We're in Chapter 9 of Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGard Smith. As I said yesterday, the hard times make life difficult for everyone. But the sneak attacks might take you by surprise in a whole different way. Maybe you've been diligent about your Bible reading and prayer. You're feeling particularly good about your relationship with God and with Jesus. Your heart feels lighter and more spiritual than it has in many years.
Then you notice that you feel lonely in a room full of friends. You got up feeling spunky, but are still sitting in front of the television set at 3 in the afternoon. The energy for that new project suddenly tanks, and in any case you don't know what was so good about it in the first place. What's going on here? The spiritual invaders are dive bombing right into your life in a sneak attack. You feel tired and you're tempted to give up--to compromise to get some peace.
But there's the rub: compromising on your spiritual ideals to gain peace is not a true or lasting or fulfilling peace. Why not? Because life is all about conflict. The kind of peace you truly want doesn't come with ending conflict, but in dealing with it...toe to toe, so to speak. And the battleground? Your own heart. What!? Are you telling me that I'm creating my own misery?
No, I'm not telling you...James is telling you, when he says in his letter: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" Wait a minute...are you blaming me for the sneak attacks!!!? I'm sabotaging MYSELF!?
Unfortuately, it's those sneak attack desires that bring conflict...being greedy, or coveting what others have, or pride that keeps you from moving forward. Yes, it's a long list of things that take you by surprise, and that you probably won't admit to having. But truthfully, you can only find true peace when you're prepared to meet these enemies head on. And the battle? It's against your own destructive personal desires and against your fear of those unexpected calamities. Oh, no! You're asking me to take responsibility for the unhappiness and discontent in my own life?
As strange as it may sound, I am asking you to prepare for battle. Because it's only with preparation that the battle with sneak attacks can be won. How to prepare yourself to win? You must use the quiet times in your life to turn your heart over to God...He will prepare you for whatever struggle you have to face. Whether you have daily devotionals of Bible reading and prayer, a quiet time of solitude and reflection on God's will and your life, or reading a book that give you thoughts to consider, you really must take time to gird yourself with God's word. You'll find that out of these quiet times, you'll gain strength and courage for the spiritual battles ahead.
Ask yourself: Am I alert to all the quiet times God brings my way each day? A wonderful day with the family brings protection from loneliness later on. A friend's encouragement brings protection when you feel low and discouraged later. Shared friendships or family relationships prepare you to face hardships of all kinds. But you have to soak in the good times...realizing that it's God's way of preparing you, so that you're not caught off guard by sneak attacks.
Basically, you will want to do what Jesus did when He was tempted by Satan. Jesus didn't mince words: His reply was, "It is written." So you must read your Bible, because you'll learn--and take comfort in--how godly people in all time periods dealt with their struggles--the same struggles that you have. And you'll come to know in your deepest heart that God was--and is--on your side. How many of you are losing your battle with Satan because you don't stay connected to God?
What about your prayer life? Did Jesus pray? Why? Make it part of your quiet time because in times of trouble, it's your first line of defense. Call on yourself to rearm, shore up defenses, and pray for support while you have some quiet time! It's up to you to put on the "full armor of God," which is truth, righteousness, and faith. This is your only assurance of salvation! You must use God's word as your weapon against sneak attacks.
No, we don't usually worry about being attacked by warplanes. Attacks on you and me are more subtle and come from within. You and I struggle for peace within and harmony without. But knowing that Christ fought and won the greatest battle of all time over death, we can be assured that through our faith in Him, we can gain the victory in our own life.
I hope you have a happy Monday! Please take time to think about the meaning of this lesson.