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This may be a strange way to start this post, but recently I saw a television show that chronicled the last 24 hours of freedom for people who had been sentenced to years in prison. It not only evoked several different emotions, but it also caused some discussions about what you would do if you knew you were going to prison tomorrow. After the show was over, I didn’t think much more about it until a few days ago.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the spiritual battles we face in this life. At times, I really struggle to hang onto my faith when the enemy continually tries to get me to doubt what I know to be true about God and His nature toward us as His children. I mean, I know the right things to say and even think, but it is so easy to get caught up in fear, frustration, sadness and a host of other emotions when we are faced with life’s difficulties. Even the apostle Paul shared his struggle with the battle between our human nature and our spiritual one. He said, “What I want to do, I don’t do, but what I hate, that’s what I do. I don’t do the good I want to do, but I do the bad that I don’t want to do, and then keep on doing it.” Man, he sounds a a lot like me. Paul explains that it is his sin nature that causes such a problem because once we are saved, we know what we should do, but we often struggle to follow through with it. Not only that, we struggle what to think, which then causes confusion in our emotions as well. It’s easy to see why we are so often tangled up within ourselves, walking the line between fear and faith or doubt and trust.
I’ve come to realize that every battle in life is a “spiritual battle.” Every difficult circumstance I’ve faced has always come back to my perspective on my circumstances. Whether it was physical pain/illness, financial, professional or relationship issues, the true battle comes not in something I can see or touch, but in my mind where I struggle with confusion and doubt about what to do or how to feel. Our battles are spiritual! We have an enemy, and you can call him whatever you want, but God has assured us he is the enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 tell us “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us about the armor we need to put on in order to fight and defeat the spiritual enemy. Even Jesus, Himself, had to battle spiritually with Satan and his influence/temptations. (Matt 4:1-11). There are so many scriptures that talk about the battle between us and sin, or us and the enemy. So yes, we are at war with the evil influences and tactics of our enemy in this world, but why is he so relentless? Well, to answer that in a more contemporary terms, he is living in the stage of his existence that is 24 to life.
Our enemy KNOWS his eventual fate. The judgement and sentence has been declared and sealed! Revelation chapter 20 describes exactly what awaits him. He knows how it all ends, and yet he still has his last 24 hours of freedom before it all comes to pass. He cannot run or hide from his fate, so he is determined to wreak as much havoc as he possibly can until that time. He is continually trying to keep the unsaved from believing in Christ, but his greater successes come in trying to keep saved children of God from living the abundant life God has promised to us. I will always believe that Satan’s greatest accomplishments come within churches full of believers. God has promised to reveal himself to ALL men (Titus 2:11), so Satan can’t keep someone from the reach of God. He has a much better chance at getting Christians to fall away from the truth than preventing someone from hearing, seeing, or knowing it. Satan loves to blind people. He loves to turn believers into unbelievers. 2 Corinthians tells us that he blinds the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel. I think we’ve done a huge disservice in taking this as referring to only those who have not accepted Christ as their Savior. Yes, Satan can blind the unsaved so that it is harder for their hearts and minds to be opened, but he does NOT have the power to keep God from reaching them. GOD IS ALL POWERFUL! So then we have to look at that verse a little differently.
We, as people of faith, are often “unbelievers.” We read the truth and know all the right words to say, but do we actually LIVE what we know is true? Do we trust God in all circumstances or do we spend our time in worry and fear? Do we forgive others, even if they don’t ask us, or do we hold grudges? Do we let our ethical or moral standards fall in those times there is something we want? Do we love others regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. or do we put conditions on our love? Do we stand in the midst of life’s storms and get frustrated and angry, or do we put one foot in front of the other and follow wherever God wants us to walk, because HE knows what is best for us (Romans 8:28)? This world is full of Christian Atheists who have accepted Christ as Savior, but then never live the abundant life He has promised because we let Satan blind US! We become the “unbelievers!” It doesn’t mean we are no longer saved or no longer God’s children, it simply means we have stopped believing what He says.
I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. I have also struggled with physical issues since I was 18 months old that have been debilitating at times. I worry. I am afraid of something bad happening to people I love. I struggle to hold onto peace in my heart during times of trouble, though most people wouldn’t know it. Like many of you, I have learned to stand strong externally during difficult times but am often reduced to a fearful, frustrated heap that is full of doubt when no one is looking. Thankfully, as I have studied and prayed more, God has continually revealed more of His character and how He interacts with us. Being able to secure His word in my heart has changed me, not because someone preached it to me or even from simply reading it, but because I have sought to deepen my personal relationship with him as my “Abba Father.” Abba is more than a pop group or musical! “Abba” is the equivalent of our term “Daddy.” My relationship with God has shifted from a good relationship to an intimately personal one. As a result, I have learned to relax IN HIM instead of relaxing because of Him. There is a huge difference between knowing all the right verses and knowing Him. There is a difference between seeing Him as a loving entity who can help you and recognizing Him as a Dad – as your “Abba Father.”
So back to the enemy for a moment… He wants nothing more than for you, as a believer, to not believe. He wants nothing more than to blind you so that you forget who you are and who your “Dad” is. He is scrambling in this world because he knows he cannot win, and he cannot unseal his fate. He is angry at God and wants to hurt him, but the only way he can hurt God is by distracting us and causing us to doubt the truth. Satan’s fate is coming like a freight train. He knows it, but as long as he is still free and walking the earth, he is going to do everything in his power to destroy God’s reputation and steal our peace, joy and strength. If he can keep us tied up in knots, then no one will ask us for the reason we have hope because we won’t look like we have hope! When you realize that Satan is living HIS 24 to life right now, it can give you a whole new perspective on why he is so relentless. His time is limited, and he has to mess up everything he can while he still has time. He is DESPERATE!
Beginning to see the enemy as a powerful adversary, but also a desperate one, helps me understand why he refuses to give up the fight. It explains why he keeps coming at me, trying to scare and frustrate me as I walk this journey of life. He’s throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, but I have the power IN CHRIST to stand strong and keep my peace and joy. I have the ability to be content. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) Those “things” aren’t material. All through Philippians chapter 4, Paul was talking about attitudes and perspectives. I CAN think on the good things mentioned in verse 8. I CAN rejoice in the Lord always – in ALL circumstances. I CAN stop worrying and being anxious. I CAN have peace. These “things” are not easy. These “things” take continual reminding and refreshing in our hearts or we fall back into the abyss of fear and doubt. THESE are the “things” I can do through Christ who strengthens me!
I’ll leave you with this last thought: We are also living in our own 24 to life period. We all have a finite number of years on this earth. Once those years are gone, we lose our opportunity to reflect the love and nature of our Father in Heaven to those here on this earth. We lose the chance to make things right with the people in our lives. We lose the chance to leave a positive mark on our own little corner of the world. I don’t know about you, but I want the people who know me to look at me and say, “She is her Father’s daughter.” I want people to see His nature in me because I love and forgive. I want them to see someone who struggles with worry and fear but who also steps back and remembers the truth so that I have peace and contentment. I am living 24 to life. Though that “life” means eternity of peace and joy in Heaven, I want my “24” down here on Earth to not only be abundant for me in all ways, but to be an abundant encouragement and strength to everyone around me. I pray that for myself, and I pray that for all of you too.