Summary: Failure to understand elementary insights about how to engage the enemy will leave gaping holes in our defenses.
After a worship service at First Baptist in New Castle, Kentucky, the mother of a fidgety 7-year-old boy told Pastor Dave Charlton how she finally got her son to sit still and be quiet. About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered, “If you don’t be quiet, Pastor Charlton is going to lose his place and he will have to start his sermon over again!” It worked. The little boy didn’t make a sound.
During the last week of nice weather in September 2002, six climbers found themselves stranded at 9,000 feet in the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington. It took a U.S. Navy Chinook Helicopter to rescue the climbers, who had spent the night on a ledge.
Jan Jorgenson, spokesman for the Snohomish County Sheriff, said, “They had an inadequate length of rope and they got themselves in a position that they could not rappel out of. They got on a ledge where they couldn’t move forward or back.” (1)
There you have it. We pick up our story of Elijah in a similar dilemma. Back on the Ponderosa, we are having trouble at the widow’s house again. This time the stakes are much higher. Before it was just lack of food. Now it is death. Elijah is stuck on ledge unable to move forward or back.
It happened back then and it happens today. Satan is working his own rip-off schemes every Sunday morning as God’s servants gather to receive biblical insights and application. Before you can turn on your engine and back out of the church parking lot, he has ripped-off the truth that would have helped you through the week. Before the cookies are iced, he comes along and takes a huge bite. Before the shoes are worn, a scuff is found. Before the car is driven, a scratch is found. He has brought down some of the best.
Satan’s mousetrap is set each Sunday. You arrive at church smiling, shaking hands and saying what a wonderful day it is. But he’s got you in his scope:
…Irritated over the congested, noisy foyer at the end of the service.
…Pastor preaches too long causing you to wait longer in the restaurant for lunch.
…An unresolved conflict at church keeps you from relaxing and enjoying the morning while you try to avoid that person.
…A baby crying, a tile stained, an instrument out of tune, a cue missed at the sound booth, or a grammatical error in the message is enough to take you out.
These are the satanic rip-offs that get Baptists as well as Pentecostals. They devour the believer who has walked with Jesus for 50 years and they trip-up the new Christian. Satan knows exactly which truth will be the “break-through word from heaven,” and he holds it hostage until the memory of what God said has faded. Whenever God’s Word is declared, Satan’s strategies are unleashed.
Most of us are creatures of habit. We are uncomfortable with change - at least too much change. We tend to live by the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Do you find yourself protecting your comfort zone at all costs? The older you become, the truer this is. As I read through God’s Word, I don’t see a faith in God that is played between the hash marks of comfort. Is there any life more mundane and vanilla than the predictable? As I pour over God’s Word on a weekly basis for devotional and professional study, I come up with only one string to play on - expect the unexpected.
Expect the Unexpected
Abraham: Dad had waited for years to have a son. A word from heaven had promised it, but his aging body and infertile wife made it impossible. Then it happened! A son. A close relationship was built between dad and son. The months rolled into years and all the promises that God had declared were wrapped up in this teenager. Then, without warning, God told Abraham to offer his son on the altar of obedience.
Hosea: The first time he asked her to marry him she laughed. The second time he asked she thought he was crazy, but she knew he was serious. The third time she said, “yes.” It was an odd mixture the man of God and the harlot from Israel. Anyone could see he was head over heals about her. It was a real love story. But while Hosea was hitting the Bible belt, Gomer was hitting as many nightspots as she could squeeze into an evening. He tried locking her out. He tried locking her up. Then along came the children - out of wedlock. God’s instructions: Go find her and remarry her.
David: He did everything right. He tended sheep for dad. He stepped forward and killed the nation’s number one public enemy. Even when the city praised him over the king, he deflected the praise and walked in humility. Then God allowed a disobedient, aging and jealous king to chase David all over Israel for over a decade.