Several days ago, on my way home from the office, I noticed three military helicopters flying in formation overhead. They continued to circle southwest Arlington in an ominous flight path. As I watched them, I wondered what it must be like to live in a country where the presence of war is so normal. What is it like to not simply read about cafe bombings, but to be near enough to hear them? What is it like to like to see soldiers walking your neighborhood instead of retired couples with their poodle on a leash? What is it like to drive past barbed wire and road blocks instead of garage sale signs and lemonade stands?
Truth is, we all live on the front lines, whether we know it or not. Spiritual people face a spiritual battle every day. In Ephesians 6:10ff, Paul warns Christians to "be strong" and "take on armor" because of the intense warfare that is waged, not in the physical sphere, but in the invisible dimensions where the enemies of God are hiding.
I was aware of the spiritual attack this morning. Relationships are harmonious, calendars are clear, the body is healthy, great things are happening...then, WHAM!....spiritual ambush. You know the experience. Out of nowhere, your heart is thrown into battle.
In times like this, I read a lot into Luke 4:13: "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time." The temptation of Jesus is recorded in 2 Gospels [Matthew and Luke]. And, when the dust had settled, Luke mentions that the devil departed until another "opportune time." The word "time" doesn't mean hours and minutes. It means "season" or "occasion." In other words, the enemy doesn't attack me every day at 3:20 p.m. He looks for the opportune seasons in my life to launch his spiritual assault.
When I study Jesus' temptation, I discern 4 characteristics of that season of His life that may have made him susceptible to attack. These seasons are dangerous for me too:
1. When I am alone. Jesus was alone in the desert. And, when we're alone, we leave ourselves vulnerable to enemy forces. See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
2. On the heels of success. Jesus had recently returned from the Jordan where he was baptized. His Father's voice boomed from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" [Matthew 3:17]. When I feel affirmed, strong and supported, the Devil will try to kick my legs out from under me. See 1 Corinthians 10:12.
3. At the start of a great thing. Jesus' 40 day stint was in preparation for His earthly ministry. He was about to revealed as the long-awaited Messiah. The enemy works to undo the momentum we have moving forward in the joys of life. I think this is why couples have their worst arguments while packing the car for a family vacation. See Ephesians 5:15-16.
4. When I am tired, hungry and spent. Jesus had been fasting for 6 weeks. He lived out in the open (perhaps in caves) and endured the elements. Satan knows that when we are physically weary, we are spiritually vulnerable. See Psalm 63.
During Pearson's baseball games, his coach will sometimes yell to the players, "Heads up!" The phrase means "be alert!" Peter warns Christians, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" [1 Peter 5:8]. This means war. This means that I am on the front lines. And, when all is going well for me in every possible way, I can expect that a battle is brewing beneath the surface. Fortunately, by the power of Christ, the war is already won!