Our Little Bebop

We carefully backed our camper van in among the trees of our new campsite, which was elevated on a ridge about four feet beside a lake. The local ducks and geese soon found us. After welcoming us to ‘their’ lake, they told us they were ‘starving.’ Squirrels quickly descended from the live oaks draped with Spanish moss shading our lot.

One seemed to live in the tree beside our van, because he came several times every day to request a handout. We handed out saltine crackers, having nothing else a squirrel might desire.

He’d hold them in his front paws like a pizza box, and then spin them around from corner to corner, nibbling as he turned. We named him Chester.

The ducks and geese received carrot and potato peels. They gladly gobbled them up, being the freeloaders that they are, and immediately asked for more. After receiving the same thing morning after morning, they soon tired of the peels and demanded ‘real’ food. Chester continued coming down and asking for another saltine. Then he’d run back up the tree, returning two seconds later to ask for one more. How could he eat a cracker in less than two seconds? One day we spotted him stashing the latest cracker on a high limb before he ran back down. We also noticed that he was gaining quite a bit of weight. His name was soon changed to Chesterina, because ‘she’ was heavy with child(ren)!

We put our slow cooker right outside our van at night, so our food would be done cooking when we got up the next day (and to keep it from heating up our van as we slept!)

Another ‘woodland creature’ appeared not long after we started using it—a little calico cat with no tail. She was smaller than the average cat and did not have enough to eat or a home.

She was afraid of people, and would very cautiously approach our campsite hoping for a handout. But she’d run off out of sight if we approached her to offer something. We began leaving a bit of food for her on a picnic table at another site. Then we’d leave and watch and wait. She came around when the coast was clear to claim her handout. But the irresistible smell of cooked meat in our slow cooker every morning began drawing her a little closer to our van every day. One morning we found her hiding under our van, hoping something might fall out of the slow cooker and become hers!

The weeks went by, and she played in the leaves and caught lizards to eat because she couldn’t find anything else. Her generic name around the park was “Bobtail.” A large male calico cat, who was more adept at getting handouts, started coming around our site—drawn by the odor coming from the slow cooker. He would intimidate Bobtail and push her aside to claim whatever we might be offering that day for himself. She was too small and timid to fight back. So she would back off and let him have whatever he wanted. Hence, her lizard diet.

My husband noticed her dilemma. He would yell at the male calico to leave when he saw him coming around and would chase him away if he wouldn’t go. After a few days, Bobtail caught on that she now had a knight in shining armor who would defend her! She was really warming up to us and becoming less timid all the time.

One day she stood between my husband’s legs as he was threatening the male cat, and did the cat version of sticking her tongue out at him, saying, “So there! You heard him! Now don’t come back!” Then he ran off.

After a month or two, we moved from the tiny lot beside the lake to a larger site within the park. Before long, a little calico bobtailed cat came timidly creeping up to our patio! We introduced her to the novelty of dry cat food and put some out for her regularly. She decided that she didn’t need to be afraid of us anymore. We wanted to give her a name that was not so generic, but similar to the one she already knew, so we settled on “Bebop.” Since she had never lived with people, everything we did for her was a new treat. Sometimes we’d pour some liquid from a can of tuna into her water. She’d gingerly walk over and try it, then say, “Wow! They even have flavored water here!” What a delight she was!

Once Bebop began to know and trust my husband, she relied on him to protect her. When she stood between my husband’s legs, she had faith in him that he would look out for her.

She only weighed nine pounds, but the bigger cat would turn and run off. He was not afraid of her—he was afraid of what my husband might do to him if he hurt or mistreated her! She was no longer timid and afraid around that cat, because she knew that her ‘knight’ would take up her cause and defend her! She stood up to her bully (as long as he was there over her), although there was no way she could protect her little self on her own if the bigger cat came after her.

cross at sunset

Paul writes that we are to “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).” (Notice that we are to put on God’s armor, not our own.)

Being “strong in the Lord” means that we believe that God is our source of strength, and then rely on Him and the promises He has made to us so we can stand against the devil’s attacks.

It does not mean being strong in our own self, but only through the One in whom our real strength lies (literally, “Be strengthened with power.”) Apart from Him we can do nothing. By having faith in Him, we can “…do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“…in the power of His might” refers to …the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). Your own strength is really weakness when battling the devil, but the strength of Jesus Christ’s power is almighty.

To the devil, we are timid little nine pound nothings. He is not afraid of us in the least.

But when we put on the armor of God and stand up to him relying on God’s strength, he runs off! He knows he cannot take on God and win! Bebop would say, “I can do all things through my hero who looks out for me!” And I say to you, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

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The Lonely Ones of God

young Japanese woman looking over railing

Many people fear loneliness. But for a child of God in His service, being alone is a necessity—because God’s way is a lonely way. If you are going to lead others as God directs, it requires a certain amount of loneliness. You cannot take friends along with you, even though they may provide you a great deal of comfort.

Anyone can go with the crowd. But how many can turn and go in the other direction—alone? Nothing but God’s grace can make it possible for a man to face any obstacle—alone.

You need to be able to stand like a solid rock that nothing can move, even if the whole world pushes against you! It is boldness like this in the name of the Lord that is worthy of His grace. Do you count all the difficulties that you encounter? You don’t need to. Why not count how many times God has gotten you through difficulties you considered insurmountable instead! In fact, it is better to have more difficult situations, and fewer friends, because more grace will be poured out on you to help you stand firm in your lonely situation—with your faith resting solely on God.

O man or woman of God, don’t think of yourself as alone! God never leaves you unprotected. You would be amazed if you could see all the mighty angelic bodyguards surrounding you all the time!

You have no right to complain of loneliness, therefore, because you never really are alone. Nor do you have to fear evil, because “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). When you know the Lord is with you, you will be able to go through loneliness, illness, grieving, poverty, and even terrifying torment. Yet you never need to doubt the Lord, or give up on Him, in spite of what you may go through. In fact, your song can still be full of joy, even if you have to pass through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). This is the victory that your faith in Him provides!

man sitting on bench with distant mountains

Are you a child of God in some remote place, far from any friend, known by no one? Even if you have only a hut to live in, and are not near any group of Christians, don’t let your spirit be down. Lift up your voice and sing to God! He will hear you and comfort you and remain with you. Maybe you rent a room in the middle of a crowded city, without even one person you can call a friend. The Lord sees you and can help you to thrive in the midst of your loneliness, even in a crowd. He has not forgotten you and is not neglecting you.

You can’t see God’s presence when He is working on your behalf. But those who know Him and fellowship with Him can sense His presence, nevertheless.

When your ears have been constantly trained by faith, you will hear God’s ‘footsteps’ nearby. Do you ever sit in sorrow, feeling all alone at times? Every so often, lift your head and listen for that gentle whisper telling you “It is I; be not afraid” (John 6:20). “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him…” (Psalm 25:14). Instead of trying to avoid loneliness, retreat every once in a while to a private corner alone. Tell your heart to rejoice, and then break into a song of praise unto God.

 

woman standing water at sunset

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs you inside, calling you to come away and be alone with God. Do not take your own good time responding to His call. If you are truly born again, you need private prayer time just to live! The Spirit calls you to spend much time in loneliness. This is to your advantage, so you will have a chance to prove whether you are truly trusting only in God. There are also times when you can get very alone, and then discover that no one will be kind to you. At times like this, lean solely on the Lord. He has the power to provide the comfort you need and He will prove it to you. Then you will discover more of what God is to His people. Get alone with God and the damage done by the noise and worry and shouting of the world will be repaired in your life.

Man of God, woman of God, you don’t need to feel the pain of being lonely. No matter where you may be at any given time, God is there. All you need to do is to pray, and you and God will be together. Bring Him to mind, and you’ll find Him walking with you that very moment. Go to Him with all your needs and He will lay His hand upon you. He is your dependable, inexhaustible source of supply and support. Devote yourself to Him and you will find that lonely, narrow path which leads to His unending love.

man looking out window

No one who ever lived experienced more loneliness than Jesus did. He knows just what it’s like to be lonely and forsaken—even by His own brothers. Therefore, His sympathy is endless for all who feel alone and forsaken. But who did Jesus turn to when He was afflicted and set apart from others? Who could He uncover His innermost feelings and thoughts to? No one but His Heavenly Father. He prayed and asked for His assistance humbly and earnestly, time after time. All of His sorrow and complaints He brought to Him. And His heavenly Father answered them all and comforted Him.

Lonely one, you are not truly alone. The Spirit of the One crucified on the cross of Calvary is with you right now, whispering gently in your ear: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). He “is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He promised that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Let Him be your source of comfort whenever you are in danger of succumbing to the pain of loneliness.

The Wrong Piece

colored puzzle pieces

It is annoying, downright annoying, when assembling a jigsaw puzzle, to find that a piece is in the wrong place. One part of the piece that connected to the other pieces fits correctly. And it seemed to match the corresponding picture. Yet when you try to connect the other pieces to it, they just will not fit. You analyze the region around the problem area, and the picture the puzzle is cut from, and then go back to the offending pieces. You begin to grow frustrated with what should be working out just fine. The other pieces connect to each other without any problem. Why can’t they connect to this piece? They fit all of the other pieces around this problem piece. You eventually succumb to brute force. With the bottom of a heavyweight cup, you pound the offending areas into place. Problem solved! you gleefully think to yourself. But, wait, now the result doesn’t match the rest of the bigger picture! After some careful inspection, you realize that you were wrong and that one problem piece did not belong there all along. With a little more searching in the vast pile of untouched pieces, you find one you had overlooked. Then, much to your delight, it all works out fine (until it happens all over again in a different place).

How often in your life’s puzzle does a particular piece not quite fit right? No matter what you do, there ends up being a portion that won’t connect to the other pieces. So you analyze your life thus far, and conclude that everything seems right. Well, maybe, not one hundred percent. Actually, it is more like eighty percent—although it really could be only sixty-five percent complete—but it is getting better all the time, you tell yourself. Yet, in reality, your life never will be complete. Why? Because you are trying to solve it all yourself and make everything fit your way.

God did not design you to solve the puzzle of your life by yourself. He did not create you to be self-sufficient and completely independent. He wants you to be dependent on Him for everything. God is not a crutch for the weak and ignorant.

“For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect…Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great” (2 Samuel 22:30-36).

When you start trying to solve all of your problems by yourself, you are working in your own fallible strength. You begin putting wrong pieces in place thinking that you doing the right thing and conclude that the correct pieces you inserted earlier are now wrong. You continue this cycle over and over until you reach a point where you are weary in your own strength and give up. You might also reach a point where you have become so accustomed to having the wrong pieces in place that you begin forcefully trying to make the surrounding pieces fit too, only to find that now none of it looks right. It is then that you go for help outside of your self. Yet you find that the problems are still not solved; instead, they are just adjusted so that they appear to be solved, leaving you with hidden pain.

So what is the solution? How can anyone get the ‘wrong’ pieces to fit in to the right places? Where do you go for help when all of the ‘help’ is struggling with wrong pieces in their own lives (and many times not even aware of it)? Who can take away the pain, both inward and outward, that these wrong pieces are causing in your life?

The answer is very simple—it is Jesus Christ. When you turn all of the issues, pain, and problems over to Him, and let Him take care of them, you will find that the pieces will start to fit correctly again. But if you take over your own life again, and return to assembling your puzzle by yourself, or you become proud of the picture formed by your life’s puzzle, that is when you will find those wrong pieces reappearing. It is only when you surrender your ‘puzzle’ over to Jesus, and let Him do the assembling, that the pieces will fit where they belong each and every time. Jesus loves you more than you could ever know. He wants to assemble your life’s puzzle correctly. But it will only happen when you let Him. You need to “Draw nigh [near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a). All it takes is a simple prayer like this:

Jesus, I am sorry for running my life in my way and in my own strength. Please forgive me for sinning against you. I now give my heart and life over to you, and will stop trying to force the wrong pieces in my puzzle to fit. Please come into my heart and assemble the puzzle of my life with the right pieces in the way that You know is best. I am tired of the hurt and pain that I battle with. I lay it all in Your arms and I surrender my will over to You. Please use me and direct me in the way that You know is right. Amen.

Remember, what you thought was right all along turned out to be the wrong piece. Sure, it seemed right when you first placed it in the puzzle. The colors and pattern appeared to be right, but it was still the wrong piece, and the surrounding pieces will never fit properly with it there. As long as you continue trying to assemble the puzzle of your life and to make it complete in yourself, in your own strength, you will always have wrong pieces in place. You must turn over the assembling of your puzzle to Jesus and let Him put in the right piece in the right place. Jesus knows your life better than you ever will. He is the only one who can remove the wrong piece and replace it with the correct piece at the appropriate time. Don’t let the pain and frustration of having all of these erroneous pieces in place get you down. Give your pieces over to Him and He will make a way for you.

Emptiness

woman on bench

We all know the old saying that “money can’t buy happiness.” Although a few may find some happiness through money, no amount of money in the world can buy or bring anyone complete satisfaction. Ask King Solomon—in his time he was (and would still be considered) the richest person in the world. Some have calculated that he was worth over two trillion U.S. dollars in today’s money. And he was not only the richest, but also the wisest person who ever lived.

“…God appear[ed] unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (2 Chronicles 2:7-12).

Did all of this wisdom, riches, wealth, and honor that he received make Solomon happy and satisfied? God recorded his conclusion for us to read: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon was saying that all this world has to offer is actually emptiness. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the Holy Spirit records Solomon’s woes regarding this earthly life. Little by little, he tried everything, and each time he came to the same conclusion—all is vanity or emptiness. Picture a loaf of bread filled with an excessive amount of yeast. It looks full and satisfying—until it is squeezed or sliced. Then it collapses into just a small lump of lifeless, baked dough. It will not satisfy.

Solomon had all the wisdom needed to solve almost any problem. People from all over the known world came just to hear his wisdom. He had untold riches. He lacked nothing—except true happiness and satisfaction. With so much in his favor and at his disposal, why didn’t he have real peace in his heart? Why wasn’t he satisfied? Because he did not keep God first in his life. He therefore tried to find happiness strictly on a human level, living his life on a parallel plane with the animal world.

God created man as a three part being: body, soul, and spirit. When we eliminate God from our lives, then all we are trying to satisfy is the body and soul.

As a result, our spirit remains dissatisfied. So we resort to additional efforts to try to satisfy the body and soul in an attempt to fill that deep longing that is actually from our spirit. Yet, the more we try to quench that longing by feeding and pleasing our body and soul, the worse we feel. As a result, we go through all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, since one third of our self is constantly being denied or deprived.

God never designed us to live our lives without Him. We accepted the lie somewhere in our life that God is not necessary, or even that He is nonexistent. As a result, we have ended up out of balance. Compare this to trying to ride a tricycle missing one rear wheel. No matter how much effort we put into keeping those two remaining wheels rolling, we will never be riding in a satisfactory way. Lacking a third wheel will keep holding us back. We can try to make our own third wheel, but it will never be the same as the original one.

broken chained tricycle

Many try to solve this imbalance, this emptiness and its byproducts, by going for professional help. We see doctors, therapists, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, and so on, and then attempt to follow their advice and solutions. We try following multi-step programs. We take prescription drugs. We may gamble or take in pornography. We may resort to smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs to try to satisfy the void in our life, or to cover up the pain that comes from ignoring that longing. We may seek all kinds of earthly pleasure. Yet none of these things, however beneficial they might seem to us, will ever relieve—much less fill—that emptiness deep inside of us. Just as Solomon plainly declared so long ago, it is all vanity. We can never permanently escape the emptiness this way. Sadly, all of our attempts to cover or fill this void within us only create new imbalances in our life. These result in even more efforts to solve the problems that we created in trying to remedy the original problems. We then end up in a cycle we can never free ourselves from.

The only solution to all of this heartache, pain, and madness is to acknowledge that God exists, that He is real. God loves us move than we ever can comprehend. The primary, essential example and evidence of His love is His willing sacrifice of His only Son. Jesus died on the cross so that we could be freed from this constant turmoil in our lives. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Have you ever heard of a doctor or psychologist or even a close neighbor offering to take all of your problems, as well as all the rest of their patient’s or client’s problems or even the all problems of those in the neighborhood, upon themselves, permanently?

No person on this earth can ever solve the problems that denying God has caused in our life due to sin. This is why we absolutely need Jesus in our life. He was never trapped in these cycles of emptiness that we struggle with continually. He was sinless. Yet He took upon Himself all of our sins, struggles, and problems. He paid the penalty for sin that He didn’t owe so that we won’t have to. Jesus wants to fill that spiritual void in our life. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

But He can only work in us if we let Him. As long as we continue to go about in our own way and deny Him, or try to replace Him in our life, we will never have real peace and satisfaction. All of our own efforts will not bring true fulfillment in our life—only more emptiness. We may cover it up or try to escape from it, but the emptiness will always be there. The worst part is that this emptiness will not end when we die, but will continue throughout eternity. We are only deceiving ourselves if we think death will be the end of it all.

man sitting on ledge

We only have a very small portion compared to what King Solomon possessed. Yet, in spite of his immense wisdom and grandeur, he discovered that all is vanity or emptiness without God. Why settle for a life that is ultimately empty forever, when we can have eternal satisfaction instead? The point must come in our life when we acknowledge the existence of God. What happens to us in eternity rests on our choice now. Right this moment, Jesus can take away our pain and emptiness, if we will allow Him to. We don’t have to have all of the riches and wisdom in the world to find out that God is the answer. He is here right now. Give your heart over to Him and be free from pursuing vanity.

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Trusting Your Way

old library

Trapped of his own accord, he suddenly found himself captive in a strange world of literature, caverns, and old, scratched tile floors. While this new world would seem very warm and humid to others, he found it quite pleasant, no different than the land he had become detached from. He determined that an extremely tall, thin, flexible mesh obscured his passage to freedom. He carefully crawled across to another panel of the same mesh. Was there hope for freedom there? Of course not! In fact, this side harbored even less of a chance of escape—if only he had known it. He observed the world that lay on the other side of this flexible surface, a world he had once been part of. He breathed in its fragrance and longed for more, but with less hindrance. Making a sudden glance in the opposite direction and a quick maneuver, he sprang back to the other side. Seeing no improvement in his situation there, he pondered some more and made his next move to the painted wood surface adjacent to his current position.

Inch by inch, he scaled the towering white wall. Upon reaching a small landing, he carefully traversed it while surveying his newfound domain. It was a vast (and not necessarily inviting) continent with odd structures in the center. Did he find any part of this unusual world appealing? No. But he did ascertain a need to explore the odd cliffs and caverns just a crumb’s throw beneath where he was stationed. His appetite and thirst beckoned him to find some means of satisfaction. After lurking around and behind the works of Lescroart, Macomber, Meltzer, and Patterson, he grew dissatisfied and returned to his post to observe the world below him again. It seemed little had changed in his brief absence. Oh, how he longed to be in his own familiar world again, with its abundance of delectable morsels and refreshing afternoon showers!

Then he descended back along the narrow painted wall and onto the mesh surface again with exquisite agility. Had there been any improvement in detecting a means of a retreat from this land of captivity? Following another routine search, he came to a negative conclusion. Think. Think. Think, he told himself. There must be a way to return to the joyous land of no restraint. His sharp eye spotted a small hole in the mesh. Could it be? He knew he was of the lesser variety in terms of size and diameter, but definitely not that much. Disappointed again, he turned, and with much haste, journeyed back up to his elevated observation post on the top of the towering wooden wall that lay next to the great bulwarks of Coulter, Crichton, and Cussler.

This time, he realized he was not alone. But the huge living creature he spotted seated in the center of this vast land was not of a variety that he would choose to enter into fellowship with. His monitoring of both the strange surroundings, as well as the strange, almost motionless giant proved uninteresting. Yet he sensed that he was being observed as well. After an extended period of lingering, he concluded that this immense territory needed to be explored in areas far beyond what he had previously investigated, not to mention the fact that he was now quite hungry. After a momentary pause, he quickly returned down the wooden tower and rechecked the mesh surface for any changes of its impenetrability. After seeing that it was still not possible to make an easy exit, he then proceeded to scale the vast caverns and corridors of the opposite side of this challenging (and very dry) world of paper, ink, and wood.

Meanwhile, back in the center of this “vast land,” the “giant” continues to write his narrative about a little gecko lizard that managed to slip in through an opening in the frame of a window screen of a warm, cramped library. He noticed how easily and innocently the lizard managed to get himself into the room, but could not figure out how to get himself out again. Then the “giant” pondered how easily people also get themselves into a predicament, and then try to figure out on their own how to escape. He noted that, like this lizard, they often search and search for the exit, never realizing it is only a short distance away from where they had been looking. How often they travel all around the exit, but never actually to the exit itself.

gecko on computer mouse

The lizard tried to find its way out, yet all it did was retrace its steps over and over again. When it branched out into what it thought was another way out, it only moved farther from its entry point and a way of escape. It would very likely never escape if left to its own devices. When someone makes a commitment to God, they have chosen to follow and obey only Him. They have no right at that point to chart their own path, because they now belong to Him and have come under His direction and care. Those who surrender their life to God cannot go off into just any place on their own initiative.

Many people seem to think that they can agree to surrender their life to God while continuing to chart their own course without Him.

This is what happens when people refuse to seek God for direction in their life. They let self be lord over their life, and not God, through His Son, Jesus. While they may not do this intentionally, they still hurt Him when they want to continue on without Him. It is not that God desperately needs them—God doesn’t need anyone! Rather, everyone needs God. What is the point of having a relationship with someone else if one person goes off in his own direction while the other goes the opposite way? When a person surrenders his heart and life to God, then God wants love and companionship and obedience to Him and what He says in His Word, the Bible. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him…” (Psalms 37:5).

arrows graphic

This lizard thought it knew where it was going. How right it seemed, yet it was still trapped and could not find the way out. How many times does this happen in your life? How often do you simply let go and let God order your steps? When was the last time that you determined that you were going to trust in God, and then actually trusted in Him? You need to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The more you trust in God, the less you will want to trust in yourself. Then you will begin to see just how helpless you really are and how helpful He is. This lizard may never find his way out, but this does not have to be the end result for you. It did not have the means to have a personal relationship with God and His Son. But you do! Put your trust in God and keep it there. Let Him be your guide to lead you in the right path, instead of yourself.

A Strong Tower

scrabo tower

You are in a bad predicament. Your enemy has you surrounded and is closing in quickly. What should you do? Run!

Me, run?

Yes, you! Run. Run to the nearest fortified protection.

But that’s retreating. I don’t retreat, I fight!

So you are going to fight an enemy that is always more powerful than you are? An enemy you can’t always see?

Well, if I try and apply myself hard enough, I’ll surely make some kind of headway and then I’ll round up some reinforcements.

But you will not be retreating in defeat and you won’t need any reinforcements if you’ll do what I just said!

But where do I run? I don’t see anything but some tower nearby.

That’s it, exactly!

It looks so isolated and I’m sure I’m going to be trapped when I get inside! Oh, now I see—a trap! Some help you are, sending me into a stuffy old tower in the middle of nowhere with an impossible enemy bearing down on me!

It’s not a trap. Are your plans any better? How are you going to fight with nothing but your bare hands?

I’ll make some kind of weapon with whatever is around me. I’m really a very resourceful person, you know. Look, rocks and pebbles! Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll gather up lots of these and pelt the enemy in the eye, the face, or wherever I can do some harm. That’s it! I’ll be like David in the Bible, where he took some stones and knocked the life out of a giant! You know, I do have a rag in my pocket that would make a perfect sling.

Well, you could do that if you were relying solely on God first.

Oh! that is so difficult and complicated, and, besides, I’m pretty sure my aim is sharp, and I can throw really fast and… and…just how strong and secure is that tower up ahead?

Stronger than anything any enemy could use to come against it. In fact, no enemy will ever be able to overcome it. Period.

It doesn’t look that secure. Who designed and constructed it?

Jesus.

Jesus? You mean the One who died on some beams shaped like a cross thousands of years ago and miraculously rose from the grave a little while later? The One I accepted into my heart and surrendered my life over to sometime ago?

He’s the one! He not only is alive, He now sits at the right hand of God His Father in Heaven victoriously! You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only made it possible for anyone who believes on Him to have eternal life, He also took away the legal right for the devil to have control over them as well.

OK, so now how do this tower and I fit in with all of this?

stone tower

Well, when you put your faith and trust in the victory that Jesus won over the enemy (the Devil) through His sacrifice on the cross, then that victory becomes your victory. He is that strong tower that keeps you safe. The Bible says in Psalms 61:3, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” And in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Wow, you mean that all I have to do is just put my trust in Jesus to shield, protect and care for me?

That’s right. When you try to fight the enemy in your own strength and effort, defeat and failure result. There is nothing about you that will overcome the enemy. It is only in Jesus Christ that you can have victory.

But aren’t there some procedures, some rules or requirements that I have to follow first?

Just one. Believe (have faith) in Jesus, that He will take care of your enemy or problem. If you worry about the problem at hand, you doubt God. When Jesus was on this earth, He could have touched many more lives than He did if there had not been so much unbelief among the people. Even His own family and the people in His hometown refused to believe in Him.

Um, could we finish this conversation inside that tower? The enemy seems to be getting awfully close now, and an intense storm is brewing overhead too!

Well, do you believe that Jesus has the power to protect and shield you by that tower? Do you believe that His sacrifice on the cross has not only saved you from eternal punishment in hell, but has also set you free from the control of sin as well?

OK. OK. Yes, I do believe that, and I even believe that I can overcome the enemy only through Jesus and His victory at the cross. Now, can we go?

Don’t panic—we are already there!

Wow! This tower isn’t bad at all. I can feel peace, even though the storm is raging above and the enemy is charging all around us!

Let’s take a look outside.

Are you nuts? With all of the fury going on out there? Stop! Don’t push—I’m moving! Let me just look out this window here. Wait! Where is the enemy? What happened to the storm?

Jesus handled everything. Remember that He already fought the enemy and won the victory once and for all at the cross. We are to just rest in Him. Our victory over the enemy is only as good as the faith we put in Jesus Christ to take care of the problem for us.

This is amazing! So, by putting my trust in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross, He will be as a strong tower, a place of refuge? Yet, if I try to fight the enemy or solve the problem at hand on my own, then I will be like a deer in the midst of an open field with predators lurking all around?

That’s about the size of it!

Well, watch out world, because I’m looking now in faith for that strong tower whenever I find the enemy trying to overtake me!

————–

How about you, reading this right now? Have you put your faith in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross? Are you anxious over the problems overtaking you, or overwhelmed by the size of the enemy approaching? Is your worrying and lack of faith in Jesus Christ limiting God? The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, 7 “Be careful [full of cares, anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition, asking in earnest] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not a nice suggestion, but rather a command by God.

When the enemy comes at you, do you seek refuge in the strong tower of Jesus in faith, or do you try to fight the enemy, or take care of your problems in your own strength? Are you putting yourself first or God first? Jesus wants to be your strong tower from the enemy and your mounting problems, if only you will commit them to Him and let Him do the work.

Savior or Swine?

pig close-up

“…they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech [beg] thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought [begged] him that he would suffer [command] them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.” (Luke 8:26-39).

We have a two-sided situation here. One side leads to deliverance, victory, and a new life. The other leads to lust for material gain, bondage, and death for all eternity. Looking at the narrative in this manner can alter our overall viewpoint.

Jesus had just crossed over from the west side of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. They had battled it out with a storm of near-hurricane proportions and Jesus had to rescue them because of their unbelief. No sooner had they come ashore than a man possessed by possibly six thousand demons (an incomprehensible amount, to say the least!) approached them in all of his devilish might.

evil eyes

This man was in real bondage. He had no home, no clothes, no control over his own body. He lived in a graveyard among the dead and was compelled by the devil to go into the wilderness, which was also devoid of any real life. He had been bound by demons a long time. Such are the results when we allow the devil to have his way in our lives. He will not take over just our left hand, nor will he be satisfied with just our left hand and our legs. He will not even quit with just our left hand, our legs and our stomach. If you let him into your life, he will take over all of you—from the hairs on your head to the soles of your feet. And he just might bring along a few thousand more of his devils to help keep you under his control.

The only human help this man received was chains and fetters. That primitive solution was rather useless in his day, nor has it improved in this age. We just give the “chains and fetters” more appealing names. The demons broke all of man’s physical restraints as if they were just made of paper.

Man’s help did no good, since he was suffering from a spiritual problem, not a physical one.

It takes a spiritual solution to solve a situation like this—which is why we must let Jesus take care of the problem. We cannot expect a physical solution to solve what is basically a spiritual problem, like addiction to drugs (legal or not), alcohol, lust, pornography, or pride, adultery, demon possession, etc. Man’s solutions try to control the problems; God’s solutions solve the problems.

Jesus was not deterred the least bit by these demons, because He had authority over the situation. In fact, they knew who He was before He opened His mouth. How sad when demon spirits acknowledge what the religious leaders would and could not! The leaders had studied the Bible most of their lives, yet they refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the promised Deliverer (even after His death and resurrection). The demons possessing this man were truly terrified when Jesus appeared on the scene. They thought He was going to order them to their prison in the bottomless pit. So they begged Him to send them into some swine nearby instead. Jesus granted their request, and then the whole herd rushed into a nearby lake and drowned.

Some may see this as odd and may even sympathize with the pigs. The reason Jesus allowed this lies in God’s laws given long ago when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:7). Pigs were considered unclean for the Jews and were forbidden in the land.

These swine owners were violating God’s law, and even making a living off of it.

Now read the real irony: “…the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.” A man had just been delivered from thousands of demons by Jesus. Yet the locals wanted Jesus to leave, because their livelihood had been ruined! They cared not one bit about this man. As long as he remained in demonic bondage, no strangers would dare to venture through that area (and discover the illegal swine being raised there).

Are you like this demon-possessed man, struggling to be free, yet receiving nothing but more bondage? You may not have thousands of demons raging inside of you, but you may still be under the devil’s control. Or are you like the locals whose livelihood was derived from something directly against God’s law? They had no concern about the horrible agony, torture, and bondage the demon-possessed man was going through. But the locals reacted with great fear over what Jesus had done for him. They did not want their sinful livelihood exposed. They valued material gain more than victory over bondage, sin, and death. They rejected the Savior of the world for a multitude of swine. In the end, Jesus left. The Bible never mentions Him returning to that region.

person set free

When Jesus freed this man from all of those demons, he was truly set free. The next mention of him, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind…” (v. 35). No follow-up treatment, no prescriptions, no therapy, and no long-term counseling. He went back to his home city eventually (the city of the swine owners), proclaiming what wonderful things Jesus had done for him. Jesus is also able to set you free, if you will only come to Him. And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

cross silhouette

Jesus was led by His Father (through the Holy Spirit) to cross a raging sea in order to set one person in desperate need free. Jesus could have remained on the opposite shore and left him that way. But Jesus loved him so much that He was willing to endure a treacherous journey to deliver one man from demonic control. The swine owners and all who came with them to meet Jesus could have been set free from their bondages that day as well, but they refused, and told Jesus to leave.

Jesus also came to deliver you from the bondage of the devil. Which will you choose: the Savior, or the swine?

For more information about giving your life to Jesus, click here.

The Anchor is Secure

ship on rough night seas

As a seafaring veteran of over thirty-five years, Captain Reginald Clarbonne knew his vessels and waterways well. The forecast that day was for a mostly sunny afternoon with some clouds, moderate winds, and slightly choppy waters, but Captain Clarbonne still sensed that volatile conditions were ahead. He ordered First Mate Lisbon to have the crew batten down and secure all on the ship’s deck. Lisbon, although a very experienced officer himself, looked at the sky incredulously and again at Captain Clarbonne, who countered the glance with a slight scowl. Even the crew, who dutifully worked the deck as directed, maintained an air of disbelief. The skies were sunny, the temperature was very warm with the wind blowing rather strong, and the clouds showed no sign for impending concern. In spite of their reluctance, the ship’s crew and officers maintained a fairly solid respect for the captain, knowing that he only erred on the side of caution.

The Bernelle Collette was a sturdy and sound commercial vessel that had traveled frequently throughout much of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Clarbonne really enjoyed the ease of navigating her to the many ports of Europe, Africa, and North and South America over the past eight years, and he knew that she could handle most of the severe conditions that might come her way. His diverse and rugged crew was equally qualified for the task at hand.

For several hours the skies were spectacular, as the sun streamed through a varied assortment of clouds and the temperatures remained at a very warm level. Even though the wind was steadily increasing, there seemed to be little to warrant any concern. But Captain Clarbonne still remained adamant that rough seas were ahead.

Around three in the afternoon, the clouds, no longer a collection of odd floating shapes, had turned into one ominously dark, massive cloud that was slowly bearing down on the Bernelle Collette and her crew. Within an hour the temperature dropped significantly and the crew no longer remained skeptical about Clarbonne’s prior warnings. The ship’s radar showed severe storms approaching, with reports rapidly coming in from other vessels nearby of their very intense properties.

Captain Clarbonne well knew that common sense would say to turn around and go full speed ahead away from the fury that lay ahead.

Yet he also knew that the storm’s constantly evolving characteristics, as reported by some of the more distant vessels, could engulf him and create an even worse condition. He seemed to remember a small safe harbor some distance away. But he wondered—could they make it in time?

By five o’clock, the storm’s outer edges had already passed over the vicinity of the Bernelle Collette. Waves were cresting at five to six feet and starting to lash at the bow. The crew was growing anxious as the sky took on the appearance of nightfall, and crashes of thunder greatly vibrated the gear on the upper deck. They were reminded again not to question the captain’s judgment, even when conditions seemed to indicate otherwise. Captain Clarbonne ordered the ship hard to starboard, and then to proceed full speed ahead. He knew they had very little time left to reach the safe harbor.

At twenty minutes after five the storm’s fury was steadily increasing, with wave heights now cresting at nine and a half feet. Lightning was vigorously dancing all around the Bernelle Collette and the thunder was almost deafening at times. The strong heeling of the vessel almost threw Limmer, one of the few crew members still on deck, overboard. At the captain’s request, Lisbon ordered all of the crew below deck until further notice.

After alternately studying the radar and reviewing the navigation charts, Captain Clarbonne concluded that they were not going to reach safe harbor in time. The men around him knew what this meant—they would now have to ride out the full fury of the storm. When word reached the rest of the crew, many reacted glumly, full of anxious concern. Some grew angry and shook their fist in the general direction of the ship’s bridge where the captain remained stationed. They wanted to know why the captain couldn’t have turned around sooner, or why he pressed forward when he knew that horrendous and now deadly conditions were fast approaching. Yet a few crew members did not let their shipmates’ pessimism overtake them. They knew that the captain would, somehow or other, get them to port all in one piece.

A short distance later, Captain Clarbonne reviewed the charts again and determined that they were now in just the right place. He ordered the vessel to face the waves, then come to a full stop and drop the anchors. After the crew accomplished the captain’s directive with much difficulty, the vessel was at rest (if one could call it that). At five forty-five, the waves crested at over eleven feet and shook the huge Bernelle Collette with each passing blow. The officers and crew tried to remain somewhat calm, but worry still kept a strong grip upon their weary bodies. With the winds howling and the waves pounding the bow, many feared that they might not see tomorrow.

lightning at night

With the exception of intense flashes of lightning, the cloudy night sky and the ocean appeared to be one dark mass. Wave after wave kept crashing over the bow and draining off the sides of the deck. With each blow, it felt like the ship was gradually coming apart, even though it actually continued to hold quite well. Inside the hull shudders and groans grew greater in volume, and the cargo began to shift from its resting places as the vessel angrily rocked back and forth. The crew grew more and more concerned that the cargo might break free and upset the balance, causing the Bernelle Collette to list greatly and possibly sink.

In spite of the turmoil and danger, Captain Clarbonne continued to exhibit a sense of calm.

He had been through storms of similar intensity before, and he knew what the breaking point of his vessel would be. More importantly, he knew the density and strength of the rocky floor beneath the Bernelle Collette, and was therefore assured that the anchor was holding secure. Due to his long experience with the characteristics of various violent weather systems, and his knowledge of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the Bernelle Collette, he was able to maintain full confidence that they would adequately weather this latest storm.

Although the storm lasted only an hour and a half, all on board felt like most of the night had passed by. By eight o’clock that evening, the wrath of the storm was well behind them. The clouds began breaking up in the night sky, where an abundance of stars had begun to peer through, along with the rising moon that illuminated the formerly restless sea. The air was much cooler and the wind continued to subside, dying down to only a very strong breeze. With a weary cheer from the crew, the Bernelle Collette weighed anchor and, with a slight starboard turn, proceeded once again standard speed ahead to her destination. Captain Clarbonne, a cup of coffee in hand, stared out over the gentle moonlit waterway and quietly eased forth a sigh of relief. He mentally chalked up this episode as he added another successful accomplishment to his seafaring repertoire.

In the great sea of life, storms are constantly battering our lives. Waves crash against us and we often struggle just to stay afloat. We try to fight, but we often end up being swept farther away from the shore into deeper and more intense water. Safe harbors we want to reach seem to constantly move more and more away from us, in spite of all of our determined efforts to reach them. We look for help from a nearby vessel and see none in sight, or one that is even worse off than we are. We naively fall prey to the storm’s lulls as victorious breakthroughs, only to be lashed even more when the interlude ends and the storm returns with greater fury. We seem to continually find ourselves adrift because we lack the energy to propel ourselves against the powerful waves that come against us.

Yet it does not have to be this way. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Actually, God brings these storms upon us in order to test us, to see if we will yield to Him, or continue on trying to navigate our lives by ourselves. No storm is too great for Him to handle, but every storm can become too great for us if we try to overcome it by ourselves. We need to stop doing the fighting and place our anchor in Jesus. Our anchor is always secure, no matter how difficult the storm may be, when it is fastened in Him, the Rock of Ages.

anchor underwater

Victory in life will only come when we place our complete faith and trust—“our anchor”—in Jesus and His victory at the cross. His sacrifice of His own life on the cross, which brought us victory over sin and death, was complete and final. When we fight against various problems and circumstances of this life (the by-products of sin) on our own, we are, in essence, trying to get victory over sin by ourselves. But He already fulfilled all of God’s requirements for the forgiveness of sin on our behalf. We must place our burdens, cares, problems, worries, sins and sinful habits, etc., into the arms of Jesus, and let Him take care of them. We must yield and let Jesus be the ruler of our life. We must ask God to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him and then stop committing them. When you “draw nigh [near] to God…he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a).

It doesn’t matter whether you have been a believer in and follower of Jesus for decades, or have just found out about Him. He needs to be the rock you anchor your heart and life to. Storms will come and go. They will batter you, sometimes even tocapsized ship the point of death. But when you are anchored in Jesus, your anchor will hold secure, and you will be able to safely weather any storm. You cannot fight the storm on your own and survive. Jesus has already fought the storm of all storms on the cross for you, and He was victorious! Now claim this victory for yourself by placing your faith and trust solely in His victory at the cross. Don’t let the storms of life cause you to break away and capsize or just hopelessly drift because your anchor was in an insecure foundation.

Upon life’s boundless ocean where mighty billows roll,
I’ve fixed my hope in Jesus, blest anchor of my soul;
When trials fierce assail me as storms are gath’ring o’er,
I rest upon His mercy and trust Him more.

I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath pow’r to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

Click here for additional information about obtaining this victory Jesus has won at the cross.

Ask God

two women praying

“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).

So what point is there in asking, if God already knows what you need? What we think prayer is—and what God says prayer is—are not always the same thing. Is prayer just a way to convince God to give us something? We should not come to God like spoiled children, demanding more treats and goodies from Him all the time. We should not expect Him to indulge our every lust or desire. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3). The real purpose of prayer is for us to get to know God, so He can have a chance to reveal His presence to us.

If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Jesus said to pray in His name. This doesn’t mean that we are to tack “in the name of Jesus” on the end of our prayer every time we pray. It means we are to pray “in His nature.” First we need to be born again, and then the nature of Jesus will be spread extensively in our heart by the Holy Spirit. When Christians call a prayer meeting together, they assume that Jesus will be present. But He said that He will come “…where two or three are gathered together in My name…” (Matthew 18:20 emphasis mine) or nature. They do not necessarily have to gather for a prayer meeting in order for Jesus to be present, because He is already present in each believer through the Holy Spirit (who lives inside each of them). Praying together does not have to be limited to a formal meeting. It can be just you and another believer or two and God will hear and be present.

woman praying

Jesus also said, “…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). It is not lofty words, or majestic religious talk, or repeating our prayers over and over that move Jesus on our behalf. Nor is it all about how serious we portray ourselves as being to God either. The way to get in touch with God, the only way, is through acknowledging and accepting the life-giving death of Jesus on our behalf. Come on that basis and we will get God’s attention. Then we can be certain He will be present and will hear us when we pray.

“Ask, and it shall be given you…” (Matthew 7:7). Some complain before God and then apologize, while others remain impassive or indifferent before Him. But none of them actually ask Him for much of anything. Children certainly know how to ask their parents for something! When they want it badly enough, they make sure they know about it! They don’t complain or act indifferent. They zero in on what they want their parents to give them, and they ask, and keep on asking, until they get it. Jesus said, “…Except ye…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3).

Why not give God a chance to answer your requests? But if you maintain excessive confidence in your own worth or ability, you will not think that you have to ask God for anything. We wait until we are powerless and then we are ready to hear what Jesus has to say. Then we are ready to do what He wants. “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:15).

man in prayer

Our Lord said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will…” (John 15:7). This refers to what our will wants. We do not put our will into much when we pray or intercede for others. We often do it mechanically. Then we wonder why God does not respond. Pray for your brother or sister in Christ and ask God to help them with their present difficulty. Do not go up to them yourself and talk about it. Turn it over to God and keep on asking Him to work on their behalf and He will do it.

Come to God the way you are. Present your problems to Him, especially the ones you do not have a clue how to solve. If you ask God for your desires, wishes, and requests, Jesus promised that He will answer. Prayer does not really change things—prayer changes you. Then real change can begin!

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).

The Ultimate Temptation

cross against blue sky

Jesus was tried, tempted, and tested throughout His ministry here on earth. In order for Old Testament prophecy and all of God’s laws to be fulfilled, His Son had to go through the most awful agony and torture anyone in history has every known. Jesus, as man, could not dodge or skip anything that was sent His way. He had to be brought through all of this to fulfill His Father’s will. But He was never worried, perplexed, or concerned, because He knew that He was doing His Father’s will, and He knew that His Father would never send Him into something that He could not handle or that would cause Him to fail.

On the other hand, the devil (the ultimate deceiver) had deceived himself into believing that he actually could cause Jesus to fail. He was determined to find an area, one little place, where he could cause Jesus to slip and fail. He tried with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He tried with each of the groups of religious leaders. He tried through Jesus’ own family. He even tried through Jesus’ closest disciples. Yet he could not seem to find the right place. Then he saw what he perceived to be a potential weakness, when he saw Jesus praying in the garden. “And [Jesus] went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:35-36). If these verses are read quickly at face value, they make it appear that Jesus did not really want to go through the agony that was to come. And that He did not want to die (at least, not in the manner foretold). But read the verses carefully again. The last part of verse 36 stands out: “…nevertheless not what I will, but thou wilt.”

Jesus never did anything except what His Father told Him to do. He never cared what the people thought of Him, whether good or bad; He only wanted to please His Father. He was never out to fulfill His own will.

This did not stop the devil from trying to persuade Jesus to do otherwise, and he proceeded step-by-step to try to get Him to beg His Father to deliver Him from enduring the cruelty that was to come.

The devil also used one of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples, Judas, to deliver Him up to the religious leaders. When they came to arrest Him, Jesus could have slipped away, just like He had done at other times when His life was threatened. But He resisted and stood strong against any temptation or desire to flee. Another disciple, Peter, tried to use violence to prevent Jesus’ capture. Jesus stood against this temptation also, saying to those present, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

Jesus knew He could give in and save Himself, but He also knew that if He yielded to any kind of temptation, His Father’s Word would return void.

Then the devil had Him tried illegally before the Jewish leaders in a trial that was rigged before it even began. With His vast knowledge and His connection with His Father, He could have easily confounded them with the truth and set Himself free. But He continued to stand against this temptation too. Even when He was sent before King Herod, and then Pilate, who found no guilt in Him and had full authority to set Him free, He remained mostly silent. Throughout all of this, despite the beating, mocking, scourging, and being forsaken by those closest to Him, He still stood by what He had prayed earlier: “…nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”

Jesus’ ultimate temptation came when He was hanging upon the cross at Calvary. The devil knew that time was running out for him to get Jesus to fail. Up to this point, all of his attempts had been thwarted. Yet he still held onto the belief that Jesus just might give in. Jesus was physically beaten by order of the Jewish leaders, and then once again by the Roman soldiers. He was scourged to the point where most individuals normally would have died, and then had a crown of thorns shoved down onto His head. He also had to haul a heavy wooden beam for quite some distance. Finally, He was hung on that beam with nails (spikes) driven through the area of His hands and feet. He refused anything to dull the pain or lessen the suffering and agony that He had to go through in order to redeem every man, woman, and child from sin.

Not only did He have all of this physical agony, He also had the indescribable burden of bearing all of the sins of the whole world—past, present, and future. Yet He continued to stand steadfastly against the temptation to seek His Father for just a little relief from all of this.

Even with the scoffers and skeptics railing against Him as they passed by, He did not succumb to the temptation to leave the cross and the agony. “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:39-43). His intimacy with His Father and His desire for the world to be able to freely have this same close relationship was greater than all of the temptations He endured.

Finally, Jesus reached the point where He knew that all that needed to be fulfilled had been accomplished. After exclaiming, “It is finished” (John 19:30b), He willingly gave up His life. Note that He gave up His life. He did not take His own life, as in suicide. Once again the devil failed. Not only did Jesus withstand the ultimate temptation, but three days after He was taken down from the cross and buried, He rose victorious from the grave and ascended (returned) to His heavenly home and His Father, God!

Jesus defeated the power and control of sin over our lives through His sacrifice of Himself on the cross. He made it possible that no temptation should ever overcome or defeat us.

He demonstrated the absolute necessity of prayer and knowing God’s word in order to avoid succumbing to temptation. When we yield to Him and develop an intimacy with Him, then whatever we are tempted by will no longer hold the appeal it once had. Instead, He becomes our greatest desire, and we will want to please Him. Jesus told us several times in the Bible to watch and pray. When we ride a raft down a swift-moving river, we should not wait until we are being thrashed about among the rocks and rapids to start looking for the paddles or oars and the guide on how to safely navigate through rough waterways. In the same way, we should not just wait until temptation comes and then desperately seek God for victory and deliverance from it. Jesus wants us to be prepared by continually trusting and following Him.

We are most vulnerable when we wander away from Him. When we take our eyes off of the cross and put them onto our self, our temptations then become more than we can bear.

Jesus’ success came because He did the will of the Father, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, our success will only come when we do not do our own will, but our Heavenly Father’s will also.