Resistance is NOT Useless…
In ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect hitched a lift on a spaceship which was part of the Vogon Constructor Fleet charged with the destruction of the planet Earth. When they were discovered in the belly of the ship, a Vogon guard was sent to fetch them both to the Bridge. The Vogon warned them not to resist. The phrase (which was later stolen and butchered by Star Trek – The Next Generation) was “Resistance is useless”. Arthur and Ford capitulated in face of this warning. When faced with the pressure of the situation, they simply gave up.
And it is this kind of capitulation that I have been thinking of this week.
The apostle James wrote:
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” [James 4:17b NKJV]
But what does this really mean in practice? In day to day life? I know it’s in the Bible, and therefore I believe it to be the truth. But what about in my life? Does it really work? Let us consider the evidence…
Right back there in The Garden, when the serpent came to Eve and influenced her into trusting him instead of God, she had the choice to resist the devil. She chose not to. If she had have resisted the devil, he would have fled. I am convinced the serpent would have returned to try again. His aim was always to cause mankind to fall and alienate themselves from God. But I suspect that had Eve resisted that first time and recognised the temptation for what it was, then the next time the serpent tried that or a similar stunt, she would have been better prepared.
In the 2nd book of Samuel we have the account of King David facing a temptation of his own. This time there is no evidence of the devil being physically present, but his finger prints are all over it nevertheless:
“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.” [2nd Samuel 11:1-2]
Now, this is David we are talking about. The David. The David of whom God says “He is a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). King David upon whom God bestows favour and blessing constantly, even when he strays from the path so badly. For some reason David failed to resist the temptation on this occasion. I am inclined to think that he set himself up for it really. He put himself in a position where the temptation was bound to come along. In fact, this notion is immortalised in Leonard Cohen’s beautiful song ‘Hallelujah’.
“Well, your faith was strong but you needed proof, You saw her bathing on the roof. Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.” [Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen 1984]
And Cohen nails it really. David’s faith in God was strong. So strong that he felt that he could withstand anything. He even chose not to go to war but instead to stay at home. And something kept him awake that night. Was it the heat? Or perhaps his conscience at not going to war? Or had he seen Bathsheba before? Whatever the reason, his staying at home led to adultery and ultimately murder. Had he resisted the temptation, I am sure it would have fled. And although we didn’t see the devil as being present in the text, we know he was there because he always seeks to ruin the reputations of God’s anointed. His jealousy of man means that anyone whom God has chosen, he will seek to make fall and estrange from God. We just have to look around today at so many anointed by God, who fall to exactly the same temptations as David and Eve did.
Sometimes the temptation is very subtle. The serpent’s subtle persuasion of Eve was such that she stopped trusting in what God had said and believed the lie. Perhaps that same persuasion happened with David when his mind was full of lust for Bathsheba. Sometimes, as we shall see below, the temptation is much stronger and direct. Our job is to learn discernment. To learn to recognise temptation when it comes along. If we learn to recognise it, we can learn to protect ourselves from it by simply resisting it. Jesus told us to follow him. And that’s where the answer lays. Check out how Jesus dealt with Satan. Remember that Jesus was totally a man (Philippians 2:5-8). He didn’t use any God powers to overcome. He showed us how we could also overcome. He became a man in order to overcome exactly the same temptation that caused man to fall in the first place.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
Then the devil left Him…” [Matthew 4: 1-11a NKJV]
So, let’s break this down. Jesus had just been baptised and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. If we expect to be able to overcome temptation then we need to follow Jesus’ example. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice that once this had happened the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tested. Expect this to happen when we make any declaration or public show of devotion to God. You will be tested. It is God’s way of instilling His blessing upon us.
Before He was tested by the devil, Jesus fasted for forty days. Why? Because the principle aim of fasting is to subdue the fleshy part of us. To force our will into submission. Many will be thinking that being that tired and hungry will make us weak. It does. That’s the idea. When we are at our weakest, He is strongest. That kind of devotion means exercising our will power. Choosing to submit. Yielding. Jesus shows us that by doing so we sharpen our spirit to withstand temptation. Control the body, control the mind. Now, I have never fasted for such a great length of time as that, but I can testify that the longer you go, the stronger you feel.
The devil has no new tricks. He uses the same tactics as he always does. Think back to The Garden. The three temptations that Adam and Eve fell to are exactly the same as he tried on Jesus:
The Lust of the Flesh –
To Eve, he made the fruit look good for food. To the hungry Jesus he tried to make the stones look appetising.
The Lust of the Eyes –
Eve saw the fruit was pleasing to the eye and in showing Jesus the kingdoms of the world and their glory, Satan tried to draw Jesus in.
The Pride of Life –
To Eve, the fruit of the tree promised wisdom and when he said to her that surely God wouldn’t kill her for eating it, the devil was appealing to her desire to live also. Satan tried to appeal to Jesus on the same level – God would save Him.
And that’s exactly how he works today – he attempts to appeal to us not to obey God but to obey our flesh instead. He appeals to our stomach – with food and drink. He appeals to our eyes with material items. And he appeals to our pride. Unless we are ready for him and can see the temptation for what it is, then we too will fall.
I think part of the problem for us is that we fail to acknowledge that there is a realm all around us that we can’t see. And because we can’t see it we fail to recognise what is happening there. Paul says to ‘fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen’ (2nd Corinthians 4:18). But we seem to fix our eyes only on what is seen. Paul also says ‘we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12).
So, nothing we can ordinarily see then.
At the start of this post I posed the question of how it works in my life. Let me tell you of an event this week, along with an explanation of what I believe was really going on.
If you have read any of the earlier posts, you will have seen that we have occasionally encountered some trouble. Setting up something like Cornerstone leads to trouble. It always will. Why? Because it is about extending the kingdom of God. As we have seen in Ephesians there is clearly a power structure in the unseen realm. As above, so below. The power structures in the unseen realm mirror those in the seen realm. Spirits influence people in positions of power to do their bidding. In the kingdom of God it is the Holy Spirit who helps direct us in God’s best will for our lives. In the kingdom of darkness the same protocols exist for the ends of Satan. However, whilst we as spirit-filled Christians will mostly and willingly accept God’s will, in the realm of darkness most people don’t realise that they are even being influenced.
Over the past year we have been through a great many troubles over money. We have had bailiffs and debt collectors knocking on the door. We have been taken to court for things that we are not liable for. We get threatening phone calls from creditors and we have had bank accounts inexplicably closed. It has been constant. I have started to realise that as we have had to go through these things over and over again, it was likely that there was a lesson that we needed to learn. This week the penny finally dropped.
On Monday, after a longish day at Cornerstone and with no money for food or anything we came home to find two letters from a particular aggressive debt collector chasing us for money that we simply don’t have. Under the surface I sensed the pressure building. The following morning, still with no money for food to feed people at breakfast, I went to Cornerstone early. I had a pocket full of small change, just enough to get some eggs and bacon. When I opened the door of Cornerstone there was a hand delivered letter. I thought it might be a donation. I opened it and instead I found another bailiff’s letter saying that they were applying for a court order to enter the premises and disconnect the electricity and gas, despite having just paid a £900 bill. The pressure boiled over and I started to metaphorically shake my fist at God. Moaning and whinging about the pressure. I locked the shop and started to walk to Tesco to get the food to feed people with. I was cross. Angry at God. I started to indulge these feelings and then, suddenly, I saw it all for what is was. It was a ploy of the dark kingdom to incite me to stop trusting in God; to make me angry at God and to harden my heart towards Him. And it almost worked.
Ordinarily, based upon learned church behaviour, I might have started binding this and loosening that. I might have prayed loudly in tongues. I might have declared this and proclaimed the other. Too often that is how churches teach people to deal with trouble. But the Bible teaches something different. It teaches us we should be ‘casting all your care upon Him…’ (1st Peter 5:7). It tells us to ‘be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God.’ (Philippians 4:6). It says be humble. It says rejoice in tribulation. It says be gentle. Be patient. I can find nothing in the New Testament which suggests we should be shouting at the heavenlies. Humility comes first. Humility is to acknowledge not only that God knows best but that He has a plan for everyone of us and if we simply trust Him He will fight the battles for us.
Once I saw it was a type of temptation or test I was able to resist the desire to be mad. I then thanked God for the trouble we were facing (James 1 and Romans 5) and started to praise Him that He would never allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can handle (1st Corinthians 10). The walk to Tesco only takes a few minutes but by the time I reached the store, the peace of God had settled on me totally. The temptation had gone. I had resisted and whichever spirit was seeking to undermine my relationship with God had fled. Now, let us be clear about this. It wasn’t God who was bringing the trouble. It was the powers of darkness. But, because I focused on God and resisted the temptation to fall into the old ways of thinking (Romans 12), God turned the situation around (Romans 8:28). Peace reigned in my heart. And do you know what else? By the time breakfast had finished, two different people had come in and given us money. When we returned home there was another summons in the post. I praised God that despite the trouble He knew best. Then our phone provider decided to cut our phone, broadband and TV services, despite having paid the bill the day before. I rejoiced that I could recognise the attempt to unsettle us and praised God that we could trust Him to sort it out. And He did.
So, what do I believe actually happened in the spirit realm? A spirit or spirits who seeks to oppose what we are doing influenced the debt collectors, the bailiffs and the local council into issuing their letters. The people who sent the letters will say they were only doing their job and will fail to recognise the spiritual influence, but we know better. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. It wasn’t the people who were doing it to us.
There is a lot at stake between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. In the lives of Christians trouble is here and there is more to come. Learn to recognise trouble for what it is. God doesn’t bring trouble to us but He allows it that we might learn to trust Him. And when we let go and actually trust Him and praise Him, the spirits of darkness will also flee. They have to. Them’s the rules.
Therefore, in view of what I has discussed here, I urge you to resist. Always stick to what God says. Always. Never listen to the fleshy part of you and its desires. Follow the example of Jesus. Always. And peace will reign in your heart.
I’m not saying that because I succeeded in this particular test that there won’t be anymore. There will be. But I am saying that we can all succeed if we follow the simple example laid down by Jesus. Be filled with the Holy Spirit; believe everything that God says and accept that whilst forwarding the kingdom of heaven we will encounter all sorts of temptations, troubles and distractions designed to stop us listening to God.
Resistance is NOT useless…it is essential.
“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life…” [Revelation 2:7 NKJV]