Living on the Living Word

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
(Matthew 4:1-4)

One of the greatest understatements in the Bible: “after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” So many of Satan’s temptations focus on the obvious desire of a person. At this particular day in Jesus’ life, nothing would perhaps look quite so good as food. The temptation though, was not just about food, but about the way of obtaining food. The real struggle Jesus faced was to take the power of God and use it in a horizontal way . . . a way of satisfying the physical need of hunger.
I (Kim) have had this experience during seasons of intentional fasting. During the time I’m intending to be focused on the spiritual (vertical), my thoughts continually try to go after the physical. I more fully understand why fasting is a discipline, as it takes much practice to quit thinking about the food I could be having or will have when the season of fasting is completed. It’s a wrestling match that takes place in my mind since I really intend to be fixed upon the things of God rather than being in the clutches of my own need. Mastering the physical and resisting the temptation of the devil to give in to lesser things was Jesus’ gift to us in this passage.
In so many ways, it’s a temptation we all face every day. Oh, not miraculously turning stones into bread. But we can take what God has given us, whether it is money, energy, time, or life itself, and spend it on ourselves. The temptation to stay horizontal never really leaves us.
Jesus’ response to Satan is the key for our victory over this temptation. “It is written . . .” Jesus employs the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, to counter the attack of the enemy. He turns the attention from the horizontal (His own hunger) to the vertical (what has God said).
The prayerful usage of the Word of God is our greatest weapon against temptation and assures us of maintaining a vertical perspective on life.

Listen: Spend a few quiet moments seeking God. Be attentive to whatever He may speak to your heart.

Reflect: How is the Spirit leading you to respond to what you have heard from God?

Confess and Repent: If there is something the Spirit convicts you of, take time to prayerfully confess it. Resolve to turn from it if it is sin, or step toward whatever He is leading you into that you have either neglected or not seen before.

Ask: Lord, You know how easy it is for me to focus on my own needs and wants. The things of earth call out to me and want my entire attention. Teach me to use Your Word in a way that continually points to You. Help me to know Your Word to the point where I naturally respond to temptation by praying Scripture, fighting the war with spiritual weapons and not my own fleshly efforts.


  • Consider and meditate on Jesus’ example of using Scripture to fight temptation. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Prayerfully put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) daily. Recognize the power of the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). This sword is the only offensive piece of the armor. All other pieces are defensive. Do battle against the temptations to live in your own strength rather than leaning into the victory that is yours through Jesus.
  • Unbelievers (and many believers) live their lives horizontally. How could you encourage another person through the way you live your life to look to Jesus for strength, wisdom, peace or joy?

Taken from Vertical with Jesus by David and Kim Butts. © 2022 PrayerShop Publishing.