Do you ever feel beat up? You know, like when no matter how hard you try to move one step forward, you feel like you are taking two steps backward? No matter what you do, you just cannot seem to break free of whatever it is that is keeping you in the muddle you are in. Sometimes I think this is just my own doing - because I have bitten off way more than I can chew. My plate is overloaded and the only way to be clear of the pressure is to get some of the stuff off my plate which really doesn't belong there in the first place. Then there are other times when I just cannot tell you why I am feeling a little oppressed and pushed down, but it happens. I think those times might just be when the enemy of my soul wants me to get distracted from what is important in life. How about you? Sometimes you just need to push some of the stuff back off your plate, other times you might just need to push back against the one who is "bullying" your soul!
God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG)
According to this passage, the devil beats us up unnecessarily for he is already defeated - he is just doing his best to convince us otherwise! If we'd learn to put on the full armor we are given and actually use it to resist the attacks of the enemy of our souls, we might just be able to hold our ground against his attacks! Lest we think he doesn't know where to attack us in our lives, be assured of this - there is nothing "uncommon" in our struggles that others have not already struggled with. He just knows how we ALL struggle - so he uses these "common" areas as a means to get us focused on the stuff which just gets us down and under the pressure of life. Lest we think our enemy has no plan of attack - let me assure you, we probably give him some "hints" about how it is we can be attacked! Hints like us not being very kind in our responses when we are tired, or like when we don't plan ahead well and leave late for a specific appointment, then get all bogged down in traffic. We sometimes like to blame him for these events, but in actuality, these are common struggles for all of us, so if he can use them to his benefit, he will! He doesn't necessarily make us tired, nor does he send the traffic - but he will use them to get us to take our eyes off what matters.
Two things he uses in our lives is this concept of "AND" and the idea of "OR". In the first case, he will often get us to focus on what more can be added - the "AND" gets us into our trouble. For example, if someone does something which we may not usually react to, but in our tiredness, we somehow "read more into it" than we should, we might respond with the "AND" scenario. We "add into" the situation our own interpretation of the circumstances which are being viewed through already overextended and over-tired eyes! We know we need to spend time within our relationships which is "quality time" - not distracted, focused intentionally on each other. Then we get this genius idea to just combine a little work with the pleasure and we somehow no longer have this non-distracted, intentional focus in the "quality time" - the AND factor. In the second case, he will get us to considering the "alternatives" to the way we know we should go - the "OR" factor. We could do something this way, OR we could do it another way, often presented as the easier way. Like when we could sweep the floor, or just kick the crumbs under the throw rug! The "OR" factor usually presents an alternative which seems so much easier, or like we were entitled to have it be this easy in the first place. Just a little advice here - what appears too easily accomplished or obtained is usually not the best plan!
AND adds complications we didn't need. OR presents short-cuts which do little to simplify our lives and usually just delay the original plan. Since the Garden of Eden he has been using the same two tactics. If we become aware of how he operates, we might just be able to resist his attacks a little easier. God is strong and he wants us strong - get hold of that word of instruction. What we do with the wisdom we are given will ultimately determine how strong we will stand. What are we given? Perhaps we'd do well to read on in our passage: "Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out." (Ephesians 6:13-18 MSG)
- Be prepared. The only attacks which are successful in our lives is when we don't prepare well. If we did a little "up front" consideration of what we put on our plate, or what will impact our ability to finish well, we might take a little less into our grasp!
- We cannot handle this alone. We need others who will come along side; especially the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Now, here is the rub - we want relationship, but we don't take the time to invest in it. We are robbed of one of our greatest weapons against his attacks whenever we attempt to stand alone. The value of well-developed relationships is best understood in the times of our deepest personal need.
- Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation - weapons in their own right. Truth sets us straight, so we aren't duped into believing our own vain imaginations. Righteousness helps us stand upright when all of our enemy's hosts would want us to look backward at our failures. Peace determines the steadiness of our walk and gives us the assurance we don't walk alone. Faith keeps us directed on what we cannot see, but what we have come to accept and stand on as true in our live. Salvation is the anchor which holds us when we might want to drift.
- We need to talk WITH God. Prayer is more than talking TO God - it is talking WITH God. Two-way conversation - open to receive what he gives. We sell ourselves short when all we come to do is TELL God and never stop to LISTEN TO God. Most of the time, it is in these listening times where we discover we have been giving into the "AND" and the "OR" tactics of our enemy. In these moments of being WITH Jesus, we discover we didn't need the "AND" and we cannot count on the "OR". Just sayin!