Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
- 1 Corinthians 16:13
“There is so much that the apostle Paul packs into this warning to the church at Corinth. In his final words to the Corinthian believers, he urges them to be vigilant: always on guard and watchful. And as they do so, to also be courageous and strong.
“The cautionary words are rendered ‘be on the alert’ in other translations. The Message says to ‘keep your eyes open.’ No matter how it’s phrased, the bottom line is that as we attempt to live the way Christ calls us to live, we need to expect a constant attack from the forces for evil. Satan will be continually out to get us, to create doubt in our personal faith, and to destroy us physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually—in any way, by any means that he can.
“The more closely aligned we feel with God in our walk of faith and the more we seem to be doing for His Kingdom, the more severe the attacks will be. Attacks challenging our integrity and our personal faith. Attacks that dangle temptation in front of our eyes, appealing to the areas of our greatest weakness. Satan has a mission: to destroy not only our lives, but also our credibility.
“Do you know where Satan is doing his work most frequently? In Christ’s church If he can cause destruction and chaos in Christ’s instrument for spreading the gospel throughout the world—by causing dissension, pride, self—centeredness, biblically incorrect teaching, and loss of passion—then he knows he will affect the influence of God’s Kingdom.
“Be on guard.”
- Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker, The One Year Uncommon Life (devotion for June 21)
Elsewhere in Scripture, God makes no bones about it. There will be suffering and persecution. And God does not provide us with a safe place. The secular world is ready to provide you with a safe place so that people will never hear about Jesus.
Think about that. What are they so afraid of? If God is “dead”, or if God does not exist, or if God is insignificant, what are they afraid of? Someone saying Jesus saves or God loves you would be meaningless words – if that were the case. But God is alive and God loves you and Jesus saves.
Think about that. When the inevitable suffering comes, the only proven method in withstanding that suffering is having Jesus in our heart and the Holy Spirit within us. All other methods only work part of the time, and none are foolproof.
We all face persecutions, but in various degrees. I doubt if those people who face imprisonment or death due to their Christian beliefs would scoff at those who only face ridicule, lack of financial gains, and loss of freedom to speak freely about Jesus in public. But these “minor” persecutions do exist, and we all face one type or another.
Yet, suffering persecution is not the only thing for which we should be on guard. Temptations are among us. God promises to give us the strength to resist such temptations, but do we act upon those nudges from God to avoid the temptation?
I have said that the Holy Spirit whispers and the world shouts, but the more that you turn to God for strength in resisting temptation, the louder the Holy Spirit’s voice becomes. Let us say that you have an obligation to be somewhere that temptation is strong for you. The Holy Spirit will whisper. When you do not respond, the Holy Spirit might shift to a stage whisper, then a calm voice, then a shout, then the Holy Spirit yells like His team just won the championship. Do we still draw closer to what is tempting us with each of those voices, or do we back away?
I have seen lately that the Holy Spirit’s most effective means of drawing me away from temptation is by earworms. For you it could be completely different, but I love Christian music, especially the old hymns, but the contemporary stuff is starting to become earworms also. I will be in a bad situation, but one where I am obliged to be. As the temptation in the room starts to attract my attention, I will get an earworm, a song or hymn playing inside my head, over and over. As I “listen” to the music that only I can hear, I realize that the topic of the music is exactly what I am dealing with.
When we truly rely on God, He will provide what we need. It is up to us to choose God’s path, but as Tony Dungy says here, we must be on guard, or we may not notice that the powers of evil are attacking.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.