This morning I was reading in Luke chapter 4 about the temptations of Jesus. At the very end it says: “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luk 4:13 ESV). For some reason this verse really stood out to me. There are no other places in the gospels where it tells us that the devil tempted Jesus but it is clear from this passage that the devil did and that he did it at “an opportune time”. Then I began to think, “If Jesus, the Son of God, the God-man without a sinful nature had ‘opportune times’ how much more do I have them!
I began to think about the “opportune times” in my life, in my daily experiences when the devil says: “Boy here is an opening”! I decided that the ones for me are at least the following:
- When I am tired.
- When I have great (or small) doubts about the future and don’t really believe that my Father really has my future and everyone’s future in his hands.
- When I am singing one of my favorite Warren Zevon songs to myself – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me – and believe that all those around me should be singing it as well with a slight change of words Poor, Poor Pitiful Lee – (the change of words really does fit, makes for a great change to me).
- When I believe myself (I almost used the word feel but I think that believe is more correct expression of my heart) to be spiritually superior to someone I am in conflict with.
- When I am so concerned with being “right”.
- When I lose sight of the reality of my sinful heart.
- When I lose sight of the beauty of the gospel and God’s love for sinners like me
But I also find that there are things I can do or “spiritual places” I can go that seem to minimize my enemy’s opportune moments. What are they?:
- When I remember 1Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost”. When I remember this verse I remember that Paul says “I am the foremost” not that “I was the foremost”. My sinful nature clings to me so I need to daily cling to Jesus.
- When I remember 2 Corinthians 12:10: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. This is so counterintuitive to our nature and particularly to our age. Our age glories in strength. Our are glories in independence. God says glory in weakness. Glory in dependence.
- When I stop and think what a great gift my wife truly is for me. Again counterintuitive to our age. Men think that they can make it alone! They think that they are self-sufficient. Take a cruise on the Mediterranean or the Caribbean and tell me how many widows you discover and how many widowers. ‘Nuf said.
- And for a musical pause I find the devil flees when I turn up my stereo at home or especially turn up my stereo loud in the car and roll down the windows and play either When Love Comes to Town (by U2)or Creed (by Rich Mullins) and God reminds me “I did not make it, no it is making me”. Yes, I did not make Him, no He is making me.
- When I stop to think how glorious reality of the gospel. How the gospel is not the door through which I enter the kingdom of God but rather the floor on which I daily stand, on which I daily put my spiritual weight. Back in 2000 I was speaking to a group of young people in Odessa, Ukraine. Most of them were from the local church. I was talking about this very thing, the fact that if after we become Christians we rely on our own works and abilities it is like walking around in a dark house with a floor that has huge holes in it, holes that will cause us to plummet to the basement if we step into one of them. If, however, the gospel is the floor, the foundation of our house we can walk around, even when it appears that we are in spiritual darkness and we will fear no holes. In fact we can jump up and down and the floor will hold because it is solid, it is the gospel, it is the finished work of Christ. Earlier in the day I had shared this illustration with a group of American and Ukrainian college age student who were part of the missionary group I had gone over to teach. My translator for that evening’s talk was one of those Ukrainian young people by the name of Peter. He had become so excited about the certainty of the gospel during my talk that he asked to be my translator for that evening’s talk. I can still remember Peter jumping up and down, up and down physically illustrating my point that no matter how much trial we put on the gospel it could bear our weight, it could bear our struggles. So, at times my memory of Peter is one of those places I can go where the devil has little chance of shaking me.
Opportune times, the devil has his share but our Father has even more and as we rest in him and in his glorious gospel we find that his opportune times out number our enemy’s opportune times.