H.A.L.T. This common acronym in recovery programs has now made inroads into the everyday language of our society. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired; Being aware of this simple acronym can help us to keep our behaviors in check. When we are experiencing any one of these temptations, oftentimes destructive behaviors take over. So this powerful tool reminds us to avoid being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
Scripture itself gives us a beautiful example of this in Matthew 4:1-11. If you are not familiar with this passage, I strongly recommend that you read it. In preparation for the beginning of His three-year journey to the cross and all the suffering that would entail, not only taking on himself all the physical pain but also the emotional pain of taking on all the sins of the world, Jesus was led into the wilderness where he remained for 40 days and 40 nights.
When His time of communion with the Father had finished, He emerged. We can well imagine that after fasting for 40 days, Jesus was probably hungry and in a physically weakened state.
It was at this time that the devil attacked him–at one of his weakest moments. The devil is always opportunistic and preys on us with the most useful of tools in his arsenal—temptation. “The tempter” is just one of the names given to satan. To best understand the enemy, we would be wise to know his names and the characteristics attributed to him.
Let’s start at the beginning. Satan is a spiritual being, one of only three angels mentioned in scripture.
The other two are Michael, the Archangel; and Gabriel, God’s messenger.
Satan rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. His name actually means “adversary.”
His primary purpose is to separate God’s creations from their rightful place with their loving God, the God of love.
Another name for satan is “the devil,” which means “false accuser” or “slanderer.”
John 8:44 refers to the devil, “
You belong to the father, the devil, and want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him when he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
TemptationsHunger – Physical Needs – The armor of God
So the first thing the devil tempts us with is a physical need, one that all of us can relate to—physical hunger. What we would not do to just eat sometimes. Out in the wilderness where there are no bakeries, the devil throws this request at Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” It was a brazen statement taunting Jesus to use His divine power in a self-serving way after 40 days of fasting. Jesus answers the “tempter,” showing us we need to take on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In this passage of scripture, generally referred to as “the armor of God,” the sword, or Word, is the only offensive weapon mentioned.
Now, how many of us, whilst praying or meditating on God’s Word, find our thoughts wandering to selfish physical needs or desires? How many of us, when hungry, have done or said things that are not in keeping with the Spirit-filled life we are seeking?
Anger – Express properly
The next word in the acronym is “anger.” Though it does not specifically state in scripture that Jesus got angry, I am going to take the liberty here for the purpose of shedding light on our H.A.L.T. acronym. How would you feel after 40 days without physical sustenance if you were confronted with your enemy trying to get you to do something that would have such negative consequences that it would negate all you were trying to achieve for the past 40 days?
Anger is a completely normal emotion to experience. The important thing is that we should express what is making us angry in an proper way, for unexpressed emotions such as anger will never just disappear. They always come back to haunt us.
Jesus’ rebuttal to this request shows that even under extreme pressure, the reverence Jesus had for His Father’s house, for the temple in Jerusalem where the Holy of Holies was housed, was greater than any desire He might have about desecrating this most holy of places. So Jesus replied to “the tempter,” “It is also written, do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Once again Jesus uses scripture and the Word of God, the sword, to defend himself against satan’s temptation.
The next word in the acronym is “loneliness.” The significance that power and wealth seem to have on us is so important to most of us mere mortals, but Jesus ignored the devil’s temptation.
He knew of a greater commission in front of Him–to be the perfect, unblemished lamb of God to be sacrificed, the one who paid the price for our redemption so we could take our rightful place with our Creator. Loneliness is such a wellspring for “the slanderer” to practice his dark arts of separating us from our true place for which we were all created, that being in a loving relationship with our Creator.
Even though Jesus was in a perfect union with His Father, the thought of being the only agent that could go to the cross and take on the sins of the world would make anyone lonely, not to mention that whilst being crucified, for one nanosecond the One who is love would not be loved by anyone.
Even His Father looked away and left Him to bear the sins of the world. The people who came to see Him, those He came to save, threw insults at Him and mocked Him. He truly was the loneliest person on earth. It would have been so easy for Him to accept the devil’s final temptation, to grant Him, when Jesus was on the very high mountain, power over all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor. “All this I will give you,” the devil said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8. The devil once again quoted scripture, which is a scary proposition when taking into account the full implications of this. Look what happened to Eve in the Garden when the devil misrepresented God’s word. Genesis 3.
Tired – Part of your maintenance program
The next word in the acronym is “tired.” There is good reason that sleep deprivation is a commonly used tool when interrogating someone.
Being tire is a strong wellspring for doing out-of-character actions which in turn affect all we are called to be—God’s witnesses, not His attorneys.
So it is important to keep up a good maintenance program for both our physical and spiritual well-being.
Jesus, being both fully man and fully God, needed His physical needs met. Yes, He fasted 40 days and 40 nights. He was sustained by His spiritual union with His Father. But sleep is important. Even though we are not told Jesus slept, one assumes He did sleep. Through all the devil’s attempts to tempt Jesus, Jesus resisted using the Word of God. The beast lost to our Lord and Saviour.
The true test of Our faith is when we resist the temptations of the devil, the so-called “price of this world satan lays before us.”
The devil lost Jesus, but he does not believe he has lost us. Take to heart what Peter had to say about the devil. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Jesus was offered wealth, comfort, authority, and adulation. But He chose scarcity, sacrifice, submission, and service.