Recently I found myself listening to an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns from a brother I once deeply admired. Unfortunately, as I listened I remembered the details of how this brother made shipwreck of his life and faith in order to satisfy the desires of his flesh. It was painful. And it served as a sorrowful and profound reminder of the schemes of the devil.
The enemy plots our destruction. There is a reason that the Bible describes the devil as a lion who prowls around seeking to do us harm (1 Peter 5:8). I think of Jesus’ words often, where he spoke to Peter saying, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). There is, at this moment, a very real spiritual battle taking place. It’s not just happening around us. It’s about us.
In our modern world, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the devil. We don’t think about the spiritual realm, or forces of evil seeking to steal, kill, and destroy us. That seems too ancient or too sci-fi for most of us. But that’s one of the real dangers of our age. We are most vulnerable to enemies we’re unaware of. And when we live our lives ignorant of Satan and his efforts to destroy us, we are actually in real danger.
James instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7). That’s not just good advice. It’s an essential practice for Christians. When I think about my friend who ruined his life and family to give himself over to sin, I blame him for his actions. But I know he didn’t get there by. himself. He was tempted. And the temptation was so strong that he eventually gave himself over to it.
That’s not a problem for only certain people. All of us are vulnerable. All of us can fall. We can hurt people. We can ruin lives, ministries, and more. Until the curse is gone, sin will continue to entice us. Temptations will abound. And sadly, we will continue to watch people we love and look up give themselves over to these things in ways that cause great pain and disappointment.
So what can you do? Follow the wisdom from James. He not only tells us to resist the devil to make him flee, but to draw near to God who will draw near to us (4:8). But here is the most important thing: this must be a regular and ongoing practice. It’s not enough to do this once or occasionally, but daily and sometimes hourly.
None of us will ever be immune from sin. And when we see people fall, we shouldn’t stand in judgment. Instead, we should remember these words, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). And we should beg God to keep us from falling prey to the devil’s schemes.