Earlier on this week, I felt the Lord speak to me about a certain matter in my life. I do not mean I heard a voice, but just that I had been seeking Him for an answer and found it in the Bible. He clearly drew me to it and pointed it out to me. This is neither frequent nor unusual for me. I expect it would happen more often if I took the time to listen more!
Having understood what I needed to do, I set about doing it yesterday. You might think that when you try to obey God in something He has shown you, that you will somehow step into a new level of blessing overnight. You might assume that when we follow God’s lead that everything will simply fall into place neatly… But this is not my first day, and so I knew that this is rarely so.
Yesterday was a tough day for a variety of reasons. Reflecting back, I realise that as I have tried to follow God in this way, I have encountered spiritual resistance. I’m undergoing “resistance training.”
We do have an enemy who wants to disrupt our relationship with God, and if he gets the chance, destroy us altogether. I am not someone who blames the devil for every little problem in life. When I lose my keys for instance, I do not generally leap to the conclusion that the enemy is attacking me. That said, we do have a real spiritual enemy we should take seriously.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.James 4:7 (NIV)
It is important to note that we should not and cannot resist the devil without first submitting to God. I hear of Christians rebuking the devil left, right and centre, but who are clearly refusing to submit to God in some areas of their life. We cannot successfully stand against the wiles of the devil if we are not fully submitted to the Lord.
Reading this verse again this morning though, I see it in a potential new light. I have always thought of submission to God and resistance against the devil as two separate things, and of course they are. However, I wonder if James puts them side-by side like this because when we submit, we must then resist. Perhaps submission and resistance must go hand in hand?
How do we resist the enemy?
There is much we can say on this point, but I want to say two (hopefully) important things.
Firstly, do not let the devil set the agenda. Our focus should not be on the enemy but on God. Don’t run around trying to cast demons out of everything that moves, instead put your energy into your relationship with Christ. Remain in Him and draw on His strength. Be alert to the devil’s schemes, but try not to see them around every corner.
Secondly, resisting the devil means not acting like him. The best way to resist the enemy is to act like Christ. The more loving we are, the kinder, the more we serve and bless one another, the less like the enemy we become. The devil attempts to disrupt us by pushing us to live out of our flesh or sinful nature. Instead, we must walk in step with the Spirit.
This is not easy, and nor is it a one time thing. Each and every day you will need to push back against that resistance – call it “resistance training” if you will. Every time you say no to your sinful desires, you build spiritual muscles and it gives you strength to fight the next battle.
Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.2 Corinthians 2:9-11 (NIV)
Paul, although writing about something slightly different, points out that he does not want the church to be outwitted or to be unaware of the enemies schemes against us.
Have you ever stepped out in faith and faced strong resistance? It is not easy, but did it make you stronger?
Praise the Lord today and submit to His goodness and Lordship.