"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
There are times that I am feeling so stressed with the cares of life. There are times that I am struggling with trials and facing what seems like unending temptation. There are times that I am facing conflict that seems to have no resolution. From these verses I can see that it is so important to realize that Satan may be behind the stress and that it is he who is the true enemy. He would have me believe I am not capable of working through life’s stresses, unable to stand up under trials, not strong enough to have victory over temptation, or find a solution to the conflicts that I face. It is Satan who baits the hook in temptation and tries to real me in. He is the one who wants me to feel like I am rejected in the face of persecution, not Christ. Satan uses stress to draw my attention away from my God. He entices me to put too many irons in the fire and then mocks me because I all of a sudden find that I feel so distant from God. He discourages me from seeking God's guidance in what I should be involved in. Satan would like me to be so busy that I don't have time to pray, to read God's word, to be patient with people around me, or to get adequate rest which goes a long way in helping me face temptation. It would help me to remember that my spirituality is not measured by my business, but by the fruit of the spirit that is evident or is lacking in my life. It is measured by the way I love or fail to love both God and the others He puts in my life.
When I am facing conflict, it will help if I realize Satan is the one behind the conflict, not the person I am in conflict with. If he can stir up conflict in my family, my church, or among my friendships, he can destroy my witness. Conflict in this life is inevitable, but when I deal with it in a way that both parties are winning there is a potential that all parties concerned can be bonded even more tightly together revealing Christ's love to others. It will take compromise to preserve and tighten godly relationships, but through that pride is broken down and the integrity of our witness is preserved. Satan knows how to tickle my pride and my self-centeredness, convincing me that the enemy is a person and that I must win to be okay. He makes it difficult to hear and we end up twisting each other's words into something they were never meant to be. He excels at stirring up anger instead of humility. Oh that in conflict, we could sit and pray together so that we can identify the actual problem and work together to resolve it. Satan's tactic is to try to turn godly love into selfish hatred – that way people will not see Christ as someone they need or a Christians as someone they want to become.
James also makes it clear that in trials and temptations that Satan will be the one baiting us. When we go through a trial or say no to a temptation it is an opportunity to love God through obedience. It creates intimacy with God as we rely on His strength to say no to the things with which our flesh struggles. It is also an opportunity to abide in God’s precious protection. I would do well to remember that God's intent is for us to be given a chance to stretch and grow and to see how He operates in our lives, not to see us fail. God is faithful and He is good no matter what the outcome of a trial is. God is God and He is not bound to a system of rules that requires Him to work things out in a certain way or in a certain time frame. He has infinite wisdom, infinite creativity, and infinite knowledge about me, my circumstances, and others. He will do things in a way brings glory to Himself, reveals more of Himself to us, and transforms each of us into His likeness.
If we are facing persecution…we need to remember that Christ was hated. He promised that as we learn to walk like Him and talk like Him and love like Him that the world would hate us, too. When we are rejected for Christ's sake it is not us that they are rejecting us, it is Christ and His values in us that convict them. Because of that we should remain gracious and kind in the face of persecution and continue to make moral decisions that honor God. We are called to love and to pray for our enemies and that will take depending on the Lord for strength and courage.
I wonder if you are growing close enough to God to gain His perspective? Do you see your enemy as a person God has called you to love? Are you able to walk intimately with God through temptations and trials? Do you live with the perspective that there is a spiritual realm that we do not see and that is where the real battles are being fought? Joni Erikson Tada has shared that when she was still confined to her bed and seeing no purpose to her life that a precious friend pointed out that her faithfulness and prayers were being witnessed in the heavenly realms. Do you have that kind of spiritual perspective? I hope that we can each grow in that perspective and take joy in this sometimes difficult journey that we call life.
Prayer: Father, we so often forget that there is a spiritual realm that we do not see. So often we think the enemy is the parents that you have given us to protect us, the teachers you have called to teach us, our spouse who doesn’t understand us, or the friends you have sent to confront the sin in our lives. Please help us in our relationships and in our circumstances to remember to saturate our minds with your truth, adorn ourselves with your righteousness and salvation, and to shield ourselves with faith! Please help us to adopt your perspectives of our situations and the people in our lives. Let us honor you in all that we do and say. Amen.