This month, our devotional has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Nicolae Gheorghita (Romanian Baptist pastor, characterized by simplicity and servitude), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
I remember an exceptional day. I woke up feeling refreshed and read the text from Ephesians 6:11. 'Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the devil's schemes.' Everything seemed clear and peaceful. I heard myself praying: 'Anything that Satan will try to do today against me will not be successful.'
Everything went well, until one o'clock when we had a special meeting at the hospital where I was working. Prior to that meeting, a colleague was asked by a party official to stand up and accuse me. The colleague looked at me and said: 'You, Dr. Gheorghita, are using office time to read and translate Christian books.' He was partly right. I read and translated books, but not during office hours. Instead of spending my lunch hour talking to the other doctors, I spent the time translating books. I knew that the man was being used to speak against me, I asked him to tell me the title of one of the books I had translated. He stuttered and could not answer. The hospital director then told the man that no further charges could be brought against me without proof.
I remembered the verses from Ephesians 6:11 and 1 Peter 5:8. The best way to be alert is in the confidence of God's presence in all circumstances. The battle is not ours but God's and then victory is assured.
A moment of introspection: In John 15:20, Jesus urged His disciples to "Remember the word that I said to you..." As believers, we too are adjured to remember what we are told--the instructions we are given--within the pages of God's testimony to us of Himself and what He wants us to know...to remember. Nicolae said he remembered an exceptional day; in our walk with the Lord, perhaps we too might remember an exceptional day, a day in which we accepted Christ's call to believe in Him and to welcome His Lordship in our lives. Perhaps other days might come to mind. The day we chose to serve Him through a ministry or a calling...the day we were baptized in the faith...the day we were confirmed in our faith, and more, are exceptional days that we may recall.
What started as an exceptional day for Rev. Gheorghita, though, changed into a day of testing. Donning the full armor of God for the day ahead, Nicolae felt confident of his ability to meet all challenges he might meet, during the day--and emerge unscathed and whole. He prayed to God, professing his capacity to Him, and set out in that spirit. His boldness would soon be tested, and the world descended upon him at 1:00 p.m. None of us know what trials the coming day holds, as we set out to experience the day. It does help to be grounded in God's Word. It does help, to don the full armor of God, against the testing that might confront us. Nicolae reminded us that our adversary is constantly active, looking for those of weakened faith; he tests the limits of our trust in God (Genesis 3:1), our level of commitment (Luke 22:31; Matthew 26:75), and our knowledge of God's Word (Psalm 119:11). Nicolae found in his own experience that the Holy Bible was both relevant and effective (Psalm 118:8-9); for though he refers to his accuser as "the man" during the testing, he acknowledged that the accuser was a "colleague"--a co-worker whom he had trusted. Was the colleague set up, by the party official, to demonstrate his own loyalty to the party? He "was being used", and perhaps told what little he knew, perchance what he felt to be a small matter. But God...led Nicolae through the "fire" (Daniel 3:17) and Rev. Gheorghita was hence "able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11b)
At this time in history, the devil is not active, but hyperactive in his efforts to sidetrack both believers and unbelievers from entering Heaven, the eternal City of God. Satan will use any device at his disposal to lead astray: deception, chicanery, ruse, evasion, and more. Rev. Gheorghita acknowledged this, and said that "everything might seem clear and peaceful" as it did to him, that bright new morning, but the devil awaited him for a 1:00 p.m. appointment. This is why another believer, the apostle Paul warned the Church in Colossae "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8) In light of this warning, as Francis Schaeffer once queried, "How then should we live?" The apostle Peter urged us to be self-controlled--better yet, Spirit-controlled (Isaiah 20:31). We ought to live, by taking Ephesians 6:11-18 and making use of the resources God has provided for our resistance to being captivated by the world. In this is self-control, within God's Word and His will.
In this, we must stay alert; alertness calls upon discernment. Discernment requires us to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1-6), to contrast their claims with what God's Word says. The spirits obey their master today, and are against God and His written revelation to us. May we be as the Bereans (acts 17:10-11)--looking at the world through Bible-colored glasses, checking everything, every day against the Truth of Scriptures. We know the Truth, if the Truth has set us free. (John 8:31) We came out of slavery to the world; let us not return thereto. (Galatians 5:1) Slavery to a world that acts against God and against us, is true slavery. Nicolae recalls for us too, that the best way to remain alert is to practice the presence of God, and to know the confidence of God’s presence in all circumstances of our lives. Brother Lawrence understood this; he believed that we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD's Presence, by continually conversing with Him. He thought it a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries. To be alert to the machinations of the devil, it behooves us to know God’s Word, to converse with Him regularly, and to know the confidence of a life surrounded by His presence, no matter what circumstances may arise. To be alert means to recognize the wiles of Satan and avoid them. To be alert means to be able to discern the Truth from falsehood; to separate Satan and his Sin, from the One Who cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13). And that calls for us to recognize God’s Word (what is found in the Holy Scriptures and what is not), to know the power of God’s Word, to remember God’s Word and to apply God’s Word. May we live our lives in remembrance of God, His Word and His will; and therein know the confidence of His presence. May we join in the acclamation: … in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37; read verses 31-39) The battle is not ours but God's and, thus, victory is assured!