus “has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15, NASB). As we draw near to him, we “receive mercy and find grace” (Heb. 4:16) in that moment when Satan prods us to impatience. In Christ, we have a divine friend who understands our temptation and encourages us never to give in.
This gives us courage in our fight. The writer to the Hebrews says that “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). Just as Christ prayed for Peter before his temptation (Luke 22:31–32), he is now praying for us to attain patience.
On our own, we can’t wait. But we don’t have to grit our teeth and practice patience in our own strength. We “run with endurance the race that is set before us” because we are looking to Jesus (Heb. 12:1–2). He founded our faith and is perfecting our faith. He conquered sin’s mastery, gives us his patient endurance (see Rev. 1:9), and continually prays for us.
In Christ, we impatient people have the friend we need.