Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King Jr.
This is a truly pertinent article from the January 2018 issue of Decision Magazine.
The darkness is spreading—rapidly.
Every day, it seems like yet another menacing cloud has spread its dark shadow across the land.
The relentless reporting of widespread sexual harassment has dominated the news cycle for months. Television hosts, congressmen, Hollywood elites, journalists and businessmen have all confessed to grievous acts of sexual harassment. The repercussions have been enormous, as women across the country have accused employers and co-workers of inappropriate behavior.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Online pornography use is at an all-time high. Gay and transgender characters are now a common sight on television, even in programs for small children. Atheists are hell-bent on eradicating any mention of God in town halls, schools and sporting events. Drug addiction, especially to new opioid painkillers, is an epidemic in many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas with high joblessness.
Mass shootings are no longer a rare occurrence, and they happen in once-sacred places like churches and historically safe spaces like schools and public venues. The weapons of terrorists are no longer just homemade bombs but also cars and trucks, which can run down citizens in broad daylight on busy city thoroughfares.
Abroad, the darkness is just as widespread.
Christians across the Middle East suffer intense persecution from Islamic terrorists and oppressive governments. In so many parts of the world, it’s never been a more dangerous time to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
By Patricia Knight
All our enemies have gloated over us;
panic and pitfall have come upon us…
Lest we fail to recognize that all of God’s creations are spectacular, consider the amazing complexity of the pitcher plant. It is so named to reflect the modified leaves rolled to resemble a receptacle such as a pitcher. Indigenous to marshy forests of the American continent, the pitcher plant is carnivorous, possessing a mechanism called a pitfall trap. The trap is a deep pit filled with digestive fluid. Insects are attracted to the plant’s cavity by visual lures or by its sweet-smelling nectar. The rim of the pitcher plant is wet and slippery, causing prey to fall into the trap. The one-way insidious pit is aided by downward growing hairs, waxy scales, or guard cells on the interior of the plant to ensure prey have no means of escape. Liquid inside the pitcher plant drowns and dissolves the insects, converting them into nutrients and minerals.
How many pitcher plants have we encountered in our personal lives? Disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement are all capable of entrapping us. If we aren’t diligent, those same lures are capable of engulfing us with negative attitudes that, over time, drown our hope and dissolve our faith, leaving us no escape from danger or strife.
Satan is a spiritual pitcher plant. Like the insects that are attracted by fragrance and color, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), though in reality he is the prince of evil and darkness. Satan isn’t the red-horned monster wielding a pitchfork as frequently depicted in cartoons. However, he always appears as something pleasing and captivating, making temptation attractive and irresistible. If Satan were to visibly appear to us, he would be stunningly beautiful and charming.
It is Satan’s purpose to rob us of joy and fellowship with our heavenly Father. He exploits God’s gifts to us by misrepresenting them. Reflect on his cunning methods of manipulating Eve in the Garden of Eden, misquoting God’s words to suit his purposes.
Satan is the epitome of sin and darkness. He is evil to the core, not possessing one good intention. The only way we are able to protect ourselves from his evil intrusion into our lives is to surround ourselves internally and externally with the overpowering love of God.
Don’t be a victim to Satan’s manipulative gimmicks. Claim the victory Almighty God offers:
“Submit yourselves, then to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).
God is a gentleman; He never cajoles or begs. He waits patiently for us to call upon His name. Immediately our Lord responds with forgiveness of any wrongdoing and surrounds us with His love and grace. We need only accept His free gift of salvation as He releases our bondage of sin.
The devil is the enemy of every believer. Each Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan and his minions. Our Lord doesn’t expect us to fight against Satan, for our strength is inadequate, but God’s power is undefeatable. We are urged to stand firmly as our Lord defends us. “Be prepared. You’re up against more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon” (Ephesians 6:15-17, The Message).
In spiritual battles, God has provided two weapons for our defense: the Word of God and prayer with God. Jesus quoted the living Word of God as His defense against Satan’s methods when He was tempted in the wilderness. The Word of God is also referred to as the sword of the Spirit. “His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what” (Hebrews 4:12-13, The Message).
As we immerse our thoughts in the Word of God, He guides our actions. God opens our hearts to understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. His Word is filled with assurances of love and grace, which He delights in lavishing upon us. When we spend quality time in sincere, secret prayer, Jesus intercedes for us to the heavenly Father.
Our second weapon of defense against Satan is prayer. If on earth we desire to know people more fully, we spend time communicating with them. The same holds true with God. Not only do we talk, but we also listen, as God directs us into His paths of righteousness.
Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice as the perfect Lamb when He offered His one holy life to redeem the sins of those who believe in Him. Due to Christ’s grace, God now looks at us through Jesus’ righteousness. We still face temptation, as Jesus did when He walked this earth. But temptation only leads to sin when we yield to Satan’s lures.
The consequence of slipping away from God’s care is that Satan allures us with his devious, nefarious purposes. Like the pitcher plant, Satan’s methods are slippery. Before we realize it, we have succumbed to his wily ways, drowning in bitterness and anger, dissolved in hate, and digested in evil.
“Now that we know what we have—
Jesus, this Great high Priest with ready access to God—
let’s not let it slip through our fingers.
We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
He’s been through weakness and testing,
experienced it all—all but the sin.
So let’s walk right up to him
and get what he is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help”
(Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message).
This wonderful devotional was written by Joni Eareckson Tada and included in her Pearls of Great Price book. Joni has always been an inspiration to me, and I hope you are touched by this as much as I am.
Valley of Vision
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
In the days of the conquest of Canaan, the Valley of Baca was known as a dry, waterless place where only balsam trees could grow. Some have called it “a place of weeping.” However, when we trust God during dry, parched times, we can turn our valley of weeping into a refreshing “place of springs.”
My favorite Puritan prayer about valleys has seen me through many a dry place in my spiritual journey:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision… Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine; Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty,Thy glory in my valley.
Psalm 23:4 says, “… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” We fear no harm in the valley because death can only cast its shadow on us. Evil has no grip on us. Truly, we find God’s brightest glory in our darkest valleys.
Lord, You are the Great Shepherd who leads me through every dark valley. I trust You to turn my valley of weeping into a place of refreshment and encouragement.
 Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision… A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, The Banner of Truth Trust, Pennsylvania, PA, 1997, Preface.
Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan