After a small break for my wedding it is nice to be back with you in this form. It was an unbelievable weekend and I wish all of you could have joined in, but I've also missed this activity with you. This morning's look at the Word is a bit short because I am unfortunately a bit late and we have school set up this morning.
In case you haven't noticed let me inform you, the enemy is crafty. He's not as powerful as we give him credit for but neither is he as weak as some may think. He can't touch us without the Father's permission but he certainly can fool us with his whispers. He is very good at what he does, as we saw with Eve. He knows the exact moment when we are at our weakest because he has had so long to study us. He knows the exact words to be whispering because he has had so much practice. He knows the exact doubts to plant in our mind to try to separate us from our Protector, our Shepherd so that we are out in the open to be destroyed. He knows, if he can separate us from Jesus, we are nothing more than dumb, defenseless lambs. We need to know that it is only when we are covered by Jesus that he is powerless to destroy us. So you can imagine how he employ's his craft against us.
We are familiar with the famous temptations that he brought to Jesus in the desert but many people do not realize that this was not the only time the enemy attacked. After these temptations the Word says:
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13)
The enemy is very good at finding opportunities but his favorite is when we are alone. He loves to whisper to us late at night, in the quiet of the day, when the family is away, when there is no one else to talk to. We enjoy the quiet moments to spend with Jesus but he loves the quiet moments as well, to distract us, to fill us with fears and to plague us with doubts. So don't think it was a coincidence that John the Baptist was prompted to ask his question when he did.
Jesus had just sent off his 12 disciples on their first solo mission but he did not sit around twiddling his thumbs waiting for their return. According to Matthew 11 Jesus returned to his home region of Galilee to preach and teach in the various towns. I am sure he was surrounded by his supporters but his 12 disciples were gone. For the enemy this would have looked like a perfect opportunity to attacked Jesus with a question of doubt. It isn't that the enemy can make people do anything but he can present us with doubts. John the Baptist was alone in his jail cell with plenty of time to think and play with some nagging doubts. The enemy would have made sure that it built at this moment, prompting John the send his disciples with this one question:
"Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:2)
If you ever want to cripple a leader, doubt his leadership. Even if it does not cause him to turn aside it will cause him to second guess everything he is doing. It will lesson his resolve, fill him with self-doubt and rob him of some of his power. Or, should I say, this is what happens to those who do not understand where the true source of power lies. The enemy tried this and I am sure tried many other tricks but Jesus was no ordinary man. Yes, he had all the weaknesses we have, the temptations were real and he would have felt those edges of doubt but he knew something greater; the Father's love.
Jesus dispatched John's disciples with a simple word of encouragement:
"Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Matthew 11:4-6)
Jesus could not be shaken with such a simple tool of doubt because he knew who he was, he knew his mission and, most importantly, he knew and trusted his Father. The enemy has no power over us unless we give him that power. There is no place for fear and doubt unless we invite them in. The enemy cannot attack us, even in our weakest moments unless we have allowed our relationship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit to slip. When we are busy with the Father's work, as Jesus was, and when we walk in his abiding presence, as Jesus did, no fear and no doubt could ever stick to us. Our reply is the same as Jesus': look around at what the Father is doing, Kingdom work is happening, and I am part of it all. Our Father's work is a matter of the heart and when we are fully engaged with him and his work then the enemy has no hope of separating us, even when he tries to bring all his power to bear on us.
Honestly, who is he compared to Jehovah? The enemy is nothing more than a whisper in the shadows of our heart. This whisper is drowned out by the roaring call of our Father and those shadows are dissipated by the brilliance of the light of Jesus. The only power the enemy has is when we allow ourselves to be separated from that light. So stay strong in the faith, remain in the Father's love, keep step with the Spirit and put the enemy to flight:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7-8)