About ten years ago, I was helping put together a student conference in Dallas. About five days before the event was to take place, I was missing one important item. Two weeks earlier, I had ordered some give-away items with the conference logo and theme imprinted on them.
Nervous that they would not arrive in time, I called the company who sold them to me. They tracked the shipping and said the package was to arrive at my office on Tuesday. The only problem was that the conference started in Dallas on Monday. The shipment would arrive too late.
So, I called UPS to see if they could help me. They tracked the package to confirm its location –Memphis. So I asked the customer service lady how much it would be to upgrade the shipping speed to overnight the package from Memphis to my office. She said it was impossible to change the shipping method once the package was in transit.
So then I asked if we could just change the destination to Dallas so that the package would arrive at the conference. The polite voice answered, “we cannot change the destination once a package is in transit.”
Next, I said, don’t worry; I’ll have a friend pick it up from the warehouse in Memphis on his way to the conference. “I’m very sorry sir, but we cannot allow a package to leave our custody until it is delivered to its final destination.”
At this point I was getting nervous. It seemed like every possible solution was shut down by UPS policy. So, I pulled out my secret weapon –something every pastor reserves for these kind of near-impossible situations. What is the secret weapon? The illustration tied to an emotional story!
Quickly, I went into “end of the sermon preacher mode.” My voice got a little softer and I said, “Suppose this was your package instead of mine. But it wasn’t just any old package –it was your mother’s cremated remains. What if you found out that your mother’s remains wouldn’t arrive in time for the funeral. Knowing what you know about how UPS operates, what would you do to make sure the package arrived in time for the funeral?”
Without skipping a beat –in the most pleasant voice in all of customer service, the lady replied, “Sir, it is UPS policy not to ship human remains.”
Ha! I just had to laugh out loud. Just when I thought I was going to “make a deal” to get what I wanted, the customer service lady calmly relied upon her training and referenced UPS policy.
It reminds me of Christ’s temptation in the desert. Satan had tried every temptation imaginable. First, he tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. Surely this appealed to Christ’s hunger since He had been fasting for forty days. But Jesus calmly turned to Scripture and said, “man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4).
Next, Satan tempted Jesus to jump off of a high pinnacle overlooking the city so that He would experience a majestic angel rescue. But Jesus answered, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7).
Finally, Satan gave it his last-ditch effort. He told Jesus to bow down and worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. This time Jesus became more firm (not so much like a customer service voice) and said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10).
And with that, Satan left.
So what was the secret to Christ’s battle with temptation? Much like the customer service representative, He simply turned to “policy” –the policy of God’s Word. Instead of trying to develop a clever argument or rebuttal –he relied upon the unchanging, never failing, all-powerful sword of the Spirit. Every answer He spoke to Satan was straight from Scripture.
This is a discipline I must personally pursue with greater tenacity in my life. What about you? We all know that temptation is constantly “in transit” and will no doubt show up on the doorstep of your heart today (that package never seems to arrive late).
In order for us to practice Christ’s method for resisting temptation, we must be so well versed in scripture that it becomes our “meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). After all, I’m fairly certain the UPS lady didn’t just spout off all of their shipping policies without having disciplined herself to study the manual. Likewise, preparing for temptation must be a proactive effort in which we “discipline ourselves for godliness” (I Timothy 4:7) by studying the Word consistently.
Then, and only then, will we be able to answer temptation with Scripture –with even more calm confidence than a UPS customer service representative!