Hi everyone, Rob here.
A few weeks ago I was swimming in the ocean at Mt Maunganui, a stunning beach on New Zealand’s east coast. As I was popping up after going under a wave I noticed a grey fin to my left, about 10 meters away. Fortunately it was swimming away from me! As I got back to shore it was confirmed; I’d just swum with a shark. It seemed to me to be a metaphor for our times. We can think we’re OK, doing well, enjoying life’s warm waters, but in reality sharks are all around us. The Bible, in 1 Peter 5:8-9 prefers the image of a lion:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
While enjoying the sheer tranquillity of a New Zealand summer it can be hard to believe that we have an enemy who is out to destroy us. Yet as we watch the news and see violent extremists killing without conscience we are shocked into realising again that the tentacles of evil reach deeply into our world. Most of the time though the devil’s attempts to destroy are subtle and play on our spiritual passivity.
For example, right now I am battling tiredness. Sleeplessness has been a battle in my life for over 10 years now on and off. At the moment the battle is on. Tiredness can lead to apathy which can lead to cynicism. This is not a good combination for anyone, let alone a pastor! The first thing is make no agreements! This has been helpful advice for me over the last few years. I make no agreement with tiredness. I make no agreement that I’m a poor sleeper. Instead I make agreement that I’m a child of God and my Father will look after me. I make agreement with Christ’s authority and victory over the evil one and I make agreement that in Christ I share in his authority. I take my place in Christ and trust him to give me what I need during the day. In faith I choose to believe that I’ve had enough sleep in order to do God’s will today.
While I make these choices there is a definite temptation to be annoyed and angry at my lack of sleep. There is a voice trying to get me to make agreement with ‘woe is me.’ The reality is that sleeplessness is horrible and I’m asking the Father to guide me into good solutions. I don’t feel like a spiritual giant as I battle this. I feel small and weak but God is big and strong and loves me. The invitation for me is to trust and pray, to be sensible – no afternoon or evening coffees, exercise, eat well and so on – and cast all worry and anxiety on God. But what about you? What’s your shark? Maybe there’s a workmate you’re struggling with? Maybe you’re bored or restless or anxious? Maybe your marriage is struggling or the kids seem out of control?
These things seem so ordinary that we struggle to recognise them for the sharks that they are. They can serve to discourage us and make us think that we are disqualified from making an impact for God’s kingdom. Yet it is in and through these everyday battles that we show the world Christ who is in us. As we choose him, take our place in his cross, his life and his rule and co operate with his Spirit we bring life to our hearts and God’s love to the world. Really!
I invite you to pause, take stock of your life and notice where the small discouragements are coming from. Where are the areas you feel fearful in or anxious or just not quite right? God wants to bring his life into those areas. He wants to partner with you in taking down the sharks that are circling. He wants you to swim freely in the waters of life.