'For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.'
In the Bible, you tell us that the devil exists. So why, when I believe in you, in your word, do I shy away from discussion about the devil? I sort of cringe a bit when I find myself in a conversation about the devil, as if there's something melodramatic about it, or a bit fanciful. It feels a bit far-fetched. I am embarrassed. Why? You've told me the truth in so many areas of my life. Perhaps it's the devil himself who doesn't want me to focus on him too closely. Perhaps it suits him to have me uncomfortable with discussions that directly confront the issue of his existence or activity. It must work in his favour when I undermine myself by pulling a face when I speak of Satan.
There's something egocentric about asserting that something that has happened to thwart me when I'm trying to do something for you must be from the devil. Or at least, that's how I feel, that's how I have felt. I've been unsure about how many of life's obstacles I can legitimately put down to infernal interference because I don't want to be one of those people who claim that if the rain comes when their umbrella is still in the car it must be the devil's work.
You know what it is? I've just had a rush of insight. If I claim that the devil is at work in my life, I feel as if I'm claiming that what I'm doing is so good that it attracts his attention and he feels threatened enough to try to wreck it. I must be such a wonderfully good person, and I am not. The problem is that I am uncomfortable making the assertion that I am doing good things.
Here's what I know:
I love you, Lord.
I believe that you died for my sins and rose again and that you love me and one day I will be with you.
You are at work in my life.
In these last few months you have been obviously, dramatically and undeniably at work in my life.
In these last few months an inordinate number of things have gone wrong in my life.
In these last few months you have supported and loved and encouraged me so thoroughly that the things that have gone wrong have not sunk me as they might have done.
I know that you have plans for me that we have only just begun to explore.
I love this.
I am having the time of my life.
So there, you see, in a nutshell. I can, with confidence, not arrogance, not presumptuousness, assert that I am a threat to the devil. So it is likely that he will try to undermine me. I need to hold fast to this, because I struggle with it. I feel as if I need to protest that I am not an important player in this battle, so surely there is no need for Satan to be targeting me. There must be another explanation.
But it may be just like that. No it is just like that.
I'm going to say it again. Tell me if I'm right.
'I am a threat to the devil so it is likely that he will try to undermine me.'
That time I did it with less of a squirm.
The thing is, I want to be a threat to the devil. I don't embrace the idea of difficulty or hardship or accident or diabolical involvement in my life but I want to be so unequivocably on your team, not his, that he is narked by it. I don't want to be a wishy washy backbench observer who the devil thinks of as neutral, pointless, no threat. In saying that I am a threat I am not boasting of my own goodness, or my own ideas, or even my own ability to fight him; I am boasting about your goodness, your ideas, your fight. I am a soldier in your army and I wear your armour. He may still be fighting but you have won the war, and there's nothing he would like me to believe more than that I am worthless in battle.
I am not worthless. I am the child of the living God. How can I get that conviction to stick, Lord? How can I stop myself from reverting to the 'not good enough' feeling? I'm not throwing your gifts back in your face but sometimes my confidence gets eroded and the old feelings creep back in. Is that the devil's voice, then? 'You're not good enough for this.' 'Someone else could do this a whole lot better than you.' 'Everyone is wondering why you're here.' 'What could someone like you offer?' 'They're all going to see through you in a minute.'
I know these are not true. I am less bothered by stuff like this these days; I'm learning! But sometimes the self-esteem leaks out and is replaced by anxiety and doubt. Not doubt about you, doubt about me.
I suspect there will be more on this. I feel that I am very young in my understanding of this whole spiritual warfare thingy and I have some books to read. No doubt I will soon be quoting bits to you and asking you what you think.
Anyway, for now I want to thank you for wise friends who know more than me and can lend me books, for a brain to think about things and for a giving to me a Team Captain who is never going to lose.
Please hide me under your wing when I need to hide, and stand with me when it's time to fight.
'For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
Romans 8: 38 - 39
That'll do for me.