Have you ever had a wonderful series of days where everything goes just right and you feel overwhelmed with happiness? After I returned to college from Spring Break, I had one of those weekends. I spent Saturday morning strolling through the Farmer’s Market with my roommate and a friend. Then we made brunch and sat on the floor and talked about our big dreams. We planned for and dreamed about our on-campus Christian ministry. We read Scriptures aloud and shared about God’s faithfulness. We spent a long time in prayer, and then we ended with spontaneous worship and a mini dance party. No homework was done, but the morning was much better spent.
The next day at church I was prayed over by a leader and engaged in more worship with some of my dearest friends. That evening I had a delicious dinner and meaningful conversation with three friends. I felt so incredibly close to my friends and to God.
Monday came, and that night at my campus Bible study we brainstormed about how to do evangelism on campus. I was so excited to experience the ways that God was going to work! I felt excited about the future and ready to do outreach on campus.
Then Tuesday hit. That week was so painful. I felt like I was dragging myself from one class or event to the next. I felt like I was just trying to survive. I did not feel any of the life or excitement that I had experienced over the weekend. Several difficult situations with friends came up. Homework overwhelmed me. A few family members ridiculed my opinion on Facebook. Talking on the phone with my mom late in the week, I ranted angrily to her, only to realize that my frustration was taking over my attitude and inhibiting my outreach. I wanted to withdraw from life.
The next Monday rolled around, and as I shared about my difficult week with my Bible study group, I realized how my week had been a direct example of spiritual warfare. Can I tell you a secret, ladies? We are fighting a legit war.
It just so happened (not really, God totally planned it) that the ministry leader had decided to talk about spiritual warfare and temptation. Last week, we had all left so refreshed and motivated to share the Gospel on campus. Then our week felt like we were trudging through a murky, disgusting swamp — just waiting to get to dry, solid land.
Yes, we are fighting a war. Our Enemy knows all about us. He knows our ups and our downs, and he uses them to plot against us. When my week is going all wrong and it seems like every person is out to get me, I need to remember this truth:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12
My war is not against the people around me; my war is against evil itself.
That night the campus leader spoke convicting words: “I’ve heard Phebe talk about her challenges in college, but I’ve never heard her say that she just didn’t want to talk to anyone.” In that moment, I realized something was definitely not right. I was experiencing something out of the ordinary.
And then he said this: “Terrible weeks mean that we are on the edge of something great.”
Wait, what? Let me repeat.
Terrible weeks mean we are on the edge of something great. When we are on the cusp of being fully used by God, that’s when we are really challenged.
[Satan] is the one who has dogged your heels with shame and self-doubt and accusation. He is the one who offers the false comforters to you in order to deepen your bondage. He is the one who has done these things in order to prevent your restoration. For that is what he fears. He fears who you are; what you are; what you might become. He fears your beauty and your life-giving heart. -John Eldredge, Captivating
It is interesting to note that the two times Jesus was seriously tempted, He was about to do something awesome (and I don’t use that word lightly). Right before He started His ministry, Jesus was tempted by Satan.
The passage starts like this: “Then Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the Devil. (Luke 4:1)
It ends like this: “Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread throughout the entire vicinity.” (Luke 4:14)
Jesus had a great weekend. He was baptized by the Holy Spirit and God spoke encouragement over Him. He went out in the desert to pray and was refreshed by time with His Father. Then He had a horrible day where Satan tested Him and He had to withstand the attacks of the Enemy. Yet right after He was tempted, Jesus began His ministry, and people immediately began paying attention to what He said.
The second time Jesus was tempted was right before He conquered death. Jesus had entered Jerusalem the week before, where He was welcomed with praise and celebration. It had been a good weekend. Then on Friday, He was condemned, tortured, and beaten. He was nailed to a cross. Then, to top it all off, the Jewish leaders questioned His power and authority.
The people stood watching and even the leaders kept scoffing: ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!’ The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!’ –Luke 23:35-36
Jesus could have used His power to take Himself off that cross and right into the comforting arms of His Father. He could have given in to the ridicule, pain, and frustration. Yet He persisted, and in three days, He rose again.
Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would proclaimed in His name to all the nations…” –Luke 24:44-47
He completed His purpose. He glorified His Father. When Jesus was at the cusp of greatness, that’s when He was challenged the most.
Right when my friends and I were ready to do outreach on campus and invest in students’ lives, that’s when we were discouraged in our everyday struggles.
I write this as an encouragement to you. Do not give up. When you are experiencing spiritual warfare, know that it is not in vain. You are experiencing a real life and death battle. You are fighting for victory. The Enemy does not test those who are being ineffective. Why would he waste his time? If you are being challenged, it is because you are on the edge of something great. You are about to glorify God’s name publicly and effectively. God has amazing plans to use you mightily for His kingdom, and Satan does not like this one bit.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. –James 1:2-4
So take heart! You are standing on the edge of greatness.
Let’s talk about this some more in the comments below:
Where in your life is Satan hindering your ability to serve God?
How can you overcome Satan’s tactics to derail you from greatness?
*All verses taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2003.