“They’re out there. They are under the bed. They are in the closet. And they are out to get me.”
Most of us remember these thoughts of horror as we imagined unwelcome guests in our bedrooms at night. “Did I hear something? I thought I saw something move.” The problem with our bashful childhood nocturnal nemeses is that they failed to reveal themselves very clearly. Yes, we may have seen a flash of light from their “eyes,” we may have heard a rustle of papers from under the bed, but in reality it was a very deficient affirmation we gleaned of their presence. In addition to that, we failed to grasp the full scope of their intent of evil for our lives. So, all in all, who these denizens were was greatly a mystery.
Most of us could be reassured by our well-intentioned parents that those which lurked in the darkness were only figments of our imagination, and most of the time they were right…until maybe the next night.
For those of us in pastoral ministry it seems we have often relived these suspicions of doom and despair; we have imported these memories of paranoia of sorts into our ministerial vocation. “Did I hear something? I thought I saw something move.” Of course, it is not in regards to any given monsters, at least none of the ogrely type, yet, it applies to those, unexplained events, unnerving rumors, and odd actions of individuals observed in the context of our sacred community.
Of all the things communicated to me in seminary, I never heard, “They are out there. They are under the bed, in the closet and they are out to get you!” No professor ever cautioned me that some of the greatest threats to my pastoral longevity could be those seated in the pews, or worse. Please don’t get me wrong, I loved my seminary days, but I could fill a book with the things I never learned in seminary…well, sort of. You know what I mean. Sometimes, you just end up learning in the school of life and experience.
The truth is that not all of those seated (and nodding) are on your side. Not all of those on the membership role are pulling for you. Not all those in the orbit of the church are even saved. In fact, yes, in fact, some are actually subversively seeking to expedite your demise. If you do not believe me, this will come as a great shock to you when (not if), it happens. Let me be the one to tell you, “They are out there, and they are out to get you”; it’s how the enemy works.
I don’t communicate this to alarm anyone, solely that one may be aware, and alert in regards to those in the congregation which may not have our heavenly interests at heart. We worry that we are hearing things, or seeing actions which do not add up. “Gee, that person seems to be acting oddly.” Or, “Why did he say that?” Or, “What in the world is going on around here?!”
Unlike those mysterious denizens lurking under the bed these menaces are indeed real and seek to derail the most devoted of ministerial efforts.
We would rather my words were in error but Scripture would affirm them. We would love to believe the visible church on earth was filled only with the redeemed. But Jude cautions otherwise–the entire book has much wisdom to commend to the unsuspecting Christian leader. We would love to live within the insulated walls of the church absent of spiritual adversity, but that is not a real world. At times, those menaces are unwittingly part of a nefarious scheme. Satan performs some of his “best” work within the walls of the Church. And…it gets worse.
Lest you think I overstate my case, let’s see what Paul says to the Ephesians about it.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:12).
Wow! That’s a lot of adversity; I am simply flesh and bones, what chance do I stand against this sort of enemy?
Isn’t it just grace that this verse (verse 12) falls well absorbed in the context of God’s provision? Look at the verses that precede it, and follow it.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
Before we even get to verse 12 we are exhorted to be strong in the Lord and His might, His armor–my “cape” never had anything to do with it. However, our obedience to put on the full armor has everything to do with it. And the armor doesn’t work in just some instances, but against the schemes of the devil. Not just his weak schemes, or his “less than” schemes, but his schemes.
Yes, verse 12 could cause us some angst, but in case we missed verses 10 and 11, verse 13 follows it up as another assurance of God’s divine oversight.
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Just note that we do not eradicate evil. We do not destroy it. Even Christ sent Satan away, though it was in His divine power to snuff him out for good, He did not (Matthew 4:10). God has a time and a plan for the termination of evil. Our knees may shake a bit, our heart rate spike, but we stand firm.
The divine heart of God prayed for our deliverance, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one”(John 17:15); and He provided the means.
“They’re out there. They are under the bed. They are in the closet. And they are out to get you.” And they are powerless to affect you as you are insulated in the power, and the full armor of the Lord.