The Enemy Only Punishes
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Wouldn't it be great if every time you made progress you would not have set backs that cause you to slip back into the old patterns and ways of thinking. Each time this occurs to me I am determined for it to be my last time circling the drain. Unfortunately, for most of my christian walk that has not been the case. Instead, I go through the full cycle of emotions from perceived failure as a christian man, to the disappointment with myself for not be able to self-sustain my way through the challenge which then leads to the final outcome of frustration, guilt and shame about how I slid down the same hill one more time? In these times the following verses ring so true in my life:
Romans 7:15-24 (NLT)
15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart.23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
“Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
When I read these verses it helps me understand that God does know my struggles. He knows the inner workings of myself that wrestle with wanting to do great things and the weight of the personal disappointment I experience when set backs occur.
For most of my walk with the Lord and as a christian man I have often wondered, am I the only guy that just can't make progress and hold my ground? For over 30 years I have watched my wife hold a steady course always seemingly making progress in the same direction no matter the headwind. I contrast that to myself and see a ship that has been pounded by waves and when I look back at the wake I have created it reminds me of my younger son’s first time he steered a power boat on Lake Casitas. He enjoyed moving at a fast pace but his sense of direction and wake were hopelessly all over the map, a bumpy ride to say the least Historically, why have spiritual set backs always waved over me, causing me to get discouraged about my walk with the Lord? Am I really the only one in the crowd that thinks this way? The enemy wants me to think that is so but I know that isn't the truth. Rarely, if ever, are we the only ones wrestling with these types of attacks by the enemy.
Ecclesiates 1:9 (NIV)
"9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun".
Please don't misinterpret that I think those who have a steady, disciplined walks with the Lord have somehow fabricated their relationship. Quite the contrary, I greatly respect their devotion and envy their ability to hold the course when the water gets rough. For me, however, the lake usually seems choppy.
As I look to chart a new course what I am finding to be painfully clear is the difference between the enemy's desire to constantly punish me for any and all of my shortcomings while the Lord wants to use my weaknesses as opportunities to grow and be strengthened. I am coming to realize I actually do have a choice which voice I chose to follow. On one hand, there is the constant nagging voice of the enemy mocking me each time I experience a failure or personal set back. I have learned to recognize his voice because it's only purpose is to tear me down and bring discouragement to the situation no matter what it is. He is quick to remind me of my shortcomings and that I have been down this road before.
Contrast that now to the Lord's voice and how He disciplines me. His voice never tears me down, never piles guilt and shame onto a difficult time in life. Instead, His voice speaks encouragement and strength back into a worn out body that is ready to throw in the towel. He is a shelter against the storms of life.
So how do I end up in a compromised and susceptible place? It almost always starts by separation and isolation which are 2 of the enemy's greatest weapons against me as a believer. He knows if he can get me on my own without the encouragement of my family, my brothers in arms or the body of Christ I will eventually become vulnerable and weak. From all sides he will pummel me with negative thoughts until chinks in my armor begin to surface. These chinks usually manifest themselves as subtle doubts at first which cause me to begin to question myself and my abilities thereby making me lose confidence in my own ability and the path that I am on.
This voice of doubt is the enemy's foot in the door and evidence that the voice I am hearing is not that of the Lord's. The enemy doesn't need to take me to the mat and have me tap out at every corner. Instead, he just causes enough uncertainty in my mind to have doubts that what I doing is effective, causing me to question "who am I kidding?" At this point the victory is his because I have been rendered useless and have taken my foot off the gas and am slowly coming to a stop. That is how the enemy handles us.........punishment with no intention to have it produce positive change. He wants the guilt of our inability and poor behavior to be so all consuming that we are taken completely out of the fight.
Like me, you may be telling yourself this is a familiar story that always has the same ending. It doesn't have to be that way however. There is another outcome that can always produce positive results no matter how deeply you think you have failed. It starts with corrective action by moving from isolation to inclusion. Where you reach out to others in times of need and shine the light of Christ into those dark places the enemy is lurking. Exodus 17: 8-13 tell us. "God does not mean for us to endure suffering on our own. When the Israelites were fighting Amalek, they were only victorious as long as Moses was raising up his arms. But he grew weary in the battle and needed the help of Aaron and Hur to hold up his arms when he lost strength" Are you weary in the battle, call on your brothers to raise your arms and stand with you. There is no shame in that, but if you don't the enemy will be sure to pile it on.
The comedian Jeff Allen during a rare serious story telling time once said, "at times I loose sight of the Father's love in heaven, I get wrapped up in the day to day stuff and I loose sight of it. I get into the anger and resentment and all of a sudden I am separated, I am unplugged from that love."
Let me close with a little humor from Jeff about the America We Grew Up In.