Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Daily Devotional - Well-Laid Plans

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.
—Ephesians 6:12
“How could you?” Helen screamed. “How could you ever do such a thing?” Tom stared helplessly at his wife. He had committed adultery, faced his sinful actions, and asked his wife to forgive him.
“But you knew it was wrong,” she said. “You knew that was the ultimate betrayal of our marriage.”
“I never planned for an affair to happen,” Tom said with tears in his eyes. Tom wasn’t lying. He knew he was making a few bad choices, but he hadn’t looked ahead at the consequences of his actions. After almost an hour of pleading, he said something that helped Helen begin to understand and eventually to forgive.
“I was unfaithful to you in hundreds of ways before I ever committed adultery.” He spoke of their being too busy to spend quality time together, his critical attitude, her occasional lack of emotional response, her not listening to him when he talked about problems at the office. “Just little things, always little things,” he said. “At least in the beginning they seemed that way.”
That’s exactly how Satan works in human lives. He begins by bombarding our minds with cleverly devised patterns of irritation, dissatisfaction, nagging thoughts, doubts, fears, and reasonings. He moves slowly and cautiously (after all, well-laid plans take time).
Tom said he began to doubt that Helen truly loved him. She didn’t listen, and she didn’t always respond to his amorous moods. He dwelt on those thoughts. Whenever she did anything he didn’t like, he kept track. He kept track by remembering and adding that to his list of dissatisfactions.
One of his coworkers listened, and she offered him sympathy. One time she said, “Helen doesn’t deserve a warm, caring man like you.” (Satan also worked in her.) Each time Tom took a tiny step off the right path, he justified his actions in his mind: If Helen won’t listen to me, there are people who will. Although he said the word people to himself, he really meant the woman in the next cubicle.
The coworker listened. Weeks later, he hugged her and as he did so, he wished he could feel that caring response from his wife. It was a harmless embrace—or so it seemed. Tom didn’t grasp that Satan is never in a hurry. He takes time to work out his plans. He doesn’t immediately overwhelm people with powerful desires. Instead, the enemy of our minds starts with little things—little dissatisfactions, small desires—and builds from there.
Tom’s story sounds much like that of a forty-two-year-old bookkeeper who was indicted for stealing nearly three million¬ dollars from her organization. She said, “The first time I took only twelve dollars. I needed that much to pay the minimum amount on my credit card. I planned to pay it back.” No one caught her, and two months later, she “borrowed” again.
By the time they caught her, the company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. “I never meant to hurt anybody or do anything wrong,” she said. She never intended to do anything big—just to take small amounts. The prosecutor said she had been stealing from the company for almost twenty years.
That’s how Satan works—slowly, diligently, and in small ways. Rarely does he approach us through direct assault or frontal attacks. All Satan needs is an opening—an opportunity to inject unholy, self-centered thoughts into our heads. If we don’t kick them back out, they stay inside. And he can continue his evil, destructive plan.
We don’t have to allow those wrong thoughts to take up residence in our heads. The apostle Paul wrote, “For the weapons of our warfare are . . . mighty before God. . . . [We] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ . . .” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
Lord Jesus, in Your name, I cry out for victory. Enable me to bring every thought into obedience. Help me not to allow Satan’s words to stay in my mind and steal my victory. Amen.

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