Diogenes Allen, in his book “Temptation,” discusses the significance of the challenges and difficulties we face as Christians. He has an intriguing insight into how we should think about the slogan, “Jesus is the Answer.”
There are so many difficulties in life that we seem to be engaged in a daily battle just to keep from going under. We struggle to keep on top of our job, maintain our household, take care of our children, cope with bad health, homework, and money problems. None of us is without difficulties, sometimes overwhelming ones. We are often advised to turn to religion for help, and in fact the phrase “Jesus is the Answer” even appears on bumper stickers.
But genuine religion begins by revealing to us that Christ is the answer, not in the sense of lifting all our troubles from us, but in directing us to the place where the right battles are to be fought; he reveals to us where we should be struggling. He does not magically remove us from all strife, but shows us which specific struggles will lead us into a haven.
The situation then is not that there are those with troubles and those without them, but that there are those caught in a whirlpool, going around and around, and those making for shore. Christ is the answer in showing us the direction to take, the place where we are to struggle, if we are to find a way that leads to the kingdom of his father.
We discover what we ought to struggle with by looking at what he struggled with. He did not calmly inform us of the gateway, but he himself labored and pioneered his way through the place we are to follow. All three synoptic Gospels tells us that Jesus was tempted; and all three portray the temptation scene as a gateway through which he passed. Before he began his life’s work of healing and teaching, he had to pass through temptation.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are certainly not immune from difficulties, temptations, trials, or COVID-19. In fact, the trials we face are often the gateway to our own spiritual growth and character formation. In Jesus, we have the model of how we are best to respond when faced with difficult life challenges. Hebrews 12:1-3 shows us how Jesus is the answer:
“let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”