A Small But Powerful Weapon

October 27, 20194 o'clock in the afternoonAdventure Drive Country ClubMontgomery, Ohio.png

I’m sure we are all familiar with the passages in the Bible where Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. Many devotions, lessons, messages, and songs have been created from the many critical points within the story. But it wasn’t until a recent reading that I noticed one of Satan’s most potent weapons hidden there in plain sight. Such a small thing. So easy to overlook. And even easier to fall for.

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
— Matthew 4:1-11

Did you see it? That little word “if,” the keyword for Satan’s tool of doubt. “If thou be the Son of God, change these stones to bread.” “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.” “You can have all of this if you’ll bow down to me.” With that seemingly insignificant two-letter word, Satan questioned both the identity and character of Jesus and strove to get Jesus to do the same. And he assaults us the same way on a regular basis.

If God really loved you, He wouldn’t allow this to be happening in your life.

If you’re really saved, you wouldn’t be depressed, so you must not have gotten the real thing.

If God were on your side, you wouldn’t feel so alone in this world.

If God really watched out for you, He would have kept your family together.

If your husband loved you, he wouldn’t work such long hours.

If your wife loved you, she would want to stay home instead of working a job.

You can have everything you want in life if you’re willing to break a few rules.

If you follow me, I’ll show you what you’ve been missing by being a goodie two shoes.

All your problems will float away if you take this new drug.

See what I mean? And for every “if” statement I listed, there are hundreds more. Whatever your situation or mood, the enemy has an “if” for you. Here’s the tricky part. During that heated moment or discouraging situation, those “if” statements make sense. They seem logical and right. But they’re not. They result from the father of lies playing to our emotions and trying to get us to turn our backs on God. If he can make us doubt who we are in Christ, how much God loves us, and the other promises of Scripture, he’s well on his way to defeating us.

That’s why it’s imperative we fight these attacks the same way Jesus did—with the TRUTH. For each of the enemy’s “if” statements, Jesus quoted a Scripture back to Satan. Not just any verse, but one that addressed Satan’s claims. Jesus fought with the Word of God, and we should too. When the enemy gives us an “if,” let’s fight back with the truth of God’s Word. Find a verse or a few verses that relate to your situation, and when Satan comes hissing with all those “ifs,” give him an earful of truth. If you don’t know where to begin or can’t find a Bible verse to help you, ask your pastor or spiritual mentor. I’m sure they would be happy to help you. Or you can contact me, and I’ll help you find one. I know I’ve searched the Scripture often enough for my own weapons, and I’m always amazed at what God shows me.

Don’t fall for the enemy’s “ifs.” It’s a trick, a tactic, but never the truth. Be strong, and don’t fall for the attack. But when it comes (and the attacks will come), be armed with the Word of God. Satan has no defense against that, and he will have no choice but to flee. Before I close, though, I feel I better say this—Don’t expect to win the battle with Scripture if you don’t believe what you’re quoting. It’s not about letting words fly. It’s about claiming the truth and applying it to your life where you are. So, I urge you, get in that Bible. Find those weapons and believe them with all your heart.

Getting Nowhere Fast

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
— Matthew 14:22-25

When Jesus commanded the disciples to cross the sea that night, I’m sure they thought, No big deal. For most of them, the sea was their home away from home, not to mention their workplace. How many times had they traveled back and forth across that same stretch of water? But this time was different. Not because there was a storm. They had faced those before in their many years as fishermen. No, it wasn’t the storm itself that caused such turmoil. It was that Jesus had sent them out, knowing full well the storm would come.

When we look at the story of Jonah and the storm he faced, we get it. He was running from God, so God sent the storm to knock some sense into the wayward prophet. But the disciples were following orders. They weren’t running; they were rowing. They weren’t heading in the opposite direction; they were going exactly where Jesus told them to go. They weren’t doing their own thing or following their own design; they were doing all the right things in all the right ways. Yet the storm still hit.

And this was no passing storm either. It lasted the entire night. By the time Jesus finally walked onto the scene, it was between three and six o’clock in the morning, and the disciples were still less than four miles across the ten-mile expanse. Can you imagine the fatigue? The fear? The frustration? Rowing and bailing water for hour after hour and getting nowhere. I imagine, now and then, they made a little progress and heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, we’re getting through. Finally, we’re nearing our destination. Finally, all our efforts are paying off. But then, with the next string of waves and the flurry of wind, their craft was pushed back upon the sea, erasing any sign of forward momentum.

Maybe you can relate. Like the disciples, you’re doing your best to obey God and to serve Him with your whole heart, but you’re stuck in the midst of a storm. You’re weary of rowing. You’ve tried everything to keep moving forward, but the winds of confusion and waves of frustration keep pushing you back. You’ve struggled for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years, yet here you are, stuck in the very same storm. Getting nowhere fast. You’ve done the work, but it hasn’t paid off. You’ve followed the steps but have yet to see the payday. You’ve put in the time, but it seems to be in vain. You’ve sown but haven’t reaped.

And you’re tired. So very tired. Tired of facing the same giants. Tired of fighting the same battles. Tired of trying. Tired of resisting the urge to give up. Tired of doing all the right things and being rewarded with a storm. But like the disciples, you haven’t given up. You haven’t turned back. You’re still pressing forward. Struggling to gain ground, yes, but still making an effort.

Why? Why haven’t you given up? Why didn’t they? Why didn’t they use the contrary winds to push them back to the shore from whence they came? Why don’t you? Because deep down, beneath the frustration and fatigue, there’s a promise to which you are clinging: Jesus knows, and Jesus cares. The disciples believed that too, and they were right. Jesus saw them in the midst of the storm. He knew they were afraid. So, He did the best thing He could do. He prayed. He prayed for their protection. He prayed, no doubt, they would be secure in their faith. He didn’t mutter a few words of “Help Peter and Andrew not to be afraid,” but He poured out His heart to the Father on behalf of those He loved.

And then, in the fourth watch of the night, after they had toiled so very long, He reminded His disciples who ruled the winds and waves. He came to them. He met them in their storm, and He carried them through it. And He will do the same for you. You know it. You believe it. Otherwise, you would have given up by now. But you’re clinging to that grain of truth that gets harder to see with every passing wave. Don’t lose hope. Jesus knows, and He cares. He is interceding for you right now. He is with you, and when the time is right, He will bring an end to your storm, just as He did with the disciples. Keep rowing. Keep bailing. But above all, keep believing!

The revelation of divine truth does not often come to us when life is comfortable. The revelation which is existentially real to our hearts does not come when everything is going right, when our refrigerators are full and our bank accounts have extra and everybody is treating us the way we want to be treated and everything is explainable, and we’re happy as clams. It doesn’t come then. The revelation of divine truth comes when we struggle and in our struggle we believe.
— Rev. Fr. James Coles; Scholé, August 9, 2009

What To Do When You Don't Get the Desired Outcome

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Today’s devotion is for all of those out there who know what it’s like to be frustrated, disappointed, and confused. I am writing to each of the following:

 • The pastor who is preaching the truth but still not seeing the church growth or participation he expected
 • The overweight individual who has been faithful with diet and exercise for months but sees no visible results from the effort and discipline
 • The employee who obeys all the rules and goes above and beyond the call of duty yet is passed up for the promotion for the third time in a row
 • The parent who has shed tears and prayed prayers over their wayward child but has yet to see any fruit from their intercession
 • The teenager who had enough courage to take a stand for Christ only to find himself ridiculed and cast out by those whom he called friends
 • The wife who loved her husband and did her best to respect and honor him though it didn’t stop him from walking away and leaving her alone to raise their children
 • To anyone who has ever had a dream and worked hard to see that dream come to fruition only to watch it go up in smoke

Yes, today I want to address those who are hurt and brokenhearted. Those whose daily cry is, “Lord, I don’t understand. I did everything right. I was faithful to You, to my family, to my church, to my job. I did my best and trusted You, but it hasn’t paid off. What happened to the concept of sowing and reaping? I’ve sown a lot, but I have reaped nothing!” It seems so cruel, doesn’t it? So unfair. After all, there are plenty of people out there living it up, thinking only of themselves, yet they seem to get anything and everything they want. But I assure you, it just seems that way. In reality, most of those people are missing the only thing that really matters—Jesus.

So, how should we respond when we’ve done the work, prayed the prayers, put forth the effort, but seen no results? The last chapter of the book of Habakkuk gives us a good idea.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.
— Habakkuk 3:17-19

If we don’t get the results we want, the outcomes we desire, the conclusions we hoped for, we should rejoice. Say what? That goes against our human logic, doesn’t it? Our default setting is to complain when things don’t go our way, not rejoice. But just because that’s our standard response doesn’t mean it’s the right one. Nope, according to the Bible (in several passages, in fact), the appropriate reaction to disappointment is praise. Why? Because no matter what’s going on in our lives, God is good and worthy of our worship. Despite our outward circumstances, we can rejoice because we have something that can never be taken away. When others forsake us, we still have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. And though it seems like our efforts aren’t paying off down here, God is keeping a record of every work we do for Him, and there will be a day of reckoning.

So, don’t lose heart, dear one. Keep doing the right thing. Don’t give up because you don’t see the results for which you were hoping. Your efforts are not in vain, so rejoice in that. Joy in the God who is Your constant Friend, your strength, your refuge, and so much more. And one day, you’ll see it was worth it all!