Hi everyone, Rob here.
Last week we tried to make the most of the last week of school holidays and took our family camping at Papamoa Beach. It was great except for the fact that on our first full day at the beach I got horribly sunburnt. A combination of a powerful sun on my lily white body and neglecting to put enough sunscreen on led to this problem. Powerful forces and personal neglect. That right there is the problem we face as we try and make progress in our spiritual life.
The sun in New Zealand is dangerous. We have one of the highest melanoma rates in the world. For a variety of reasons, including lower pollution rates and ozone depletion, our peak UV levels are around 40% higher than at a similar latitude in North America. Our sun is a relentless attacking force. That is exactly how the Bible describes Satan, the fallen angel who is set against God, his kingdom and his people. John 10:10 begins with Jesus telling the Pharisees and the crowd that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” 1 Peter 5:8 says that “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Revelation 12 says that the devil has gone down to the earth and the sea and that he is “filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Just as forgetting about the suns relentless force leads to problems, we neglect the presence of the devil at our peril. The fact that he is set against us explains why life is not smooth sailing. One small lie derailed Adam and Eve. He went against Jesus for 40 days trying to find a chink in his armour. Paul tells us to put on spiritual armour. Why? Because we are at war. Without the enemy, either God is terribly cruel or we are always getting it horribly, brutally wrong. We tend to believe the latter forgetting that in Christ our hearts have been made new and good. We accuse ourselves or God which is exactly what the enemy (the accuser!) wants us to do.
But that’s not the whole story. I knew the sun was brutal but I thought a quick swim without sunscreen would be fine. I got distracted and a short time exposed became a longer time and that was that. Why didn’t I just put sunscreen on? Why didn’t I have a rash shirt (I do now!)? This is our problem. We neglect our good, yet fragile, hearts too easily and leave ourselves wide open to the enemy’s attacks and lies. We charge into the day without surrendering ourselves afresh to Jesus the King or inviting his Spirit to lead us and protect us. We forget to invite Jesus into tricky moments where we need his help. We forget to read his Word. We ignore our wounded places even when the signs are obvious that we’re acting out of them. Things like anger, lust, stress, meanness and laziness emerge and we pretend that everything’s ok or we just try harder. Our good hearts need to be nurtured like a new plant or a young child or, maybe more accurately, a wounded soldier. They need to be brought to Jesus regularly. They need good armour to be protected. They need nutrients that bring healing and strength.
I am convinced that how we start the day sets the tone for how our day will go. May we all ask the Spirit’s help to come before Jesus at the start of the day and lay ourselves down before him. Come to his cross for mercy, his empty tomb to receive his life and his heavenly throne to receive his authority and power. Pray against the relentless force of the enemy. Pray over all your conversations and decisions. Give your small kingdom over to God’s kingdom. Start the day with Jesus. Ask him how to pray for the day. Open your heart to his and may you know his love, peace and joy as you stand in his name everyday.
Shalom my friends.