In our last blog we focused on 2 specific ordinary activities that the devil uses to devour our relationships: deceive and divide. Today we will focus on the remaining 2 ordinary activities that the devil uses to separate us from God: divert and discourage. Remember he prefers to ride under the radar of our conscious awareness in order to connive his way into our thinking unnoticed. As soon as we shine the light of our awareness on his very unconventional and repeated strategy to hijack us from God’s love and peace, we regain the ground that he has stolen.
Question: What serpent has fastened itself to you that is diverting your attention from the mission God is calling you to? We are called to love God, and to do good by loving people. This is a job for Jesus. Our emotions hijack us from this mission daily.
“Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand…he however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.” Acts 28: 3,5
As we reflect on the above verse, consider this: many times, the fire of our emotional reactions to life triggers the “serpent” to fasten ahold of us in an attempt to divert our attention from the mission for which our hearts beat and discourage us. Paul was always on mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus. In Acts 27, Paul had just escaped a shipwreck and in Acts 28 he reached the shore safely. You would think there may be a little time of respite, but no, the serpent continued to pursue him. Paul stood firm, shook it off and continued on mission.
The first ordinary activity the devil uses in our relationship with God, ourselves and others is to deceive. “Did God really say that?” the serpent deceived Eve by placing doubt in her heart around God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness. Notice, he did not challenge God’s authority or existence in Genesis 3, he challenged God’s trustworthiness.
The second ordinary activity the devil uses is that of division. As soon as the serpent deceived Eve and Adam, they were separated from each other and God (Genesis 3:7-11). Keep watch on this tactic because it has gone viral in our society today.
The third ordinary activity the devil uses against us is that of diversion. He diverts our attention from our Creator to the created things (Romans 1). Paul was going about a mundane task of gathering wood when the serpent jumped out and fastened itself to his hand. Satan will often use the tactic of diverting our attention away from being God’s hands in this world using all sorts of distracting thoughts that lead to judgements, envy, jealousy, assumptions, offense and the big one: trying to control what other people do and say. This is a full-time job and certainly diverts our attention away from the will of God in our lives. Keep watch, do not touch, do not taste.
What’s your serpent that is diverting your attention from God these days? As you enter the New Year make an offering like Abel did that pleased God: he gave the firstborn of his flock…not left overs or whatever was available, a garden variety as was the case for Cain’s offering. Give the first fruits of your time, energy and focus to your relationship with the Lord this year, not the leftovers and watch your focus on Jesus override the futile distractions that emerge when we focus on the creation rather than our Creator: our egos need to be right, liked, understood, acknowledged, appreciated and included.
The fourth ordinary activity the devil uses to separate from God and each other is that of discouragement. Are you feeling discouraged today? Think back to the moment the sense of discouragement started to slither in? What thoughts were you thinking? What assumptions did you make or beliefs about yourself around the time that the discouragement started to settle in? The world says one thing: “If you get bit by the serpent you will die.” The natives of the Island Malta that Paul landed on after the shipwreck led to false assumptions and accusations: “This man must be a murderer…they were expecting him to swell up or drop dead.” Acts 28:4,6 “…BUT GOD’s power within Paul moved him to shake it off unharmed.” “The power that works within us is able to accomplish abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20.
When I went through advanced cancer and divorce at the same time, I would often cry out to God in discouragement: “God, I can’t handle this…” to which Jesus would kindly reply, “I know you can’t…but I can. Remember who is ultimately in charge here.” Whose voice are you listening to? Perhaps it is your own voice that is speaking from past pain and setbacks that you are listening to. Come back to the Holy Scriptures and hear what God says about you: “You are the handiwork of God created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10)…You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9)…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness (Jeremiah 31:3)”. Whatever you focus on in the New Year will grow BIGGER.