Success doesn’t equal identity 

“Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:8-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

How much are you worth? We may not ever ask ourselves that exact question but thoughts and feelings of worth trickle through our minds from time to time. We subconsciously compare our material possessions with those of others. We may assign values to our businesses or ministries.

Honestly, we can’t help it. In our culture, we’re considered successful if we have accumulated money and things. In our capitalist society, virtually everything has a price and value. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The problem comes when we put prices and values on ourselves and make those values part of our identity. 

That’s what the devil did to Jesus. The devil showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He showed him the might, wealth, and riches of kingdoms and offered it to Jesus. 

This attack was really tricky. Instead of referring to Jesus as the Son of God as he did in the first two attacks, Satan appealed to Jesus’ humanity. He wasn’t talking to the “Son of God”. He was talking to the son of a middle class, blue collar carpenter who was never wealthy. His goal was to get Jesus to chase wealth and success instead of following God. 

Satan approaches us the same way. He shows us a never ending stream of new and better things to acquire. He distracts us with images of promotions and greater success. We don’t always realize it but the longer we look at the kingdoms and glory, the less we may think of ourselves. 

Don’t tie your identity to your success or material worth. You’re no less important to God if you don’t have a bigger church, nicer car, or better business. Your fame fortune or popularity are inadequate definitions for your identity. When we are secure in our identity toward God, we can put Satan in his place. 

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

Jesus was offended by Satan’s petty offer. When you’re the Son of God whose Father owns the world, the kingdoms in the world are a drop in the bucket. Literally. 

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Only God can tell us what we’re worth because only God was able to pay the price for our salvation. Only God can determine our success because only he has the plan for our lives. 

Your title isn’t your identity. 

“Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ””‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:5-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Ok, in the second scenario between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness, the devil attacks Jesus’ identity again. He says “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

Let’s unpack this statement. If you’re the Son of God, if you have that title, if you have that position, if you have that status, then throw yourself down from he top of the temple. If you’re really the Son of God then there’s no problem because you’re important. In fact you’re so important, God will dispatch angels to catch you. 

This tactic employed by the devil is still in use today. It’s easy for the devil to tempt us to believe our titles make us entitled. Sometimes leaders become intoxicated with positional power. They allow their titles to excuse reckless behavior and uncalculated decisions. Some resort to “title-mongering” where they justify their decisions by saying “I’m the leader, I’m the boss, I’m the pastor, or I’m the president.”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”

Allowing your title to become your identity is dangerous. It can lead to pride which could cause you to fall. It can lead to stagnation if you refuse to give up the title. It can lead to depression if you lose the title. Worst of all, it could lead us to “tempt” or test God because we believe our titles make us so important. 

We’re not that important. We should never tie our identity to our positions. Any of us can be replaced. As my friend Abraham Snell once said “One monkey won’t stop God’s show. If he can’t find a monkey, he’ll use an orangutan.” 

Ability doesn’t equal identity

Last week, my friend Jeff Centers, pastor of Riverland Church, shared a thought with me. He said one of the primary ways the enemy attacks ministry leaders is in the area of identity. As we discussed this concept I began to believe Jeff was right. Immediately my mind went to the interaction between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness. There it was, as plain as day. So I’d like to explore this concept with you for a few posts. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


In this first interaction, Satan challenged Jesus to turn stones to bread. He just challenged Jesus to do an impossible, miraculous task to produce an ordinary result. What’s so dangerous about this challenge is, the enemy ties ability to Jesus’ identity. 

If you are the Son of God, do the impossible. If you are who you say you are, then do the miraculous. Surely someone with your skills, talents, and gifts should be able to dazzle everyone with your power. Does that sound familiar to you? It does to me. 

I hear this; “if you’re the pastor, you have to go above and beyond to impress others.” “If you’re the ministry leader you have to be so talented as a leader that you grow the ministry to worldwide status.” “If you’re the preacher or speaker then wow us with your powerful words and compelling messages.”

If we listen to these ideas, we may begin to believe our identity and worth are measured by our abilities. We may even begin to compare our abilities to the abilities of others. We may find ourselves fixed on performance instead of faithfulness. Worst of all, we may become discouraged when we fail to work miracles for the pleasure of spectators. When these things happen, Satan keeps us bound and causes us to discredit ourselves. 

Don’t tie your identity to your abilities. You are not your skill set. You are not your voice. You are not your leadership ability. You are a Son or Daughter of God. Jesus reveals a truth we must all grasp in order to survive the enemy’s attack:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Sons and Daughters of God live by God’s word. Our true identity is whatever God says about us. Our source of life is his word. The only one who can command us and empower us to do the impossible is God. Whether we perform miracles or not, we’re still his children.