I struggle with selective insomnia. When it’s time for bed, I’m gone in 3 minutes. It’s awesome. However, if I wake up in the middle of the night, 8 out of 10 times I’ll stay up for hours. My mind just goes and goes and there’s no slowing it down. It is kind of the worst.
So the other night, a noise woke me up. It was the dog stretching or the wind blowing or something. So I tried every way I could think of to lull my brain back into sleep. Imagine a green mountain top. Repeatedly spell the word “S L E E P” in your mind. Stop thinking. Just stop.
I finally gave up and picked up my stupid smartphone and went to my library. I checked Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, looking for friends who had insomnia just like me. Yes, I have a Pinterest account. Whatever. I judge you, too. Then I checked my email. I had a few outstanding questions to friends I had sent earlier, and the middle of the night was as good a time as any to play “catch up.” There were a few messages from friends and the all-too-usual spam email trying to get me to look at their product or scam me out of money. People are really creative at trying to get my attention and with their spam emails.
And then there was one whose email address read – “Lonely Cheating Wives.” The subject line said, “Wanna try something new?” I immediately decided to write this post. My stomach dropped, I felt sick, and then I deleted the email. I sat there thinking about this ploy to lure men into affairs … over email. Seduction over email. Think about that. Now, this was not enticing to me, and it didn’t shake me or tempt me. I know I have blind spots and I know they are exploited. I stumble and sin and fall just like everyone, but a full, upfront, brazen attempt like this is not effective on me most days. I’m fooled and exploited with more seductive tactics.
However, it is a great spiritual reminder of a physical, present truth: the world, the flesh, and the devil are active RIGHT NOW. They are working on ways to break me down, keep me from being effective, and lull me back into a quiet, contented rest where all I have to do is give into my immediate wants and desires. And they are working on you too.
“What do you mean?” you may ask. I’m glad you asked that question. Often, we write off anything and everything spiritual, just because we don’t want to become “those people.” By “those people,” we mean the banner waving, snake handling, “I-got-a-flat-tire-so-it-must-be-the-Devil” people. But the Bible is clear – We have a sentient, active enemy that has militant organization and intent to harm us, even kill us. Add to that the fact that he’s been around for thousands of years, so he’s got some street smarts and tons of practice, and you have a formidable opponent. 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:12 say,
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
You know what that means? First, you are being hunted. Right now. Satan is testing your fences and defenses to see what works and doesn’t work, and his strategy is constantly improving and customizing to you and your weaknesses. Whether or not you accept that fact doesn’t matter; it’s happening. Second, this is a physical as well as spiritual and cosmic battle. Often, this is an invisible battle, and it is for keeps, a life-or-death fight. This may be a scary reality, but it’s even worse if you are unaware of it. A man who knows he is in a fight to the death is aware of the dangers involved and strategies that must be implemented in order to survive. A man who doesn’t know he is in a fight to the death is in big, big trouble. The Bible speaks of this very clearly: Paul talks about Satan and handing men “over to Satan,”and even Jesus is tempted by Satan in the flesh. If you ever get the time, read CS Lewis’ book on the constant battle against your soul, Screwtape Letters. It is incredibly illuminating.
So, we have an external enemy. But that’s not all. You want to know what is really scary? Of the three (the world, the flesh, and the devil) the human heart is the most evil and deceptive. According to Solomon (the wisest man there ever) in Proverbs 20:5:
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Jeremiah 17:9 says:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?
Is this sinking in? You lie to yourself. Your heart tries to deceive and trick you. Your heart is sick with sin. The God of all creation is saying that your heart (my heart) is tricky and false above all other tempters. Creepy, right?
Listen, my time will come when whatever brightly wrapped package of sin and lies will find me. It happens on a somewhat regular basis. And it may be on a good day, or it may not. Your little “sin box” is waiting for you too. Here’s the question: Does your victory over sin depend on you – your mood, your feelings, how good of a day you are having? If so, you are in deep trouble.
Do you know where you are weak? Because if victory depends on you, you are done for. If you know where you are weak, what are you doing about it? Are you, through prayer, asking God to build strongholds around your weaknesses and vulnerabilities? If your responses have been bathed in prayer, wrestled with God over, repented of, if you have pleaded, fasted, asked and asked and asked God to give you grace, His strength, His holiness, His character, His Spirit, His provision … then it’s not up to you and your cleverness, is it? God is faithful. He will not let you experience anymore sin and weight and oppression than you can bear.
Even Jesus didn’t rely on His wisdom, strength, and miraculous power when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. What did He rely on? God’s word, namely Deuteronomy. I like to think of my weaknesses like potholes that I fall into on occasion. God tells us in His word to ask, seek, and knock when we need Him – which is all the time. So pray. Pray over your weaknesses, asking God to surround them with His strength, His glory, His provision. When I do this, I rely on God and His strength, not mine. God begins to build fortresses and watchtowers around my weakness. God makes His power known through my weaknesses.
1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In other words, don’t fight the world, the flesh, and the devil by yourself. Pray. This is a spiritual battle.
Sin is so readily available in every form. It is always ready to find you, and sometimes you are ready to find it. So the next time you open your inbox, or get cut off in traffic, or argue with your friends or spouse, or look at things you shouldn’t, or any of the other myriad of things out there, maybe instead of willing yourself toward obedience, or white-knuckling it, or shaming yourself to do the right thing … maybe you can just run to Jesus.
Here’s how the author of Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 10:19-39:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
It is God who saves you, God who provides for you, and God who will keep you until the end. It is God who gives you the faith to believe in Him in the first place! We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, not because of our strength or faith, but because of God and His faithfulness. He is able. He is King. He is glorious. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to take the sting, the power, out of both death AND sin. And only because of Jesus, you can run to Him as Your fortress and strong tower. This is a spiritual battle. And God has already won the victory in Jesus Christ!