"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." (1Peter 5:8-9)
There are many voices we listen to every single day. They go through our head and we have to process them. If we are unaware of the source of those voices...those thoughts...we can be easily manipulated by the enemy of our souls, and by others. We MUST be aware of who is speaking to us and who we are listening to. Brainwashing can happen to the best of us, when we take in the thoughts of others and make them our own, allowing our minds to be under their influence. But where is the influence coming from? Do you know who is speaking to you? Who is convincing you?
We have a very real enemy of our soul, that we must learn to recognize, if we are going to be able to stand and overcome opposition in this life. This enemy knows all about our sinful flesh, its appetites, and our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. He's been at work deceiving men and women for thousands of years, and is more expert at it than we imagine. He's persistent, cunning, wise, knows how to set us up for defeat and how to come in for the capture and devour once we step into the snare he has set up for us. Many times our own thoughts seem to be telling us something, yet are they our own thoughts, or are they coming from this enemy of our soul? Can you tell the difference? Who are you really listening to?
Many times when I've been in dark depression, the Lord has had me to stop and just listen to the thoughts that have gone through my head that day, and ask myself, "who am I listening to." When I do, I realize each of them are contrary to what the Lord speaks to His children. They are contrary to the salvation, the peace, the victory, the love, the very life that I have in Christ, and they are all lies of the enemy masquerading as my own thoughts. "I might as well give up," "nothing good is ever going to happen for me," "nobody cares about me," "my life is useless," "I'm too bad for God to ever forgive or change or help," "I just can't make it, I don't have what it takes," "I probably never was saved to begin with," "God can't love me," "there's no hope for me," "I might as well do as I please, I can't please God or anyone else anyway," "I can't, I can't, I can't"... and on and on it goes. All have one thing in common...the focus is on you, what you feel, what happened to you, and what you can or cannot do. You've heard it! All of us who are Christians at one time or another either have heard it or will. Discouragement is one of the enemy's favorite weapons. Nothing makes us weaker in our faith and less productive as a Christian. The "slough of despond" is one of the hardest places to get out of. It's like quicksand and you sink deeper and deeper in it.
Who is it dragging you into this slough of despond? Yes, the enemy can "put things into our hearts" if we let him, just as he did Judas Iscariot. If he can convince us to believe his lies, he has us in his grip.
"During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him," (John 13:2).
He tried to do the same with Jesus, but Jesus counter-acted with the Word of God and defeated Him, giving us an example of how we should both recognize the voice of the enemy and how we should respond immediately, not letting him have a foothold (Luke 4:1-12).
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Yes if we stand in God's Word, in His armor, with His shield of faith, using the Sword of the Spirit, he will flee from us, yet, as long as we are on this earth in this body, he will always look for a more opportune time.
"And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time." (Luke 4:13)
"...and give no opportunity to the devil." (Ephesians 4:27)
That is why it is so important to give no opportunity to the devil at any time, through our flesh, through our laziness in not being in the Word or prayer, through putting ourselves in temptation's way, etc. We "put on" the armor of God through reading His Word and fortifying our minds and hearts with it, being "strengthened in the strength of His might." We must learn the voice of our Savior and trust it. It is not a mysterious ritual "putting on the armor of God," but a daily being strengthened in His Word as we take it into our minds and hearts through faith, yielding ourselves in obedience to it. His Word of truth speaks to us, and exposes and puts down every lie of the enemy. It enables us to recognize the voice of the Lord over the voice of the enemy. It enables us to stand firm without fear when the enemy tries to terrorize our hearts. It picks us up when we fall, and puts us back on the straight path when we stray. We learn that we will only accept what the Lord speaks to us, and we will quickly learn to turn away all else.
"Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly." (Psalm 85:8)
Is the voice in your head condemning, defeating, discouraging, causing you to doubt God's Word? Is this the voice of God? "He speaks peace to His people." He does not speak any of these. Even if he convicts, it is to bring you back to the peace of reconciliation to Him and walking in His light again, not to condemn or destroy. The enemy's voice is to destroy you and separate you from God and all He has given to you to walk in this life in victory, enabling you to bring God's light to others effectively. Does this voice in your head cause you to run toward God or away from Him?
When we realize the voices of despair, fear, torment, doubt, discouragement, and all are from the enemy, we need to act quickly, and no matter how convincing those voices are, no matter how right they seem to be, no matter what they are saying to you, or how they make you feel, you need to exercise yourself to take up the Word of God against them, and whether you feel it or not, you need to take it and say it out loud and say it to yourself over and over, submitting yourself to God, and in this way resisting the enemy. He will flee once he knows you know God's Word is true and cling to it, submitting yourself to Him. No magic formula for rebuking him, or casting out demons or whatever will work to free you from the schemes of the enemy. You have to learn to stand dressed in the armor God gave you. He has given us all we need, but it is up to us to "put it on."
You are not your weaknesses, you are not your fleshly failures, you are not your sin...you are a new creation in Christ Jesus, risen with Him to a newness of life. Satan wants you to think you are your sin, and you are your weakness, and you are what your flesh hopelessly shows you that you are. Christ has risen you above it in Him. This is where He sees you. This is where we must learn to dwell and to walk.
Yes, this is a battle. We are in a war. We'll have many battles until the Lord comes to take us home. We have promise of full redemption one day where this corruption will put on incorruption, where we will be like Jesus, where we will never be defeated again, where we are above all principalities and powers in heaven or earth. Praise God! We have a hope that is sure. This is why it is so important to understand our position in Christ and how secure it is. If not, we have no solid ground to stand on. It's the strength of HIS salvation that we are to be strengthened by to stand. Right now we can stand in faith of that position and inheritance awaiting us, sealed with His Spirit, until that final day, as we face each battle here below. We know the enemy of our souls WILL be defeated ultimately and silenced forever. If we don't stand firm in our faith, we won't stand at all (Isaiah 7:9).
"and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:10)
We are told to continue in patience, enduring, as we wait for Him!
"Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown." (Rev 3:10-11)
What a blessed hope! Such a short time now we must endure, compared to the eternity that is soon ahead. He's coming soon. We must be ready for His return at any moment. Let's not let Him catch us off guard, wallowing in the mire of despondency, but actively walking in faith in Him, even when the world and many in the "church" itself are against us. Amen! Come Lord Jesus! The Spirit and the bride say, COME!
If you are not sure you have eternal life, if you want to know more about salvation through Jesus Christ, and how you can be sure, you can read more about it here.