Do you hear people talk about being under spiritual attack? We sometimes speak this way when the plumbing backs up before an important event. Or when we get sick or depressed.
But this Lent I remember that most often the devil attacks us with temptation to sin.
I don’t usually talk about warfare this way. Have you heard someone say lately, “I am tempted to gossip about my sister-in-law. Please pray for me; this is an attack!” or “I feel angry and want to turn people against my pastor. Is this warfare?”
I have a friend who attends AA meetings, and from the way she describes it I think recovering addicts are ahead of us here. They know when they are gripped by temptation and when they need help. They recognize this form of spiritual attack and hone their fighting skills.
But much of the church has lost something. We have separated our language of spiritual warfare from our language of temptation to sin.
Jesus in the Desert
After John baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit led Jesus “into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Jesus fasted forty days and grew weak with hunger.
The devil recognized Jesus’s vulnerability and attacked. The war was on.
He enticed Jesus to self-sufficiency: “Turn these stones to bread.” He offered him an easy way to fame: “Jump from the temple and the people of Jerusalem will see the angels save you.” And he lured him with power and pleasure: “All the kingdoms of the world I will give to you.”
I picture the emaciated Jesus resisting these temptations with raw and beautiful spiritual strength. I love him.
But we must not miss that this was a BATTLE. Resisting temptation to sin was hard for Jesus or this story is a joke. He clung to his Father’s words and fought with all his strength.
He shows us the fight we are born to fight. Will we let the devil drag us away into sin, or will we resist?
The Struggle Against Sin
Hebrews exhorts us to take heart from Jesus’ example of intimate spiritual warfare: “Consider him. . . so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”(Hebrews 12:4).
The author refers to another battle Jesus fought, in the Garden of Gesthemane. There Jesus fought the temptation to hit the eject button when he knew submission to his Father meant the cross. He fought so hard he sweated: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).
Thank God he won that battle with temptation.
So this Lent I am convicted, and I invite you to consider with me–how does the devil tempt you sin?
Recognizing this form of spiritual attack can invigorate us. Oswald Chambers knew this: “The old Puritan idea that the devil tempts men had this remarkable effect: it produced the man of iron who fought; the modern idea of blaming heredity or his circumstances produces the man who succumbs at once” (“The Quotable Oswald Chambers”).
Take heart! We have God’s promise that resistance works.: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Let’s become Chambers’ men and women of iron. Let’s fight!