There has been a lot of talk about the Bengals’ playoff matchup this week with the Steelers. Fans are eager to see if they can have success in the postseason and advance to the next round.
One thing about the matchup that has caught my attention is the eagerness of the players to confront the Steelers because they are a familiar opponent. They talk about how well they know each other. They talk about the understanding they have of their opponent’s offensive and defensive schemes. The challenges they face is not a mystery.
This made me think about the battle that we engage in spiritually. Our spiritual enemy has been described as a roaring lion seeking to devour. The battle is described in this way in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “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.”
While those descriptions may sound particularly perilous, we are not facing an unfamiliar foe. His tactics are basic. “He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
He has been twisting truth from the beginning. He came to Eve and asked, “Did God really say not to eat from any tree in the garden?” That’s not what God said. God said that they could eat from any tree except the one.
During Christ’s 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, it was the same story – lies. How did Jesus respond? With each temptation he quoted the Word of God. The truth of scripture was his tactic in the confrontation. Why should it not be the same for us?
When we are tempted, are we ready with ability to speak the word of God? To be ready it will require some work, some time, some digging, some memorization.
When someone struggles in a spiritual battle, their struggle is typical. We don’t tend to conquer a particular weakness, and then move on to conquer a different one. If we have a weak spot, we typically struggle with it repeatedly. Old timers called this a besetting sin. We would do well to memorize a few verses from the Bible that speak truth against what besets us.
The game continues. We have seen it before and we will see it again. God’s Word gets twisted, but we are perhaps too unfamiliar with it to recognize the deception. We act on vaguely recalled pieces of what God might have said.
We struggle in our own wisdom and strength instead of following the example of Christ – using scripture as our weapon. Paul followed the description of the battle above by reminding us to put on the armor of Christ. All of the armor described is for defense except for the word of God, which he says is the sword of the Spirit.
Don’t fear your foe; he’s too familiar.
Rev. Joel Gay is Pastor of the Wilmington Church of the Nazarene.