Strategy 2: Your Focus, Pulling Back The Curtain On The Enemy's Schemes
Mrs. Shirer uses the familiar scene from the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard yells at Dorothy and her companions, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" It was a smoke screen to keep them from realizing how powerless the Wizard really was. It's the same way with our enemy. He loves to make himself seem more powerful and threatening than he is. And the sad part is--it works much of the time.
This month's word is FOCUS as we pray. We live in a "squirrel" culture where our attention is easily drawn away from God to other things without even realizing it. (See Squirrel Video to the left)
It takes a strategy of FOCUS to overcome this tendency. I'm praying God will help us replace distraction with discernment. May we realize the moment we're being pulled in a direction that takes us away from our focus to be intentional in prayer.
I've talked with many of you who have had a difficult few weeks, myself included. Focus has not been my strength, but by God's grace I'm noticing what I've missed. This is progress. The enemy used to have free reign in our distractions, but now I'm discerning the distractions for what they are, and I'm fighting back!
Tom was gone overnight this week, and for the first time in a long time I had an encounter with fear. I passed by our glass french doors as I was going to bed, and instantly felt like something was going to jump out at me on the other side of the window. What would have normally caused me panic and fear, this time made me laugh! I just starting singing a song of praise to Jesus, and the fear was gone! I slept great too.
Another battle I face often, and maybe you can relate, is waking in the middle of the night and immediately being overcome with anxious thoughts about my family, my future, my health--you name it. Just about anything can make me sleepless and afraid in the middle of the night. In the past I would either toss and turn for an hour or two before I could go back to sleep, but this time I discerned who was behind these thoughts and I knew what I needed to do! I quoted this verse and then I prayed using every line of it to God:
I submitted my understanding (or lack of) to God and asked Him to help me trust Him more. I gave Him my concerns and went back to sleep. It was a real breakthrough for me.
I'm sure you have similar stories to share, and I encourage you to do so. Speaking of our growth and the change we see happening glorifies God and equips us with more resolve to keep going.
The Ladies' meeting this month with Emily was well attended despite hardships many were facing. She shared a letter she had received from a family member that came from no where. It was difficult to read and even harder to understand. As she prayed about it the words from this chapter encouraged her:
"If I were your enemy, I'd disguise myself and manipulate your perspective so that you'd focus on the wrong culprit--your husband, your friend, your hurt, your finances, anything or anyone except me." pg. 39
She immediately started praying for this family member and asking God to do what only He can do in the situation--redeem it for His glory. As she shared this story, the ladies in the room were greatly affected. Many shared their struggle with someone, but this time focusing on who was behind it all. Being transparent in this way does two things--it glorifies God for what He is doing, and it helps others be transparent with their struggles.
Pause for a moment and consider what relationships you have struggled with in the past or even right now. Ask God to help you have discernment to see it from His perspective, and to see the enemy behind the curtain sowing discord among you and your family. Then spend some time praying with Passion and Focus that God would redeem what the enemy has tried to destroy.
It's important to realize though that as we pray, God will open our eyes to the situation, and it may not all be the enemy at work.
"I'm not saying, now, that every bad, uncomfortable thing that enters your life is automatically oozing up from the pit of hell. Sometimes simply the nature of the world in which we live can bring 'tribulation' out of the woodwork (John 16:33), and sometimes the reap-what-we-sow consequences of our own actions can put us in challenging, arduous positions (Galations 6:7). The Bible tells us that God is sovereign enough to employ any device necessary to draw our hearts back to Him, whether He's wanting to uncover hidden sins...or teach us lessons in trust...or refine us and prepare us in whatever way He deems fit in His all-wise, all-loving mind." page 44
God is faithful to His own, and that includes you. He will show you what you need to know regarding your current struggle. It may be the enemy. It may be part of living in a sinful world, It may be reaping from what you've sown. But underneath this revelation is the everlasting arms of a merciful, loving God who cares for you and me. When He convicts He does so with faith and encouragement, not condemnation and defeat. If you are experiencing the latter, chances are the enemy is at work in the situation.
This brings me to the most convicting part of this chapter for me. On page 45 Mrs. Shirer talks about the "False Ideologies of the culture":
- Obsession with appearance
- Perception of worth
- Redefinition of the family
And a few more I thought of...
- Sexual orientation
- Selfish ambition
- critical judgments of the motives and actions of others
It made me ask myself what are the specific desires I face that tempt me regularly?
Ok, here's the transparent part...I struggle often with comparing myself to others, jealously of those who are doing well in areas in which I want to succeed like writing and blogging and speaking, etc., self-righteous thoughts thinking I can do something better than someone else, and often judging others in how I allow myself to think of them. UGH! It pains me to write this out, but if we're serious we need to take thought of our own hearts! We can no longer keep the enemy hiding behind the curtain of our pride. He must be exposed so the power to manipulate our thoughts and actions are unplugged. The only power he has is what we surrender to him.
Let's draw a line in the sand and say ENOUGH! We will be passionate about prayer. We will be focused on the real enemy. And we will draw near to God and submit to Him faithfully, so the enemy will flee from our lives, our homes and our relationships.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says and I encourage you to read it aloud so the enemy can hear you proclaiming this Truth in your home right now...
"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
This is the path to victory, maybe a victory we have never known.
Father, thank You for revealing Your Truth to us. Forgive us for allowing the enemy to play around with our relationships to a point of discord and brokenness. I submit myself to You and ask You to restore what the enemy has tried to destroy in our marriages, in our families, in our friendships, at work and at church. May we rise above the trouble and see Your hand at work. And then give us the courage to share with someone transparently what You are doing. We confess that we need You and we want You now more than ever.
In Jesus' precious and powerful name,