“I will repay for you the years the locusts have eaten...you will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other, never again will My people be shamed."- Joel 2:2-27
One of the benefits of having our house across the street from the local high school is the ease it creates in the boys walking to school while also having the option to come home during lunchtime. Our home has become the lunch hour hangout for our oldest son, who is a junior, and four of his buddies. Each day they arrive for a forty minute reprieve that includes hanging out, watching sports highlights, and raiding the pantry for snacks. Five growing teenage boys five days a week equals a frequent restocking of the pantry with yummy treats. In fact, the other morning as we were helping to get the lunches ready, I marveled at how half the cookies were gone after just one day ( I am convinced that blue fellow from Sesame Street is living at my home).
These lunch breaks have created more visits to the grocery store and a slight increase to the Zwerling food budget, but in comparison to how the devil wants to destroy our lives, having teenage boys devouring everything within their reach is really no big deal! The difficult reality we constantly face is that we have an enemy who has placed a target on each us and is looking to deceive, sabotage, entice, and annihilate our lives in every conceivable manner. In John 10:10 Jesus says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." The enemy is in the devouring business. I have seen marriages devoured as people have given place to selfishness and offenses over the call to love and sacrifice; I have seen godly character and reputation devoured as people have given place to a momentary fulfillment of feeding their fleshly appetites over purity and integrity; and I have seen faith devoured as people focus on their circumstance over the presence and promise of God. I have watched time and time again the enemy trap people and take them out...and I am tired of it!
In the same manner that we stock the pantry shelves in preparation for the lunch hour, I believe the Lord is wanting us to be aware and ready for the times we live in and the tactics of our enemy. In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul admonishes the believers to a life of watchfulness, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Let me offer three things to guard against the devil robbing us of:
1) The devil wants to rob our JOY.
The devil is always working to have us focused on the negative, dwelling on what we are lacking, or bitter towards the blessings others have. He wants nothing more for us then to drown in the storms, or at the very least drown in our sorrows. He wants us to stop looking to God for our supply, stop thanking God for our provision, and stop finding our fulfillment in His presence. Habakkuk 3:17-18 calls us to not give up our joy no matter what we face or feel, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crops fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."
2) The devil wants to rob our SELFLESSNESS.
This one may not be as obvious, but it is just as important to the enemy in creating division and destruction. The devil plants seeds in us that promotes self-care as the top priority, while pitting us against one another through poisons such as greed and pride. We guard our time, our resources, and our personal matters from others. If there is too great of a cost or not enough of a reward, we choose not to follow the path or take up our cross. We compromise our Christ-like calling by abandoning key components of our faith such as patience, kindness, compassion, and service. In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
3) The devil wants to rob our FAITH.
The enemy wants nothing more than for us to start questioning our faith and stop following our Savior. He will lie about everything in order that we would give up everything! He begins to plant seeds that cause us to truly question the nature and goodness of God; the validity of God's promises; the identity of Christ; and our salvation position. Again, the devil uses lies, accusations, and condemnation to cause us to stray from the truth and to stop seeking the Lord. He wants to poison minds, blind one's eyes, harden hearts, and choke life from people. In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus warns Peter to watch and withstand the enemy, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
In this Year of New Mercies and this season of New Life let's be sure that we are checking on our personal pantries and stocking them through the fullness of His Spirit. This way we will never be empty or robbed of His love and truth.