Wednesday, January 25

Choosing Battles

Read Matthew 4:1-11

The experts tell us to choose our battles. This is a great concept in reality. Exercising some control over where you engage in battle is a time tested effective battle strategy. Applying it in real life, to kids and spouses is effective as well. Before going into a fight about who needs to unload the dishwasher, consider the question, “is this the hill you want to die on?” If not, diffuse the situation so both parties can walk away unscathed.

This strategy isn’t one to adopt haphazardly or across the board though. Temptation glares at us, pokes and prods us and jabs us with fiery arrows. We should not allow ourselves the luxury of sifting through a scenario against temptation that seems harmless. The Devil ALWAYS has an ulterior motive. Choosing to ignore a battle with him is giving him a foothold (Ephesians 4:26). Choosing to avoid a battle with temptation is tantamount to housekeeping for the strongman and his pals (Luke 11:24-25). If we try and pick our battles with temptation, we will ultimately lose altogether.

Temptation strikes in a million creative ways.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

He didn’t call to let you know he’s be late. Again. He must not love you at all. He attacks love.

Did you see the way the rear door of her minivan opens with a touch of a button? Your gas gauge doesn’t even work any more. And the drivers side window is getting more and more finicky. And why does it smell like rotten milk in here? Sure would be nice if you could afford a new car. He attacks Joy.

Can you believe she just said that to you?! After all these years. After all this time. You’re not going to stand by and let her treat you like that are you? He attacks Peace.

You have told that child a thousand times, at least, not to climb on the counters and get into the gum. He will never listen, He only gets into trouble. Who is the boss around here? You’d better show him. You know the only way to get through his thick little skull is with volume. Hold on a sec. Let me get my ear plugs in. Ok. Let him have it. He attacks patience.

You are way to busy to make cookies to take over to the new neighbors. They are too busy unpacking to appreciate visitors, I’m sure. Plus you’d have to make conversation, and you know how terrible you are at that. Maybe wait until your husband gets home from a long day at work and is too exhausted to move and think about it again then. He attacks kindness.

You are hungry and hormonal. You have earned the right to misbehave a little today. Attacks goodness.

You should take the day off today. You work hard. The day of rest has become just another day to run around like a crazy person. Church in an artificial societal construct anyway. And there’s a guest speaker. Stay home. He attacks faithfulness.

She had a bad day? She had a bad day? Remember that time your kid flushed your last pair of contacts down the toilet so you had to go around blind for three whole days? Tell her that story. Then maybe she won’t think she has it so bad. He attacks gentleness.

Just have the brownie. Really. One won’t hurt you. Ohh. That was good. Maybe just one more… He attacks self control.

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert without food. And the devil waited him out. 40 days hungry, hot and tired, Satan sidles up along side. With all the charm of the serpent in the garden, he gently suggests Jesus have some bread. What if Jesus had picked this as a battle not to fight? What if he had given the tempter an inch. What if he had thought to himself, It’s been 40 days. I’m technically done here. I can totally turn that rock into bread. Come to think of it, I could turn that lizard into butter and create a toaster out of nothing right now. I could access my own power (that I gave up when I agreed to this plan) just for a minute to satisfy me in the here and now. It doesn’t really matter that it was Satan’s idea. The same thought has crossed my mind several times already.

But Jesus was on his guard and slashed back with the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” he said.

So the tempter regrouped. This time he jabbed with some scripture of his own. God, your Father, says “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” If you trust God your Father to save you, he says in essence, just throw yourself down this cliff. You must not trust if you don’t do it. Jesus doesn’t take the bate. Again, he slashes back with the Bible. “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Rather than slink away defeated, Satan chooses this opportunity to remind Jesus that he, the devil, is the prince of this world Jesus is visiting. He does not appeal so much to inbred lust for power that man has, but rather plays on his affection. You love this world so much? You love those people so much? You can have them. All you have to do is worship me. No ridicule. No torture. No dying. You can have your wish. You can have all your precious people. All you have to do is acknowledge my authority over this earth. Humble yourself before me, and it’s all yours.

And with a parry and a thrust, Jesus deftly answers the tempter with an authoritative command. A reminder of who is really in charge. “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

And the devil left him alone.

Jesus didn’t give an inch and neither should we. We need to learn to recognize temptation for what it is. If temptation successfully attacks love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self control, all that’s left on the vine is some shriveled up rotten fruit.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (I Corinthians 10:13).

1 comment:

abertolini said...

Awesome post! thank you!