Facing Our Demons: Lessons from Jesus’ Temptations in the Wilderness

BY: Will Penner


by Will Penner

Approximate length: 40 minutes
Primary Theme: Temptation
Additional Themes: Sin, Evil, Satan
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

All throughout the Bible, we find stories of people being tempted. The whole book of Job recounts a fierce battle on Satan’s part to turn Job’s heart away from God. Many decent men and women in Scripture succumb to the temptations offered them. Even Jesus was tempted.

Just before Jesus began his public ministry, he went into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.



(Movie clip options: Either The Devil’s Advocate or Bedazzled)

Movie clip: The Devil’s Advocate
Start at 01:58:50 when Kevin says, “because you’re my father?” End at 01:59:28 when Satan says, “Call me Dad.” In this clip Kevin finally realizes that the man who’s been his mentor is actually his father–and that he’s also the Devil. Be careful about language and adult content before and after the clip above.

Movie clip: Bedazzled
Start at 00:13:02 when the Devil says, “Just listen.” End at 00:13:31 when the Devil whispers, “I’m the Devil.” This is a milder clip than the one above, although not as powerful.

Reading: The Screwtape Letters
You can read pretty much any portion of this book to serve the purpose of getting them to think about temptation.

Discussion: It sure would be easy to stay away from temptation if we saw a little guy dressed in red carrying a pitchfork–or at least we’d know where the temptation was coming from. But temptation is usually more elusive than that.

The Heart of the Talk

Let’s examine each of the three temptations of Jesus and see how each of them relates to our own lives.

1. Basic Needs

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-3

Discussion: Eat This Bread

Who among us doesn’t want to have his or her basic needs met? When we’re hungry, we want to eat; when we’re tired, we want to sleep; when we’re cold, we want to warm up; and when we’re wet, we want to get dry. So, what would’ve been the problem with Jesus just making one little pebble into a biscuit?

What are some of our basic needs in life?

The larger problem is that we often feel like our “wants” are really our “needs,” and we spend WAY too much time thinking about all of the things we want. Jesus shows us that we don’t even really need to focus on our true needs–that God is going to take care of all of that if we will simply let go and trust God.

Scripture: Matthew 4:4

2. Faith

Scripture: Matthew 4:5-6

Movie Clip: A Christmas Story
Start at 00:16:39 when the camera pans down the flag pole to a group of arguing kids. End at 00:18:39 when Ralphie says, “I don’t know–the bell rang.” In this clip a kid gets triple-dog dared to stick his tongue against the flag pole, so he does it.

Illustration: Off a Cliff?
Have any of you ever done something really stupid on a dare? What would possess someone to actually follow Satan’s dare on this one? I mean throw yourself off a cliff? This was my mom’s standard line when she would ask me why I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. I would say, “Marko dared me to,” or, “Marko did it first,” to which she would reply, “If Marko threw himself off a cliff (or dared you to), would you do that, too?” I guess I could’ve used the line Jesus used with Peter in Matthew 16:23, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Discussion: Who Needs Faith?

But what if it’s more than just a dare? Keeping our faith is probably the most difficult part of being a Christian. Especially when things get tough–when people we love get sick or die, when boyfriends ore girlfriends break up with us, when parents get divorced, when our friendships shatter–it’s often difficult to have faith that there’s a caring, generous God who loves us very much. If we were to be able to test God and get sure results, then we wouldn’t need faith, now would we?

Scripture: Matthew 4:7

3. Power

Scripture: Matthew 4:8-9

Discussion: I Got the Power.

Everyone wants some degree of power. You can see it in two-year-olds when they first learn that they can say, “No!” though you rarely see any evidence of that parent-child power struggle when they become teenagers! Many girls learn early-on that they can have power over guys (and over other girls’ competition for guys) through the way they look, the way they dress, and the way they flirt. Many guys learn that they can have power over other guys (often in competition for the girls) through physical strength and athletic prowess. Teenagers and adults continue to play power games with intellect, money, and titles. Even church people like to “out-spiritual” others sometimes. All of these are forms of power. What are some other forms that you see in your selves, families, schools, and youth group?

Scripture: Matthew 4:10-11


All people get tempted in their lives, and all of us fail at times.

Explanation: “Thy Word”
Even Jesus was tempted about his basic needs, his faith, and his power. He left us a model to follow to resist temptation: Scripture. Studying Scripture is the best defense against temptation. When we know God’s heart, which we can find in God’s Word, we are more likely to be able to see temptation for what it really is (even without seeing the little, red guy with horns and a pitchfork).

Scripture: Psalm 119:105 (“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path.”)

Song: Thy Word by Amy Grant

Student Talkback

Middle School:

High School:

Life-Application Questions

Going Forward


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