“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you”. James 4:7b – 8 a. NIV
C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, returned to his faith while listening to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, talk about his faith. Both had been in the military and witnessed some horrible conditions and saw friends die. There is no doubt their military experiences gave them insight into both the ugliness and the beauty of humanity. Both felt society’s corruption was being brought about by those seeking power, yet both had hope and faith in God’s purpose for humanity.
At the onset of the early church, Jesus’ brother James became a leader who was respected for the advice he offered and the wisdom he possessed. He sent letters to the growing Christian communities outside Jerusalem, giving spiritual advice and guidance. James had witnessed the miracles of Jesus, including the casting out of demons. He knew how Satan could deceive and destroy a person, and so he offered believers the truth recorded in James 4, the need to resist Satan by pursuing God. Since his conversation with Eve, Satan has actively been at work doing what he does best, trying to deceive and destroy. He is real and is out to destroy us and our faith and our relationship with God.
Lewis’s other famous book, The Screwtape Letters, was said to have been inspired by his reaction to a 1940 speech made by Adolf Hitler. He thought about how good people, with a love for life, could be tempted by the promises of a deceiver. His book shares thoughts on the psychology of temptation through fictional accounts of conversations between a senior demon and a trainee. It shares how demons exploit the weaknesses in people so as to get them to make poor, destructive choices. It also correctly identifies the weakness of Satan. He can only tempt us and can’t impose his will on us. Satan is not omnipresent nor can read our minds. He is a created being with limitations and he can be resisted. However, he and his minions know our weakness through observation and they exploit them. Our behaviour, body language and even conversations help them develop their strategy to use our weakness against us.
James tells us to resist Satan and seek God. Our pastors, priests and Sunday school teachers have advised us to memorize and meditate on God’s Word, so we can use them as weapons of resistance. Maybe part of our resistance plan also requires us to conduct a self-examination of our weaknesses. It can help us recognize how they often lead us to do or say something we know we should not.
Do you have a desire to spend alone time with Jesus in prayer or by reading the Word but, as soon as you try to settle down, your mind wanders or you can’t get physically comfortable? Have you ever noticed that many temptations seem to just come out of nowhere? Everything is going well, and suddenly you’re faced with an incredibly tough temptation to sin. That’s because Satan is an opportunist. He knows our strengths and weaknesses and knows exactly where to hit us and the kind of evil suggestions that will tempt us most. Do you think a weakness of yours is being exploited? For example, are you driven by perfection such that you pursue it at all costs including working late every night, missing out on family, leisure, or time with God?
The evil one has observed what drives us and exploits it. We must be on guard and have a response to fight. We all have a weakness and should become aware of it so that we can respond to attempts of exploitation and temptation. Satan knows our strengths and weaknesses; do you know yours? Resist the devil and he will flee.