I come across rattlesnakes once or twice a month this time of year on my Sabbath hikes. I’m more used to them now than I was when I first started hiking in 2011, but there is still an unavoidable adrenaline rush. No one is indifferent to the presence of a snake.
That’s why I was grateful for the warning of a passing hiker yesterday on the East Canyon trail: “Heads up – there’s a snake up ahead.” He described where it was, and as you can imagine, my senses were heightened over the next 200 yards. Sure enough, as the picture shows, I found the rattler right where he said it would be, sunning itself by the side of the trail.
This encounter moved my thoughts toward another kind of snake. Revelation 20:2 describes our adversary as “that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” He stands against all that God is doing in this world, and since Christ-followers are God’s representatives and the means by which He works, Satan stands against us.
Fortunately, the Bible prepares us for this conflict by revealing his strategy. It can be summed up in three words – deception, temptation, and accusation. He lies about God and about us in our relationship to God (Jesus calls him “a liar and the father of lies” in John 8:45). He tempts us to doubt God’s word and God’s wisdom, and to have confidence in our own sense of right and wrong. And when we give in to that temptation and choose our own path, he accuses us of being failures, disgusting sinners, unworthy of God’s forgiveness and our place in His family.
By the way, that is ALL that he can do. He can’t change who God is, he can’t lay a finger on our identity as children of God, and he can’t do more than God allows. Jesus says that Satan had to ask permission to tempt Peter (Luke 22:31), and Colossians 2 says that he was disarmed by Christ’s death on the cross. He is a vanquished enemy, whose doom is sure, and whose days are numbered. He knows that, and so do we.
But for now, we share the trail with him and his forces. We shouldn’t be surprised by his presence, and we should be ready to do battle using the same tool Jesus did when He faced His adversary. Jesus won His battle with Satan by the wise use of the word of God. He showed us how to win. We do well to follow His example.
The truth of God’s word exposes the lies. Commitment to God’s path strengthens us against temptation. And accusations are defused by our trust in what the word of God says about us.
I hike alone, usually out of cell phone range, and would be unable to send someone for help if I were bitten by a snake. That’s why I own a pair of shin guards, designed to ward off snakebites (let’s pretend I was wearing them yesterday – my wife reads my blog, and I don’t want to get in trouble). The point is, when I know that I am likely to be around snakes, I prepare myself.
Can I play the same role in your life that my fellow hiker played yesterday in mine? Prepare yourself. Don’t wander blindly along the trail, unaware of the danger. Be ready to win the battle that awaits you.
Heads up. There’s a snake up ahead.
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