Resistance Training

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.

Who’s calling the shots?

It is Maundy Thursday, and the day we remember the Last Supper. On this night, Jesus has His last meal with His friends before He is arrested and crucified.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day posing a question about this night, and particularly about the devil’s and Judas’ roles. If the devil entered Judas Iscariot, as it says in Luke 22:3, then why did the devil lead him to betray Christ and send Him to the cross – His ultimate victory?

I suggest that the devil is a murderer, and without fully understanding the plan of God, was simply trying to kill Jesus before He could fulfil His role. Essentially, I think the devil unwittingly played into God’s hands. God’s will and purpose is always fulfilled.

My post today is not really about that issue however, but does pose a related question – who was calling the shots that night? Who was really in charge of the events that took place?

From Matthew’s Gospel, we read:

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’

23 Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’

Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

Matthew 26:20-25 (NIVUK)

Jesus’ last meal with His disciples would have been quite an interesting experience. Most of them probably would not have realised that this was the last time they would spend time with Him before the cross. But Jesus of course knew.

The events of the Last Supper were significant in a number of ways. Not least was the instigation of the Lord’s Supper, or what we call Holy Communion. It is an important sacrament, and one we should take seriously, but we must not also lose sight of its original simplicity. Jesus broke bread and shared wine with His closest friends. The bread and wine represented His body and blood, and encourages us to remember Him and His sacrifice for us.

The account above tells us how Jesus broke not just bread that night, but bad news indeed! The disciples were shocked to learn that one of them would betray Him. But who?

Jesus, in front of them all, shines the spotlight on to Judas. “Surely not I, Lord?” he says, knowing full well it is him. “Yes, you!” says Jesus. There is nothing to indicate that Jesus did this privately or in a whispered corner. I think He pronounced this in front of them all.

What could Judas do now? Every eye was likely resting on him, accusing, wondering, and confused. What would you do in his shoes? Run? That’s exactly what he did. Clearly he had not planned this, and had not suspected his betrayal would be exposed in front of them all. He had to run for it, and immediately put his plan into action.

It is not always easy to grasp the timings of events in the Bible, but it seems that Judas would have run straight to the Pharisees and report to them where Jesus would go after dinner. There, in the garden, they would find him.

Jesus instigated this. Jesus forced Judas’ hand. They would not have wanted to arrest Jesus on a festival day – at Passover. They knew that to hold His trials overnight, as they did would be totally illegal. They had not yet had time to prepare the false witnesses who would later contradict one another in the kangaroo court.

The point is this. God is in charge. He was in charge that night, and He is in charge now. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were all part of God’s plan right from the very beginning.

God is not evil, but He will use evil to fulfil His plans and purposes. The devil wanted to destroy Jesus, and he used the evil heart of Judas to try it. Perhaps as Jesus was nailed to the cross, the devil may have thought he had won. But death could not hold the Lord!

This night, as you remember Jesus, imagine yourself as a fly n the wall at the Last Supper. What must Jesus have been feeling? If you were one of His disciples, would you have known what was coming?

We have the luxury of hindsight. We sometimes look down on the disciples for not seeing what we do, and yet had we been there, I’m not sure we would have fared much better than they.

However you commemorate this night, remember that Jesus did it for you. You may not be able to share in Communion with your church (if they are closed due to COVID) but you can still take time to reflect and remember.

Worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – because He’s the One who’s really in charge.