Did the title of this blog post grab your attention? I hope so, because it’s an important principle for Christian leaders that can easily be overlooked. There is an enemy that schemes against God’s children. He is called the father of lies (John 8:44). He is “like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 b). As the master of deception, he diverts our attention somewhere else, anywhere other than himself.
After all, if we get distracted by the natural and visible circumstances of our lives as the ultimate problem, the devil will be off the hook. We focus on people and situations as the reason for our difficulties. We ascribe chemical imbalance as the sole cause of our depression. Or even worse, we may blame our grief on the Lord. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (NIV). When we forget about the devil, we won’t resist him, and he will continue to influence our lives.
Of course, the devil isn’t the only source of grief. Problems are usually complicated, a combination of more than one issue. We live in a fallen world with sickness and disease. Much depression does have physical causes, and is punctuated by negative thought habits. People make selfish, hurtful decisions. Creation itself groans under a heavy weight, and our lack of stewardship intensifies it. Nevertheless, the devil is real with a goal to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). We are reminded that our fight is not against flesh and blood enemies but against evil in the unseen world (Ephesians 6:12).
I write this to encourage to you as well as myself. Too many times I have gotten weighed down by heavy oppression that makes it difficult to function. I pray and try to figure out why things feel so discouraging and hard. I go through a mental check list: Have I been eating well? Have I been exercising? Have I been faithful with my prayer and devotions? Have I been getting enough rest? Have I been taking my medication? Have I been investing in the relationships that are important? Am I being obedient to the Lord?
Sometimes I can’t put my finger on the source of the growing heaviness, and no matter what positive steps I take it only increases. It may take me a while, but eventually it dawns on me—“Wait, there is an enemy at work. I need to submit myself to the Lord and resist the devil.” I ask others to pray with me. Within a short period of time, the oppression lifts and yet the circumstances haven’t really changed at all. That’s when I realize I need to recognize the devil more quickly.
As Christ followers we don’t have to fear the devil, because the Greater One (the Holy Spirit) dwells within us (1 John 4:4). Our spiritual armor equips us to stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:13-18). So don’t forget about the devil, and remember the power and authority you have in Jesus Christ.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Heavenly Father, I confess that I get so focused on circumstances I forget about spiritual things. Help me to remember quickly that there is a devil and that Jesus Christ has defeated him. Protect me from depression and discouragement that would seek to get me off track. I know You have called me to do Your will. I trust You to empower me to accomplish it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.