Guest contributor: Ed Trego
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalms 18:1-2)
Have you ever noticed that once you have decided to do something to improve yourself, it becomes very difficult? For instance, you make a promise to yourself to eat a better diet and instantly begin to crave donuts. Or you make a commitment that you are going to read a few verses in the bible each day and suddenly your evenings are jam-packed. I’ve experienced these difficulties whenever I’ve made a decision to do something to benefit my spiritual life, my married life, or any other aspect of my life that I wish to improve. It seems there are always obstacles to overcome and weakness in overcoming them.
Improving our lives, even in areas that are already pretty good is a worthy goal. As a Christian, it is a means of serving our God and thanking Him for the many blessings He has given us. God is pleased when we make an effort to make our offering of ourselves to Him as good as it can be.
Satan, however, wants to interfere with anything that improves our relationship with God. His efforts are to convince us that we don’t need to improve. In fact, we are probably already doing more than is necessary. Why add more when we are already doing more than enough? Look around, nobody seems to be worrying about it except us, so why should we worry and fret over things that don’t matter. The enemy can make a very logical argument for us to accept our current state and believe it is good enough. However, if we stop and consider our current state, we will realize there is always room for improvement in our spiritual life and our relationship with God.
When I look at the times in my life when my efforts for improvement are thwarted, I can clearly see the influence of Satan in those failures. It’s often very difficult to see his influence as it occurs, but it becomes quite easy to see Satan’s efforts in retrospect. I think of the times when I’ve decided to improve my diet to better my health and then almost immediately go out for a breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy. Then maybe I’ll have another biscuit or two with some jam. Not only is that not in line with my efforts to eat a healthier diet, it’s also far more than I would have normally eaten for breakfast. I can see the hand of the enemy in this scenario very clearly.
As an author I need to set aside time each day to write. If not, the next book will never come. Again I often see that same enemy, Satan, influencing my efforts. There’s too much other stuff that has to be done today. I don’t have time to sit down and write this evening. But I’ll do better tomorrow, or the next day, or next week.
When I really see the work of the devil is when I put off something I’ve planned as to better my relationship with God and find myself watching some ridiculous show on television instead. Not only am I not doing as I planned to improve my offerings to God, I’m wasting the precious time given me by God on worthless, inane drivel. While there is occasionally a show actually worth watching, it’s extremely rare that anything on commercial television is of any real value.
Even my favorite sport, baseball, is used by the enemy to interfere with my efforts. Anyone who is familiar with baseball can tell you that you are hardly ever going to miss anything important if you miss an inning or two of televised baseball. In the event something exciting really happened, it will be replayed over and over throughout the rest of the game, so you aren’t going to miss it completely. And yet, I’ll sit and continue to watch a game that is scoreless through four or five innings rather than take the time to read a few verses in my bible, or perhaps proof-read or edit a book I’m working on. Yes, I love baseball. And certainly there’s nothing wrong with watching a baseball game. But I shouldn’t allow it to take me from those things that will improve my relationship with God.
How do these things happen? How can we avoid them? It takes one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, fortitude, to overcome Satan and his tricks. Fortitude is that ability to overcome difficulty or even pain by the power of God. It’s important to note that we overcome Satan by the power of God, not of our own power. Fortitude and perseverance helps us turn to God when tempted. It urges us to ask His help. God is always waiting for our call, but we must the effort to ask for His help. As with most things in our spiritual life, we have to make the decision to accept the wonderful gifts God offers us. He doesn’t force us to accept His gifts; He offers them out of his love for us. I believe it pleases God greatly when we turn to Him for help in overcoming our difficulties. He wants us to make use of His many blessings. It’s our responsibility to do so.
Prayer and reliance on God’s strength are the only effective weapons in the fight again the enemy. We, as humans, aren’t capable of resisting Satan on our own. We simply don’t have the strength required. But God has more than enough strength for this purpose and is pleased to provide it to us in our sincere effort to overcome the devil’s temptations.
The trouble is, we want to do it ourselves and we want to do it our way. Unfortunately that is playing directly into the strength of Satan. He knows full well that we can’t resist him on our own. From Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to King David committing adultery with Bathsheba, to Judas betraying Jesus, we see over and over again that we are no match for the Evil One. He knows it and we know it as well. We just chose not to acknowledge the fact. The part that I really don’t understand is why? Why would we continue to try to overcome Satan on our own when we’ve proven to ourselves over and over that it’s not possible? Maybe it’s pride, maybe if just foolishness on our part, but we continue to fight a battle we can’t win.
If we look at the world today we can see how very obvious it is that Satan is winning the battle as long as we refuse to call on the strength of God in our efforts to defeat him. Prayer is the best defense we have to win this, our most important, battle. If we want to be successful in our attempts to defeat Satan and in resisting his temptations we must remember that it’s not possible without the grace of God. Without God’s strength Satan will win every time. Only through the grace of God and the strength He offers can we hope to overcome the Devil and his temptations of evil.
When we pray, Satan cringes. Our prayers are his greatest fear. For if we are in communion with God, Satan can have no power over us. Frustration, anger, pride, disappointment; these are some of the weapons the enemy uses against us. Sadly, when experiencing these trials we too often fail to go to God for his help to overcome them. The devil knows we humans think we can do all things and he uses it to his advantage whenever possible. However, when we turn to God in these times, Satan is shut out. His strength can’t begin to compare to the strength of prayer. For this reason, maintaining a vibrant, faithful prayer life is one of the most important things we can do to repel the enemy and his attempts to pull us away from God.
As we improve our prayer life, we will improve our spiritual life. But we must expect that Satan will challenge us at every opportunity. When we wake in the morning he will try to distract us from simply thanking God for another day. As we go to work, he will do his best to feed our anger when someone cuts us off. At work, each frustration will become an opportunity for the devil to pull us away from God and make us focus on our frustration rather than the solution. As we travel home, he will fill our minds with all of the things we think we must do that evening and before we know it we are going to bed. We’ve hardly spoken to God throughout the whole day because of Satan. Even as we attempt to pray before sleep, the enemy will try to fill our mind with worries and concerns about the day to come.
The only way to overcome him is through the very thing he tries hardest to stop; our prayers. A healthy prayer life relieves those daily frustrations and anger points. It gives us the ability to look at others differently. Rather than seeing an unreasonable boss, perhaps we can begin to see he is only reacting to the demands being placed upon him. Maybe we can consider that the person who cut us off in traffic truly didn’t see us and would have loved the chance to apologize for their action. If we have a prayerful relationship with God, we will begin to see His presence in others. We can recognize the suffering of Christ in the truly down-trodden and homeless. We can see the rejection of Christ in the unloved child who turns to crime and violence because they’ve never know the joy of being loved. We can truly begin to recognize that we are all creations of God and understand that we are called to love each other as Jesus loves us.
God waits for us. He stands ready to help us in all of our trials and temptations. Whether our problems be big or small, He will respond to our prayer. He is delighted by our plea to Him for help. We must reach out to Him and ask for His help.
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7)