The Enemy At Your Bedside
If the enemy can’t make you unfaithful, he will settle for rendering you ineffective.
How does he do that? Chains. He loves to see us start each day by wrapping heavy chains around ourselves, burdening us down and all but immobilizing us before we head out the door to “live free for Jesus.” You heard me right, I said that we put these chains on ourselves. The enemy has no power to enslave us unless we willingly grant that power to him. And we do.
What follows may be an unsettling picture, but allow me to paint it and you can ask yourself if it is true for you or not.
Each morning as we gain consciousness our brains, like a laptop rebooting, put the pieces of life together in a breathtaking speed. You know what it feels like. You awake and as you reconnect with the conscious world you assess what day it is, what was on your mind when you went to sleep, what attitudes you have towards the day, etc. Long before your feet hit the floor you have experienced a myriad of emotions about the state of your life and prospects for the day ahead.
For those who carry anger, fear, anxiety or deep discouragement these are tortuous moments. Whatever respite sleep provided is washed away in a tidal wave of emotion and memory. For the grieving and the depressed the process starts anew with that first lucid moment of awareness. For all of us our day is significantly impacted by the images, emotions and attitudes that crystallize in those waking moments.
For this reason, I believe we need to take these moments seriously and understand the battle that starts in these fleeting moments. To do so I imagine (and I know this sounds a little creepy but hang in there with me) that the enemy is standing at our bedside waiting for us to awaken. He is not fierce or menacing or the least bit scary. He is, instead, playing the role of the servant. He stands quietly, politely and simply extends to us an offering of various sets of chains.
Like a butler offering morning tea, he smiles and simply asks us which set or sets we would like to wear. He does so confidently, knowing our past and our propensity to accept his offer day after day. Here are three of his favorite chains that we so often and so willingly accept.
The first chain, likely the one he will extend to us first, is the chain of ownership. The offer is simple and alluring. This chain reflects our desire to enter our day identifying things as ‘ours’. When we desire to play the owner we put on attitudes that help us safeguard what we have and plan for how to get more. This particular piece of jewelry is our merit badge for our love of control. It may start with our time and our plans and quickly move to our relationships, our reputation and our resources.
This is a deceptive chain. It fools us into thinking that by wearing it we will be happier by having more stuff, lead more effectively by imposing greater control, and accomplish more in life by calling our own shots. After all, what’s wrong with a little more ownership and control?
Well, everything! And the best way to understand it is to put it on. When we wear it we see first that it is quite heavy indeed. You see, ownership brings with it the weight of anxiety over losing what we have, falling behind our goals of getting more, and not having as much as others do. Control brings the fear of seeing it slip away, challenges by others and the frustration of never being able to control enough to really get what you want. This chain rewards its bearers with fear, stress, anxiousness, despair and discouragement. The chain reminds us each day that whatever we have, it is never enough.
When we wear the chain of ownership and control we are hindered from living the life God created us to live. We cannot shuffle along in our chains and bear witness to Christ who came to set us free. And we cannot lead his people for his glory. The enemy knows this all too well, so he politely but pointedly holds out this chain for us every morning. Each day we accept it and place it on our shoulders we unwittingly align ourselves with his cause and fall victim to his agenda of immobilization and ineffectiveness.
The second chain offered us is spiritual stagnancy. This may not look like the chain we might expect. It does not come covered in sharp barbs of suffering or covered in wet tears of grief. The chain of stagnancy may indeed look smooth and glistening as if it were to be worn when all was well with our soul. And that is the deception.
The enemy knows our greatest spiritual stagnation may come at times of our most significant accomplishments for God’s kingdom. It is when we are busy, engaged, successful and charging forward that our daily reliance on God’s word and prayer can get sacrificed. The more time we spend working for God the less time we allow him to work in us. And when we cut ourselves off from that fount, our faith grows stagnant. So instead of the enemy being vanquished when we win great victories for God, he may just be cheering us on.
When we wear this chain we subtly shift our reliance from God to us. We wear the chain of spiritual complacency when we live as though we believe that we can go it alone. We never really believe it, but we don’t have to. All we need to do is leave less and less room for cultivating deep intimacy with God and the stagnation will do the rest.
And so the enemy stands at our bedside and offers us this chain each morning in the form of our hectic schedules, misplaced priorities and growing sense of self-reliance. It comes to us as leaders in our lack of self-examination and loss of humility. It is as much a mask as a chain, keeping us from coming powerless into the presence of God that he might fit us with his wisdom and strength. Each day we accept it and place it on our shoulders we unwittingly align ourselves with his cause and fall victim to his agenda of immobilization and ineffectiveness.
The third chain is the one we put on as we stand in front of the bathroom mirror. It is the way we see ourselves and how we believe the world sees us. For a follower of Jesus we have one primary identity. We are a beloved and redeemed child of God. In this identity we look to the words of our Creator and Lord for the affirmation we need. We are content with the applause of nail-scarred hands. That understanding infuriates the enemy and renders his chains powerless.
Unless, of course, we choose instead to accept his offer and lay the chain on our own shoulders. We do this when we begin to seek our affirmation from other sources. When building and maintaining our reputation becomes too important, we are wearing this chain. For leaders, this chain means tying our identity to our job and title, and working frenetically to be successful in order to prop it up. It means the people around us can become a means to our own ends. It means we absorb praise and deflect criticism instead of absorbing criticism and deflecting praise.
When we wear this chain we grant others power over us. We can be manipulated by threats of critiques and bribed by promises of recognition and plaudits. When our image is shaped by human perceptions we are truly in bondage. And the enemy knows it. So he graciously hands us this chain each morning hoping we will be deceived again and accept it as part and parcel of life. Each day we accept it and place it on our shoulders we unwittingly align ourselves with his cause and fall victim to his agenda of immobilization and ineffectiveness.
Did any of these chains sound familiar to you? Then let me end with some very good news. The enemy can only offer, he cannot demand, force or cajole. In so many ways he is powerless before a child of the living God. He flees from the name of Jesus and, as Martin Luther’s great hymn reminds us, “one little word shall fell him.”
His biggest weapon is our negligence and lack of awareness of just what is happening. So back to my creepy visual. When you can visualize the enemy waiting for you each morning, hands out offering his life-sucking jewelry, you have already taken the biggest step toward victory. When we know it is him, we know what he is offering and we know we have the power to send him packing, we are on our way to starting our day in victorious fashion.
What chains are you wearing today, right now that you unwittingly placed on your self this morning? Are you ready to take them off and be set free in the name of Jesus? And tomorrow, will you rise ready to don the mantel of the faithful steward instead of the chains of ownership? Are you ready to make intimacy with God your highest priority and brush aside the chains of stagnancy? And are you ready to stand firm in your identity as a child of God and throw the chain of misplaced identity back in the devil’s face? If so…can’t you hardly wait for tomorrow morning?
Make it a victory that will carry you throughout the day as you live and lead as a faithful and joyful steward.