Remember the comedian who coined the phrase "The devil made me do it"? Perhaps the phrase belonged to him but the attitude it represents belong to many of us. It started back in the garden when Eve tried to hang the whole mess she and Adam had created on Satan but God was having none of that. The fact is that Satan may play on the failings of our base character but no one can make us do anything we do not already want to do. No one makes us sin against God; we do it quite well on our own. However, what the enemy is very good at is making sure that we see the temptation and then to be there after to accuse us of the sin. Peter warns us:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Our first line of defense against all temptation is self-control and alertness to our own weaknesses. A very simple matter, if you knew you had a weakness for candy yet you purposely kept visiting candy stores, you know you will eventually break down and buy candy. Be aware of what you are doing so you can recognize when the enemy is presenting you with situations loaded with temptations to trip you up. The decision you take is yours alone but often we can avoid the whole mess if we simply turn away before it arrives, but we have to be aware, alert.
In this case Peter is referring to the enemies attempt to distract people from God through suffering. There are many forms of suffering and unless your mind and heart are fixed on God, suffering can act like a wedge between us and our Father. Consider a simple thing like a sinus cold. How much do you feel like praying and reading the Word when you are suffering from a cold? Now imagine if we increased that suffering to persecution. Peter writes again:
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:9)
Sometimes it is a good reminder that we are not facing anything that has not already been faced and conquered. Peter's instruction? Resist the enemy. Turn away from doubt and fear. Embrace the faith you have and know so well. Turn away from ignorance that destroys us and embrace the knowledge that our Dad loves us. Sometimes the temptation is to hate those that do us harm but we know that the proper path is to love those who hate us and to show kindness to those who persecute us. It goes against our base nature but we are no longer controlled by that nature, having been set free to be controlled by the righteousness of Jesus. We are not in this alone. Every Christian walking on the face of this planet are facing the same issues in whatever situation and circumstance they are in. Now here is the beautiful thing:
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)
If we resist the temptations that will be presented in our sufferings and we stand firm in our faith, our Father will restore us. We will be renewed after the storm. If we have been beaten down he will restore strength to us. Not only will he make us strong again, he will also cause us to be firm and steadfast. Some storms in life can really beat us down and our resistance of the enemy and our standing firm can cause us to take quite the beating, but our Dad says he will heal all this and renew us. I think many of you know what I am talking about. Sometimes we have days, weeks, months, even years when we just keep getting hit with wave after wave of bad stuff and we wonder if it will ever end. Yet, after the shock of every wave a new resolve and determination wells up from within us and we yell at the circumstances, "I will never back down".
Yesterday I had my bike stolen from me. It's only a bike, right? Well it was about the third or fourth attack on me in the day and it came as quite the blow. That bike was not a recreational vehicle for me but was my only means on transportation. I used it to transport my younger children around, run all my errands, as well as do my groceries. Life has suddenly become a lot harder. But yesterday the same thing happened to me that has been happening to me since I was a adolescent. From deep inside of me a very big and loud idea burst out. The idea is an act of determination, a way of me shoving it back in the face of the circumstance, I guess as a way to show to myself that God has given me the strength to face and overcome anything. My act of resistance yesterday was to walk home from the subway station instead of taking the bus or the ride that was offered to me. It sounds silly but it was my way of showing that when one way is blocked I always have options for going forward. I was shouting at the enemy, "You will not use this to destroy me. My Father has made me stronger, even stronger than this."
What will your act of resistance and determination be today? What will you do to stick it in the face of the enemy? Will it be an act of love in the face of hatred? Will it be an act of sheer determination in the face of overwhelming circumstances? Will it be an act of faith in the face of fear? No matter what that act costs you today know that our Father will use it to restore and renew you. Stepping out in faith and trust will bring you new strength and restore to you anything you have lost such as joy and peace. May the Father receive the glory for your acts of resistance and determination today.