Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Rattlesnake

Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day in Colorado. The mountains were clear with fresh snow covering the tops of the highest peaks. There were clouds, but that kept it just cool enough to enjoy the opportunity of wearing some of the warmer clothing tucked away in my closet.

I was out and about yesterday. Nothing exciting…grocery shopping. And while I was scooting around town I was listening to Christmas music.

I really was having a pleasant drive until I heard a strange noise. It sounded like a rattlesnake. My heart started racing and became very heavy in my chest.

Now normally, I wouldn’t have even considered the possibility that there might be a rattlesnake in my car, but I had been on a large hay farm the night before. I was helping at a barn dance and dinner that our 50 and Better ministry was hosting for the group.

My car was parked by a grouping of trees and I just imagined that while we were whooping it up inside, a rattlesnake had found a warm spot inside my car.

Now remember, I was still driving. My heart was still racing. Then I heard it again. By this time, logic had regained control of my physical reaction. It was then I realized that it was on the Christmas album.

Who puts rattlesnake sounds on a Christmas soundtrack to enhance the music? Really? It just isn’t natural. So, just to be clear, I did not have a rattlesnake in my car. Really.

I don’t exactly know what I would have done if there had been a rattlesnake in my car. It’s just not something I’ve ever had to think about before. But I do think I will formulate a plan in my head for such an occasion.

I believe we must do the same when Satan shows up in the least likely places. When he wants to turn our hearts and minds away from God. We must have a plan.

Jesus had a plan and it was a pretty good one. Perhaps we should adopt His plan as our own and use His weapons against Satan. So let’s look at Jesus’ plan.

Jesus’ temptations are found in three of the Gospels…well sort of. Mark only shares two verses of this experience, but he does add an interesting piece that I’ll talk about later (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; and Luke 4:1-13).

So here’s the set up. Jesus had been baptized and the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert. In the desert Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. Nothing is mentioned of His day-to-day activities, but fasting in itself denotes spiritual growth time. An opportunity to spend quality time with God during that period of fasting.

So I could only assume that is exactly what Jesus was doing. Spending these last days of solitude with His Father before His ministry turned public.

Then the tempter arrived. When Jesus was physically at His weakest, the temptations began.

Satan tempted Jesus in three ways. First with food. This was only natural since He hadn’t eaten in forty days. The second temptation was to put Himself before God and be attended by angels. And the third was the offer of land if only Jesus would worship Satan.

Jesus heard Satan’s claims. Satan even quoted Scripture to Jesus. And of course, Satan misused the passage he quoted. But Jesus used His weapon of choice when battling Satan. He too, used Scripture. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:7 – NIV)

So how can we utilize Jesus’ plan in our own lives?

First we need to understand what we are up against. Mark 1:13 (NIV) says that Jesus was “with the wild animals and angels attended him.” Now I don’t know if Mark meant that Satan was a wild animal, but we certainly can look at him that way. We need to know that the tempter will become whatever he needs to become so that we might fall into his trap. Remember, we are with the wild animals.

Second, we must know ourselves. Are we weakest when we are tired? Does hunger bring you to your knees? Whatever it might be, we must realize in those moments, the tempter will attack.

Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)? Jesus spoke these words to him. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And then Paul responded with “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 – NIV) When we are at our weakest, we must rely on Jesus for strength.

Third, we must use Jesus’ example of using Scripture to battle Satan. Now you may not know exactly how the tempter will tempt you, but you certainly can still plan for it. Find passages that will lift you up. Memorize them. If you feel you can’t do that, write them on index cards (remember my Scripture cards?) and carry them with you. Be prepared. Don’t be caught off guard.

And lastly, we must remember that Satan will never give up. Luke’s account ends with these words. “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:11 – NIV)

Another opportunity will arise for the tempter and he will take advantage of that opportunity. Knowing that he could show up at any moment gives me the resolve to be prepared even more. I don’t like surprises that much.

So do you think you might be ready the next time the old devil shows his ugly face? I believe that you will be if you use Jesus’ example and follow His lead. When we allow His Holy Spirit to help us remember these simple steps, we have more than a fighting chance. We will be victorious!

I feel kind of silly talking about a rattlesnake like it’s an everyday occurrence in my world. I’ve never seen one (except on TV and through glass at the zoo). I’ve never heard one (except on TV). But still, the possibility got my attention.

Now, I’m off to get rid of that Christmas CD.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,


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