This morning I woke up angry; and for the first time it was at the right entity. The Devil.
“The thief comes only to steal kill and destroy.” –John 10:10a
I was angry that another morning was stolen from me by oversleeping. Angry that, yet again, I had to choose between quiet, alone time with God and the tasks of the day. That it had to be “either/or” not “both/and.” Angry that I missed out on the sweetness of an early morning spent with Jesus. That I had to choose between personal quiet time and fellowship at church because of sleeping through my alarm.
This isn’t a new problem for me. Oversleeping is a long term, ongoing strategy of the Enemy. He has worn me down over the years, making me believe I will never be a morning person. Believe that the problem is with my physical condition; constantly condemning myself for my inability to rise early, instead of seeing it for what it is—a spiritual attack on my life. If the Devil can get me condemning myself before I have even started my day, he already has gained ground. He already has victory, because he knows “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); yet he has managed to get me to condemn myself. Before I even make it to the bathroom sink, might I add.
Three days ago I woke up late; an hour after my alarm. I sleep so deeply I rarely remember my dreams, but this time I did. In the dream someone told me there was spiritual warfare going on and I had to fight with praise. As I was brushing my teeth I thought, “God I’m tired. I don’t want to fight. Especially this early in the morning.” I realized that is when I have to fight and rely on God the most. When I am weak and tired is when I am the most susceptible. I realized my feelings follow my faith. Not the other way around. Recently I wrote:
“I will never feel strong enough, confident enough, energized enough, or full of the Holy Spirit enough before doing what God has asked me to do. My feelings follow my faith. I choose to believe The Lord my God will never leave me nor forsake me (Deut. 31:6) BEFORE I step out in faith. “Step out in faith” means I step out no matter how I feel because I believe in God. I believe what He says and take Him at His word.
“What does Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” –Romans 4:3
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” –Hebrews 11:8
Often Jesus calls me to follow Him without knowing the outcome in advance. He asks me to trust Him. Believe in Him and His goodness. Trust that He will never lead me down a path that is not for my growth and His glory. My feelings follow my faith. Not the other way around. Doubt usually follows my feelings.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” –James 1:6-7
Doubt is deadly. Faith is fueling. Faith fuels my feelings; they well up inside of me as I see God working in front of me. I follow Jesus in faith and I am fueled, filled, and overflowing with feelings of joy, peace, and hope. My feelings follow my faith. Jesus I ask You pour out a greater measure of faith. I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I know God has asked me to rise early in the morning to pray. More than once. I’m clear on that. I will never feel like getting out of bed at 5:45a. I will never feel like fighting at that hour. And yet, those are the front lines of the battlefield. That is when I am the most vulnerable. The Enemy has gotten me to doubt God’s ability to physically fill me with His strength when I am weakest. Satan has me believing that I must muster the strength and will myself out of bed instead of depending on the power of God. Instead of believing God will meet me and fill me when I obey Him. The Devil has me doubting God’s ability to sustain me and instead, I am putting my faith in sleep. How upside down is that? Yet, that is his tactic exactly. He knows the longer I sleep the less time I have to pray. And the Devil is more keenly aware of the power of prayer than I am. So he is going to try to use anything and everything to thwart me from it. To keep me from doing the most powerful thing I can do as a Christian; put my faith in God by communing with Him. By not being “anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, presenting my requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Because things happen when I pray. When I rely on God. When I surrender my problem, will, and agenda to God. When I freely give Him control and cooperate with His will, I see miracles happen. My heart is changed. My life restored. Fear is removed and replaced with faith. I live and thrive instead of just survive.
So this seemingly small thing, sleeping in, has repercussions of grandeur that I am slowly becoming aware of. God has a plan for me in the mornings. He wants to strengthen and fortify me. Fill me with His Spirit before facing the day, so I can fight and not succumb. When God takes a hold of your life, He has work for you to do. As He heals and restores me, He wants to use me.
Doubt follows my feelings.
So often I doubt my writing. Doubt that it is what God has called me to do. Doubt the quality and content. And the doubt keeps me from writing. The other day I shared with someone, “Somehow the Enemy still gets me to doubt my writing. Just this morning I had doubts. But God is so good and so patient with me. I do feel He has called me to help free the captives with my writing. I have faith God will do the rest if I just show up.”
The very thing that I love and is life-giving, because God gave it to me, is the very thing the Enemy wants to use to bring death. To put a yoke of bondage around my neck. Make it feel like a burden to write instead of my passion and joy. But my feelings follow my faith. I have to make a choice to believe God will show up when I obey Him.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” –2 Corinthians 5:7
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” –Hebrews 11:1
Believe and then see. Not the other way around. I believe God will fill me, so I rise early in the morning. I don’t wait for God to fill me and feel like it before rising. I will never get up in that case. Which is what has been happening. And I am waking up to the reality that this is a war. That I am on a battlefield, whether I want to be or not. That’s the reality. There is a war going on and it’s time for me to fight. God is raising up an army. He is on the move. I can either join Him, or sit on the sidelines and watch. Even then I am in defeat. Because the enemy gains ground when I don’t fight to protect what God has given me. I have to fight even when I am not advancing, just to maintain my position.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then.” –Ephesians 6:11-14a
I’ve never considered myself a fighter, let alone a warrior. I have a “go with the flow” personality that got mauled by the Destroyer. I rolled over and succumbed to defeat after defeat; receiving the fault and taking the blame. I reached such a place of defeat I started cooperating with the Enemy in self-destructive behaviors. My will was worn and wary. I had little to no desire or passion in life. I was among the walking dead; physically alive, but emotionally and spiritually dead. The person that was supposed to inhabit my body was nowhere to be found. So for me to be a warrior, to stand and fight for my life from a place of victory, rather than defeat, and protect what God has given me, is a newer concept. The life I now live is a treasure. A dream. A Jesus fairy tale. The Devil isn’t just going to let me grow in God in peace. He is going to attack. The same is true of you.
If I saw a pile of jewels, precious stones and metals…a pile of diamonds, pearls, rubies, amethyst, topaz, gold, platinum, silver, all ornately decorated, sparkling and shining brilliantly. If I saw that pile about 20 feet in front of me and Jesus said, “Those are yours for the taking, Tesia. All you have to do is go grab onto them and not let anything stop you.” I’d sprint. I’d run for my life. With ferocity, I’d scoop them up and hold onto them with all my might. Not caring one iota about what anyone else thinks, says, or does about it. God is saying just that when He asks for my obedience. He is saying, “Here Tesia, I have a heavenly treasure for you. Just come and get it by obeying Me.”
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” –Matthew 6:20
So often I don’t do it. I don’t obey. I don’t have faith and I operate out of fear. Concerned with earthly things, I fear what people will think or the financial repercussions. I fear the unknown earthly outcome instead of having faith in God’s outcome; in His sovereign and divine plan. And I’m sick of it.
I want “eternity stamped on my eyeballs” (Jonathan Edwards). I want to be branded by The Lord, and on my body bear the marks of Jesus (Gal. 6:17). I want to see the ultimate reality. Exist in that place while still walking on this earth. To be a foreigner longing for a better country (Heb. 11:16) and seeing this earth for what it is—temporary. I am camping. I don’t invest in the extravagant or superfluous when I’m camping. I take the essentials. Whatever extra is merely for comfort; but if there is no room, the comforts go first. I don’t want wishy washy obedience. I don’t want the mentality that my heavenly inheritance is available when I decide I’m ready to take hold of it. I seriously want to take the life Jesus has for me seriously. I want more of Jesus. More of what He has for me. I want the “want to” deep down in my bones. I want to be a slave to righteousness with obedience as my only option.
“Any faith worth anything is going to cost something.” –Leonard Ravenhill
We are in a war. There is no neutral position. If you are not a slave to obedience, which leads to righteousness, you are a slave to sin, which leads to death (Rom. 6:16). You can either obey God and fight on the side of righteousness, or succumb to sin and give ground to the Enemy. The choice is yours.
So what has God been asking you to do? What subtle ways has sin crept in and the Enemy gained ground? What long term battles do you need to ask God for renewed gumption in?
Today I choose the side of righteousness. I choose to cling to the promises of God and believe He will enable me to obey by the power of His Spirit living in me. I choose to submit to God and believe when I resist the devil he will flee from me (James 4:7). I choose to believe the One who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). I choose to believe God is faithful; He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. But when I am tempted, He will also provide a way out so that I can endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).
I say, “Let’s fight.”
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” –Ephesians 6:14-18