Preparation is the key to success, right? When I was in school that meant studying. When I played soccer it meant practicing. When I went to the dentist last month that meant flossing. (Come on now, I know I’m not the only one who pulls out the ol’ floss before an appointment.)
Key Verse: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16, ESV
And now that I’m a mom it means a purse or backpack or diaper bag full of all kinds of necessities depending on the distance or destination. If it’s the grocery store I take suckers. If it’s the doctor’s office I grab the iPad. If it’s a road trip I take snacks and dvd’s and headphones and drinks and tissues and books and crayons and of course a big black trash bag. Why the trash bag? Because the one time you don’t take one, you’ll need one. Just trust me on that one.
You can’t be too prepared. Or maybe you can be but I’d rather err on the side of caution than be caught empty handed. Yet when it comes to our spiritual lives we more often than not walk straight out the door without a single thought to what might be lurking around the corner, waiting to sabotage a fresh commitment to faith.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes it feels silly to think there’s an enemy out there. An enemy who actually cares about me and what I do. We feel small and insignificant most of the time. But anytime a step of faith is taken, a trust in God is established, an allegiance is declared – it’s not insignificant. It’s noteworthy because it’s not you or me at work, it’s the power of God and the enemy trembles at the thought.
An enemy known in Scripture as the spiritual forces of evil. Lead by Satan himself who prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom ever he can devour. It sounds crazy I know. I have trouble believing it myself. Sounds more like a sci-fi movie script than real life.
But Scripture is adamant our enemy is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Hence the need to be prepared. But how? Ephesians 6:16 says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” A shield of faith. A solid, unbreakable, undeniable, unrelenting faith that doesn’t lose heart at the first jostle. And remains steadfast with the next shove. And the next and the next and the next.
A faith that stays alert and expectant of the enemy. Able to recognize those flaming darts for what they are: doubt, distraction, or disturbance. Often disguised as a conflict at work. A feud with a family member or friend. A malfunction. A day where nothing goes right. A marital struggle. A roadblock. A false accusation. A complaint. A criticism. A misunderstanding. A rift so deep it leaves an aftermath of hurt feelings.
While some of the problems we face may simply be unfortunate mishaps or the result of our own sin, the fact remains, the dilemmas and difficulties we deal with may very well be a weapon the evil one sent to distract us, make us doubt, or disturb us in such a way our faith takes a backseat.
Take for example the Israelite’s. After seventy years of exile they got the thumbs up from a Persian king named Cyrus to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Praise God from whom all blessings flow right?
They knew it would be a long road to recovery, after all it took months just to walk home. But those who went, knew it was the right thing to do. It was God honoring and the LORD had clearly given them an open door to do so. Not to mention it fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10.
But when opposition arose instead of seeking God and identifying the conflict for what it really was, a flaming dart of the evil one to discourage them and disrupt progress, they quit. For ten long years. Assuming maybe they’d heard God wrong. (Ever been there?)
It wasn’t until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah came along and urged them back to work that the temple actually got completed (Ezra 5:1). In contrast, when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to encourage the Israelite’s to rebuild the wall surrounding the city, he pressed forth with unpersuaded determination.
He knew God had opened the door. He didn’t doubt. When opposition arose he told the Israelite’s to keep building! “Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Nehemiah 4:18-19).
How awesome is that! They didn’t let the conflict discourage them. They didn’t get distracted. They didn’t quit. They recognized the opposition for what it was and kept going, even though some of them could only work with one hand!
Beloved of God, when you step out in faith be prepared for trouble. The enemy longs to discourage you. It may be easy to identify, or it may not. It may come when you least expect it or in a way you didn’t anticipate, but make no mistake it will come. Sometimes disguised as a problem at work or a bad day at home, other times it’s simply a feeling of defeat.
And when it does seek the LORD. Ask him to help you identify the real source of your struggle. And then nail in place an unpersuaded shield of faith. More than likely you didn’t misunderstand the LORD, you’re simply in the thick of an extraordinary spiritual battle.
Be strong and courageous my friend. Be prepared. Don’t give up and do what needs to be done, even if that does mean working with only one hand.
Contemplate and Evaluate:
What conflict or issue has been keeping you distracted or discouraged? How does your perspective change if you identify the situation as a fiery dart of the evil one, instead of just another issue to deal with?
P.S. …… I know many of you expected to start a study of Exodus today. Well, me too. But then something happened.The LORD very clearly through a series of events asked me if I trusted him. And I said, “Of course!” To which he replied with another series of events, “Then give me your dreams.”
As clear as a cup of ice cold water I knew that meant stepping back from Deeper Devos in some way shape or form. And it made me sad and hesitant. So I tried a little reasoning with God (never a good idea), “But I’ve posted every week for almost two years Lord. If I don’t post something every Tuesday I may lose my most loyal readers?” To which he replied with the most gentle nudge on my heart, “Trust me.”
And I said ok. Working my way through a book of the Bible on a weekly basis requires some intense study on my part. And I love it! Don’t get me wrong. But in my current season of tiny people, it’s starting to take a toll on my family. Don’t worry….I’m still planning to write. I have to or I’ll go crazy. But it might look different for a while and it may not happen every week. Or it may happen on a Thursday (Absurd, I know!) You’ll just have to check back regularly to see!
But how can I encourage you to trust God with your dreams if I don’t do it first? I can’t. The most effective Bible teachers are the ones who teach from a place of experience. And that’s what I long to be – effective. In whatever capacity God intends that to be. So my friend today – I go first. Today I give God my dreams. And you may or may not hear from me some weeks. If you don’t – don’t worry! I’ll be back. I just had one of those weeks wherein my family needed to come first. Thanks friend! – Stacey
(Photo credit for featured image: Pixabay)