Choose Your Side and Know Your Enemy

In John  10:10, Jesus said,The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

 Who is this “thief”? And what the heck is his problem?  This passage from Ephesians 6:10-13 is the best reminder of what everyone is up against on a daily basis.  And I mean EVERYONE – Christians, unbelievers, adults, children, those who know they are saved, those who think they are saved… basically anyone who gets to interact with another person in the course of their day.  If you live by yourself on an island with no one else, as in not a living soul (but maybe with an exotic pet) then okay fine, you’re exempted.  Skip this post and go back to your relaxing spot on the beach (darn it, I envy you).

 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. – Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

 Like I said, it’s a good reminder but it may sound a little vague, bordering on mystical and indigestible for common folks like us.  I admit I had a hard time grasping the essence of it when I was starting out as a Christian… my brain processed the words just fine, but I just couldn’t get it enough to apply it in life, you know?  And then there’s this more direct line in the Bible about who the enemy is:

 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

Ayun naman pala. The devil is the enemy.  It can’t be any clearer than that.  “It can’t be any clearer than that” is not the same as saying that it’s instantly acceptable, though.  When I first read that verse, I did a mental brake-and-backpedal of sorts like, “Wait a minute, are we seriously talking about the devil now? What makes this different from pop culture scare tactics or old wives tales that were invented to scare children into parental submission?”  I knew some parts of the Bible mentioned the devil, like when Jesus was tempted in the dessert (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:2), the serpent in Eden (Genesis 3:1), the time when he entered Judas Escariot (John 13:27, Luke 22:3), but a part of me didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of his existence in modern times for reasons that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Maybe part of it was some remaining ounce of superstition from my childhood days when I was told not to acknowledge evil supernatural things because it calls their attention to you and gives them power.  And by that I mean the devil plus a host of other things like the aswang, manananggal, mangkukulam (aren’t they the same things, though?), tikbalang, kapre and other things in Philippine folklore that I loved reading about as a child.  I spent lot of sleepless nights trembling and huddled under a blanket, jumping with every sudden noise, especially in our grandparents’ farm in a small, faraway, and very provincial barrio of Cebu.  Hay, memories. 🙂

Maybe part of it was also because I felt like I didn’t know enough to make an informed decision as to whether to believe the devil’s existence.  Suspended judgement, if you will.  Doubt can be healthy if it moves you to investigate further and move forward with a solid decision.  But if doubt only freezes you and keeps you in limbo, well, you’re in deep trouble my friend.

Well now I think I know enough to say with conviction, despite the risk of sounding weird or superstitious (which I’m not… sige weird, pwede… subjective naman yun 😛 ), that the devil is real.  Not only that, but he is cunning, crafty and insidious.  He diligently studies each one of us, looking for our weaknesses, for anything that he can use to erode our relationship with God.  From my personal experiences, I can say that he does his homework well.  That is the importance of recognizing and surrendering your modern day idols (more on idols on a separate post).  Surrendering your idols is equivalent to protecting your relationship with the Lord; it’s a promise to God that NO ONE and NOTHING is more important to you than Him.   It’s the most important promise you can ever make, and you have to mean it like your life depended on it, because your eternal life DOES depend on it.

The tedious part is this: idols have a way of sneaking back into your life because the devil tries to make sure that he’d have something to use against you.  If that sounded a little too sinister, here’s a comforting thought: I said “TRIES” to make sure because there’s a way around it.  I can personally testify to that.  In the several times that the devil has tried to snuff out my growing faith, I kept a few Bible-based truths in mind:

  1. Jesus already won the battle for us.
    • I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
  2. Abba is with me through thick and thin, He always wants what is good for me, and He has the best plans for achieving the highest good not just for me, but for everyone else who will be affected by my decisions and circumstances.
    • Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you! – Deuteronomy 31:6
    • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11
    • 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (Isaiah is one of my favorite prophets to quote from… I should read his entire book – I’ll get around to that one of these days…)
    • Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.Proverbs 3:5-6
  3. I have 24/7 access to the Holy Spirit and can ask for strength, courage, wisdom and guidance in any situation. I can count on the Holy Spirit to guard my heart and my tongue at all times.  All I need to do is to pause and feel for His presence through prayer before responding, instead of instantly reacting like I used to.
    • 19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
    • For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7 [ESV] – my all-time favorite mantra-slash-note-to-self
    • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

And above all – I keep in mind that God is in absolute control every single second of every single day.  He is sovereign.  It sounds like a Christian cliché but Christians say this with the strongest conviction because it’s the most powerful truth that we believe in.  The verses I quoted in #2 reassure me that not only is God in absolute control, but that He is good and He loves me.

Sure, He allows the devil to have some wiggle room in my life, but only when whatever trick the devil has up his sleeve can be turned into something that will ultimately be good for me.

Yeah, bad things happen, but that’s just proof that I am still alive and human and have another chance to make things right with His help.

Ganyan talaga ang buhay, but I don’t have to live a discouraged life.  I choose a life of victory over the enemy.

I already chose sides when I surrendered my life to Jesus.  I already chose sides when I decided to be vocal about that choice.  I made that choice again today when I decided to reflect, surrender, and obey God by writing this post despite my pounding headache and muscle spasms (my left calf and shoulder are now also involved, grr), instead of resurrecting one of my recurring idols.

Yep, God allowed the devil to throw me another curve ball but prayer and reading the Scripture gave me a spine stronger than steel.  This is me, fighting back.  By God’s grace, my fire will not be snuffed out.

I have decided that the devil is real and defiantly whispered to him in the dark, “Bring it on, because you have nothing against my Father.” 

 

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.1 John 4:4

No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.Isaiah 54:17

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:37

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.Psalm 46:5

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Why Keep a Blog When Disclosure is a Personal Issue?

Ever since I started taking Sunday service messages to heart, the idea of verbalizing my thoughts has always tickled my mind.  I thought about starting a blog then, but had several reservations.  Most were based on self-doubt – what if I say something utterly ridiculous? What if I sound like some crazy fanatic? What if I run out of things to write about (pero sa daldal ko, I know that this is highly unlikely)? What if this is just a temporary phase of having grandiose thoughts that will not hold up in the long run? What if I’m barok, what if I’m baduy? – and some were based on the immaturity of my faith.  Admittedly, I was very hesitant to “out” myself as a Christian, because I knew I would be held accountable once I went ahead and owned up to it.  I still have a lot of un-Christian-like anger flares, a few bad habits and questionable decisions until now, but hey, there’s always room for improvement, right?

Have you ever played Pusoy Dos? I learned the mechanics when I was 8 years old (yes, Grade 2; yes, minsan may pusta pero 25 centavos lang, haha!) and I’m pretty good at it.  It’s a card game where you have to make certain hierarchical combinations with the hand that you’re dealt with, in order to come up with combinations that will beat your opponents’ cards.  It’s a tactical game of making the most of what you’re given and unlike Pusoy, it’s more dynamic because you get the chance to rearrange your cards into better combinations every time you get a card from the deck during each turn.  I’m the type of person who likes to keep all my cards close to my chest with a Cheshire cat grin on my face.

I guess that was sort of my life’s game plan – I deal with problems as they come along using whatever resources that I have, and keep silent until I see positive results.  It’s my defense mechanism against unsolicited advice and unwelcome criticism.  My closest friends, sometimes even my family, will only learn that I went through something major once I’ve pulled through, once I can say for sure that “Yeah, this happened, but it’s okay now, I fixed it. It’s done.  You don’t have to freak out or worry.”  Once, I almost got kicked out of UP College of Science for having passed only 7 out of my overloaded 22-unit semester (long story with medical issues in the background) and Daddy only found out more than a year later when I was back on track, thanks to the delayed sending of grades to parents through snail mail.  He showed me the transcript with an alarmed “Ano ‘to?!” and I just grinned and showed him my latest blue book with a score of 93/100 saying, “OK na! Nairaos ko na yan!”  Comeback Queen, story of my life :P. I still have that Parents’ Copy somewhere as a memento :))

Somewhere along the way, I realized that this habit of mine is very self-serving but I was generally okay with it — except for matters of faith.  I realized that in my unwillingness to open up about the storms in my life, I am inevitably shutting people out, people who care about me and whom I care about.  And on a more important note, wanting to hide my moments of weakness hinders me from showcasing God’s strength in my life and giving Him the glory for carrying me through impossible circumstances.

Matthew 5:15 says: “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”  This verse gave me the conviction to open the Facebook page, Rallying for RCG (linked on this blog but mostly inactive now), when my dad was in critical condition last February.  Through that page, I was able to keep relatives and friends updated on Daddy’s condition. It also served as a venue for our humble plea for financial aid and at the same time, it became my personal way of glorifying Abba, thanking Him for moving key people to answer our prayers.

If (hopefully not ‘when’) you are faced with a catastrophic problem like that and you somehow emerged (mostly) unscathed, you’d have my conviction as well that you did not accomplish anything out of your own strength and willpower.  If (also hopefully not ‘when’) you find yourself millions in debt and needing to resign from your current job at the same time, and that panic-inducing debt gets paid in the most mind-boggling way, you would definitely be a firm believer in God’s timely provision like I am.  My gratitude and growing wonder of God’s endless grace have gotten me out of my hermit crab comfort zone and fueled my desire to write shamelessly about my walk with Christ. Although this blog is about my experiences, it will not be about me.  I want it all to be about Him, my Abba, and my continuing efforts to make Him the center of my life.

 

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4: 19 (NLT)