Jesus was clear in his teaching to his disciples that if they chose to follow him, they would as a consequence face temptations, resistance and persecution. So he warned them to count the cost before they stepped into his footsteps and became followers.
What Jesus mostly warned them about was not persecution, which we might think, but temptations. Not an outer enemy that was after them with sword and chains, but the enemy working inside them in their thoughts, desires and feelings. An enemy that could attack them any moment, night or day - an enemy that would seek to slowly and subtly subvert their thoughts, colour their thinking, and change their values. And might do all this without even being noticed!
The number one enemy that Jesus mentions is money. Surprise! He’s not warning of too much or too little money, but of the desire for money; and not without reason. He knew the human character, and was well aware that gold has always had a strong, irresistible pull on people, and that His followers were no exception. Judas sold his master for money. A young, rich ruler declined the call to discipleship because of his riches. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit in order to hide some of their income for a rainy day. And Demas gave up his calling because this world, with its riches, beckoned him.
Money is the means the enemy uses to cause many Christians to stumble. And it all begins in the mind. They forget or refuse to, ‘take every captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). And the weeds that are sown soon sprout and bear fruit in its season.
Jesus was realistic about what’s in man, and knew very well that there was a field of opportunities for the enemy to work in every one of His followers. He knew it’s all about the battle for our minds. He urges us not to be passive, just allowing those thoughts to come in and for things to happen. He urges us to be pro-active and prepared ahead of time. So in Matthew 6 He teaches us not to worry about what to eat or what to wear. He teaches us to guard our thoughts. The apostle Paul taught the same thing in Philippians Chapter 6, and, in his letter to the Ephesians, emphasised that Christians should be generous, sharing with those in need (Ephesians 5:28).
The best way to overcome the enemy is to do the will of Jesus! The best way of guarding against the attacks on your character is to let the Holy Spirit develop the character of Jesus in you. Let this day be a day when you follow in His steps, thinking of others’ needs, generously sharing with others what you have, trusting that your heavenly Father will supply your every need!
What you have to share will not be enough to feed everyone, or to alleviate all the needs you see around you, but it will help someone. And it will help you, in your thinking, to overcome evil with good. And it will develop in you a character that’s more like Jesus, and less tainted by this present world and its values.
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