Resisting the Devil
...above all taking the shield of faith,
There is nothing which more surely indicates we have already succumbed to the wiles of the Devil than to complain about what happens to us. The Word of God invariably points out that the mark of a Christian who has learned how to be a Christian is that he rejoices in everything, gives thanks in all things. Now, that does not mean be enjoys everything. Nor does it mean that he merely pretends to rejoice in everything. There is nothing as ghastly as the forced smile people put on and the flippant attitude they assume in the midst of difficulties because they think this is what a Christian ought to do. It is possible to genuinely rejoice through tears, and there is nothing which more surely indicates that we have failed to understand what it means to be a Christian than a whining, complaining, griping, grousing attitude toward what happens to us in life.
Do not be surprised at the Devil's attack. Of course be attacks; that is his character. That is his nature. We need not be surprised when he does this. Furthermore, God allows him to do it. This is the clear revelation of Scripture. He permits these attacks because, for one thing, we need them. We never would develop or grow properly if we were not attacked in this manner.
Again, it is this which ultimately accomplishes God's will. The whole outworking of God's scheme could never be brought to pass were it not that God permits the Devil to do his work today within the limits of God's overriding will. Let us never forget that. God allows these things to happen, and all the writers of Scripture agree on this. Peter says, "Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you" (I Pet. 4:12). The Lord Jesus himself said, "In the world you have tribulation." But he adds, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
But this is exactly the opposite of the way we frequently feel. We love to think that something most unusual is happening to us. No one has ever gone through what we are going through. No one has had to undergo the depression of spirit that we feel. But Paul says, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful" (1 Corinthians 10: 13). So stop complaining about what happens. It is God's will for you. Let us face that. And instead of a fretful, peevish, whining attitude, let us do what the Word of God says to do when these things occur. What is that? "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." There is no other way to handle it, there is no other solution to these basic human problems.
Resisting the Devil
Remember, though, do not try to start with peace. When you get troubled or upset, when attacks come, do not try to start with making your heart feel at peace. This is a mistake many people make. They try to conjure up some kind of feeling of peace within and succeed only in upsetting themselves more. Do not start with peace. Start with truth. Work your way back down through truth and righteousness and you will come out at peace. This is the way to begin.
Now let u s take a closer look at this battle. If we remind ourselves of these great truths, they ought to set our hearts at rest. But we all know that even though these truths often will set our hearts at rest, there are times when they do not. We are still depressed and filled with doubts.
Perhaps there is no good reason for us to feel this way. We may wake up in a blue mood even though we were happy when we went to bed the night before. There may be no good reason for our depression. There is nothing wrong physically (the physical elements of our lives can have a very great bearing on our feelings), but still we feel depressed.
Well, what is happening? We are experiencing What Paul calls here "the flaming darts of the evil one." These stratagems of Satan come to us in various forms. Sometimes they are evil thoughts and imaginations which intrude suddenly upon our thinking, often at the most incongruous times. We may be reading the Bible; we may be bowed in prayer; we may be thinking about something else entirely when all of a sudden filthy, lewd thought flashes into our mind. What is this? One of the fiery darts of the evil one. We ought to recognize it as such.
Sometimes these darts come as doubts and even blasphemies--sudden feelings that perhaps this business of Christianity is nothing after all but a big hoax or a dream. Perhaps we feel that it can all be explained psychologically or that Jesus Christ was a victim of self-delusion. Perhaps the world is not the way we have been taught to believe it is, and things are not the way the Bible says. You have doubtless experienced these times of doubt. All Christians have had this sudden feeling that perhaps it is all a fantasy. Again, these fiery darts may come in the form of sudden fears, anxieties, fleeting sensations that things are all wrong. We cannot seem to shake them off.
The Devil's Whispers
These feelings, in whatever form they may take, are always from the same source. They are the fiery darts of the wicked one. We are the biggest fools on earth if we do not see them in that light and deal with them as such. And in whatever form they may come to us, they always have two characteristics. First, they seem to rise out of our own thoughts. They seem to come right from our inner selves. We feel, "This is something I am thinking," and oftentimes it is a shocking thing.
But the Devil is really whispering to us. He is influencing us. Ah yes, but it doesn't seem like that to us. In our ignorance and innocence we blame ourselves: "How can I think a think like this if I am a Christian? Can a Christian have such a lewd and filthy thought as this? Can I really be a Christian if I think like this? I must not be one after all."
This, of course, is exactly why the Devil sent those thoughts to you. He wants you to think that way. If it is doubt (and we are always exposed to doubts, these sudden attacks upon faith, these sudden feelings that Christianity is not as sure and certain as it once seemed to us), we say to ourselves', "I must have already lost my faith or I would not think like this." What is the matter with me? How can I be a Christian and even have such a bought?" So we try to repress the thought. We think, There must be something wrong; we should not feel like this," and we push the thought down in-to our subconscious. But it is still there, lurking underneath, and we feel ishonest because we are not even willing to look at it and face it. This takes its toll on us in physical ways as well s in mental and emotional strain and tension.
We feel uncertain and confused because we are convinced that the opposite of faith is doubt. We think if we have doubts we cannot have faith and if we have faith we do not have doubts. Therefore, if we have doubts, we cannot be men and women of faith. We fail to recognize this as the lie of the Devil.
The second characteristic is that doubts are always an attack upon our position in Christ as the truth--as our righteousness and our peace. These darts are always an insinuation of doubt about those matters-never about anything else. They are an attack upon those areas of faith.
This is always the way of the Devil. He said to Eve in the garden, "Has God said unto thee--did God say that?" There is the implication of doubt. He said to Jesus in the temptation in the wilderness, "If thou be the Son of God, then turn these stones into bread." If! There is the insinuation that these things are not true. This is the way he raises doubts, creates guilt, arouses fear. These are the attacks of the evil one.
The Quenching Process
Now, what are we to do? How are we to combat these attacks successfully? Well, the Apostle says, "Take the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts, of the evil one." Notice that he did not say the "shield of belief." We have already reminded ourselves of our belief when we have put on the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and--the equipment of the gospel of peace. That is our belief in what Christ is to us.
But faith is more than that. This is very important to see. Faith is acting upon belief. Faith is decision, action, resolution. Faith is saying, "Yes, I believe Christ is the truth. He is my righteousness, be is my peace. Therefore this, and this, and this, must follow." Faith is working out, the implications of belief. When you say "therefore" you move from belief into faith. Faith is particularizing; it is taking the general truth and applying it to the specific situation and saying, "If this be true, then this must follow." That is the shield of faith.
Now, have you learned how to take the shield of faith when doubts come? Do you say, "Christ is the truth. He is the basic revelation of things which really are. He has demonstrated it. Therefore, I cannot accept the thought that Christianity is a hoax. I cannot believe that Christ is the truth and that my doubts are true, too. I have committed myself to Christ because I have been persuaded that he has demonstrated truth fully. I stand on that ground. Therefore. I must reject this insinuation."
Do you reason that "Christ is the truth? Therefore I cannot believe this subtle philosophy which exalts man and makes God unnecessary in human affairs. I must reject it. Since I have found Christ true, I cannot believe this sudden feeling I have of unreality. I must regard it as what Christ says it is: from the Devil. Jesus Christ says he is a liar from the beginning. Therefore this is a lie and I reject it."
Is this the way you think it through? Our problem is, that we have become so accustomed to believing our feelings as though they were facts. We never examine them. We never take them and look at them and ask, "Is this true?" We simply I say, "I feel this way. Therefore it must be true." This is why so many are constantly defeated; they accept their feelings as facts. Rather, we are to say, "Christ is my righteousness. I am linked with him. I am one with him. His life is my life and my life is his life. We are married. Therefore, I cannot believe this lie that these evil thoughts are my thoughts. They are not my thoughts at all. They are thoughts which come because of another force. It is not my thinking at all. No, it is the Devil again. I do not want these thoughts. Ido not like them. I reject them. I do not want them in my thinking; therefore the are not mine. They are the Devil's children, and I'll spank them and send them back where they belong!"
Using the shield of faith means refusal to feel condemned or to feel guilty. "God loves me. He says so. He says nothing will change that. Nothing will separate us! All right, then I will believe that, and I will not believe the thought that God does not love me and want me." You see, you cannot entertain both thoughts. "No man can serve two masters."
Christ is the ground of my peace. Therefore it is his responsibility to take me through every situation. So I cannot, I will not believe this fear, this sudden anxiety which grips my heart. I will not believe that it is from me. It is simply sent to shake my confidence in Christ. It is an attempt to destroy my peace. But Christ is adequate for even this, and I refuse to change.
Proof of Faith's Reality
This is what James calls "resisting the devil." This is the shield of faith. It is refusing to believe the lie that if you have doubts you cannot have faith. Because that is a lie. Doubt is always an attack on faith. The fact that you have doubts proves that you have faith. They are not opposites at all. Doubt is the proof of the reality of faith. Therefore reexamine the ground of your faith and reassert it. Remember that feelings are not necessarily facts at all.
And James says further that if you keep on resisting the Devil he will flee from you (James 4:7). Think of that! He will flee from you. Resist the Devil again and again every time an evil thought or doubt comes back. Refuse to give up your position. And, sooner or later, inevitably, the doubts will clear, your feelings will change, the attacks cease, and you will be back again in the sunshine of faith and the experience of the love and joy of God.
That is what Paul is talking about when he says, "Take the shield of faith. It is able to quench every fiery dart of the evil one." The shield of faith is enough in itself. It is all you need. You do not really need the otter two pieces of armor. It may sound strange to say that, but it is true. You do not need any more because the shield of faith is able to quench every fiery dart of the wicked one. would see you through, if that were all you had.
Then why are we given more? Because we are not only to be conquerors. The Bible says we are to be "more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37). We are not only to win; we are to win victoriously, triumphantly, abundantly. Remember that John said, "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Paul says, "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). We are intended to do more than barely make it to heaven. We are designed to triumph, to be fearless, to be not only unconquered but unconquerable!
I think so often of these words of Rudyard Kipling, describing the pressures of life:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
if you can trust yourself when all men doubt You,
But make allowance for their doubting too,
if you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master;
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim,
if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
if you can bear to bear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em UP with worn out tools;
If you can talk with crowds and keep Your virtue,
or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt You;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
if you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run
yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son.
That is a very eloquent description of life. It is what the Word of God is designed to prepare us for. That is what it means to be "strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."
Our Father, help us to be men and women Of realize that your word has brought to us the in Jesus. Let us not fling away our away our reliance upon that unshakable word, but trust in you and show to the world that this is the only thing which can keep a man or a woman standing in the midst of pressures which defeat and ruin and blast and destroy life. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.
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