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Shaking Tthe Snakes Off
By Pastor Bruce Sikes
This is a transcripted version of a recent sermon preached at a local church of remnant believers in St. Louis, Missouri USA. It provides some biblical insights into walking more consistently and confidently in the power and protection of the Lord. It will also help us break the cycle of up and down spiritual warfare in which we sometimes find ourselves trapped.
One of my favorite movies is “Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark”. In that movie, our hero Indiana Jones hated snakes. He’d often shout, “I hate snakes!” During one particular scene, he hands a flaming torch over to his female companion as they are entering a dark cave. Since snakes slither as they move, he tells her to wave the flaming torch at anything that slithers. She shouts right back at him, “The whole place is slithering!”
A key revelation in walking consistently and confidently in the power and protection of the Lord. It‘s knowing who we are, and where we are walking.
The Bible tells us in fact, that the whole place is slithering. The whole earth is slithering because of the evil one also known as the devil, Satan, and the serpent.
1 John 5:19 says,
“We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
So often, we walk about in our Christian lives with the wrong attitude, the attitude that our planet is somehow neutral territory and every once in a while the devil comes into our peaceful world and causes us trouble. That’s clearly not what the Scripture says. It’s quite the opposite!
I recently heard a visiting pastor from Africa speak here in St. Louis. He stated that when he first arrived in the United States, he attended one of the mega churches where they preached a prosperity gospel of health and wealth. He said that once he had heard it, he knew it wasn’t for him. The believers in his home country are very poor and oppressed. If he went back home and preached a message to his people promising health and wealth for following Jesus, they would think he was a liar and or insane, and personally I think they would be right.
This brings to mind all the stories we have heard of people who have “sold their souls” to the devil. They did it in exchange for a promised prosperity of health and wealth on this earth, only to go to hell when they died. You have to wonder then, why is it we have so many contemporary pastors preaching the same thing as the devil, a prosperity "gospel" to faithful believers on this earth?
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell everything he has and give it to the poor, then, come and follow Him. In Mark Chapter 4, the devil tells Jesus to follow him, and then he would give Him all the riches of the kingdoms on the earth.
There’s quite a mixed message being heard in our churches today. It’s helped to create a climate wherein, too often we Christians behave as though we are entitled to a peaceful life. It causes us to maintain a rather self-righteous expectation of peace. We think, “I pray and read the Bible. I go to church, and ‘I ain’t killed nobody.’” So when the devil attacks us, we are stunned and surprised! We think, “I don’t deserve this!”
Once again, what does the Bible say about this?
1 Peter 4:12 says,
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
The Apostle Peter was telling us to adjust our attitudes, to move from an attitude of expecting to maintain outer peace to one of maintaining your inner peace.
Take for example, the story of a young army recruit who found himself pinned down in a fox hole by heavy enemy gun fire. In the foxhole with him was his sergeant, an old veteran soldier. The young recruit was very agitated and kept yelling, “The enemy has us pinned down by heavy machine gun fire, now they are firing rockets at us! They’re really trying to keep us from reaching our objective!” The old soldier leaned back, “Yeah,” he said, “They will do that.”
You see, the old sergeant knew that they were in a war zone. He knew what to expect. He knew the enemy would use every means to try and kill them. It went with the territory. That recognition and acceptance of the fact gave him the presence of mind to focus on advancing the mission instead of constantly worrying about defending against the relentless enemy attacks. What’s more, he knew his commander had placed him there on purpose and had given him a mission to complete.
This leads us to another important revelation for walking consistently and confidently in the Lord’s power and protection. God has placed His people, you and me, right here in this enemy-occupied world! He did it on purpose.
Acts 17:26 states that,
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
So first consider this; God has placed you in the exact country you are now living, and, at this exact time in history. Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I here, and why now?” Seriously? Why not a hundred years ago in a different country? Of all the places on the earth and all the time periods in history, the Lord God has chosen to place you here and now. That’s worth meditating on why.
And while you are pondering that, let’s consider the prayer Jesus made to God the Father on behalf of His disciples, which includes us.
In John 17:15, Jesus said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.“
You see, God has a purpose for us being here and it’s not to merely survive and struggle to make a life for ourselves while we wait to be rescued out of this evil world. If that were true, why would He have put us here in the first place? No! It doesn’t make any sense. We who believe do not need to be rescued. If we believe, we have been rescued already. So the Lord then has a greater purpose and plan for us being here.
That can be seen in 2 Corinthians 5:15 where it says,
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
We should no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ.
God created this planet for us, not the devil, and even though evil reigns in the world for now, God will one day restore the world and lock the devil and his demons away forever. There will be no more tears and pain, no more suffering and death. This is more than a hope. It is a guaranteed fact.
In the meantime, God has fully equipped His people for protection against the enemy and given us a purpose and a mission. Our purpose is to love Him, and to love each other. Our mission is to share His love with a lost and dying world. That is our purpose and our mission here on this earth. The love we share is the Gospel of Salvation in Christ Jesus. The Gospel message is the key to walking in power and protection. It is what drives the devil away. It enables us to walk boldly and confidently into any situation.
There’s a true story which took place about hundred years ago in a Texas town. A riot was underway and the town was being torn apart. The local sheriff sent an urgent telegraph message requesting help from the Texas Rangers. Hours later the train arrived in town and the sheriff ran to meet the Rangers. Much to his dismay, only one ranger got off the train. The sheriff exclaimed, “Where are all the other Rangers? We have a riot going on!” The Texas Ranger looked around and said, “One riot, one Ranger!”
Now that‘s walking boldly in confidence!
In the book of Acts, chapters 27 and 28, there is another true story of the dramatic shipwreck of the Apostle Paul on the island of Malta. A few years ago my wife and I were very blessed to visit Malta. It’s well worth traveling to if you are able to do so. Malta is a small rocky island just south of Sicily and it’s surrounded by some rough seas. You can still visit the area where it’s believed Paul’s ship wrecked and where he swam ashore. It was quite moving to stand there and reflect on everything that had happened. One of the many fascinating events recorded the in Acts account, actually occurred after Paul and his fellow passengers were safe on shore.
He got bitten by a snake.
Acts 28 says,
“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”
Wouldn’t you have loved to see the looks on the faces of those islanders?!
Well, the rest of the chapter shows us that Paul continued on as usual with his ministry work. What impresses us is the very matter of fact way in which he dealt with the snake attack. He simply shook the snake off and got back to work.
The question for us is, how do we react when the snake bites us? Of course, when I say snake, I am speaking of the spiritual snake, “the ancient serpent” as the book of Revelation describes him, “called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.”
When the serpent bites you, when the devil attacks you, does it bring your walk of faith along with any mission and ministry work you might be doing to a screeching halt?
Paul did not go to pieces when the serpent attacked him, nor did it stop his work. Paul was a man on a mission, a mission to share the gospel. He never forgot that. He expected to be attacked. Being attacked gave him confirmation that he was still on the right track. The enemy didn’t like that. Paul’s reaction was like that of the old soldier in the foxhole, “Yeah, the enemy will do that.”
Now also, take note of when the Apostle Paul was attacked by the serpent. This is another key insight into walking consistently in the power and protection of the Lord. He was attacked by the serpent after he was rescued by God, when he was recovering from his terrible ordeal, the shipwreck.
So often when many Christians get attacked, our first reaction is shock, pain, hurt feelings, self- righteous indignation, “How dare this happen to me!”; often we are very quick to get angry and get depressed. Then we wind up asking God for forgiveness and to help us, and God, true to His loving nature, does. This is where, if we are not careful, we can trap ourselves into an ongoing cycle of ups and downs in spiritual warfare.
Once God safely delivers us from the devil’s most recent attack, we say thank you very much and then tell ourselves we deserve some peace and rest. So we let our guards down. We lower our shield of faith, and the next thing you know we get hit by another flaming arrow of the evil one. Then the whole cycle starts over again.
The serpent will attack you in many different ways. Like with Paul, he will spring from the fire to bite you. He wants to stop you in your walk and work for the Kingdom. He will attack you when you do not expect it, quite often when you feel safe, as Paul did after being rescued. He can attack us through physical pain, illness and accidents. He can attack us through money situations, and situations at work. He can use relationships against us and he can even use our own weak minds if we allow him.
Regardless, we are more than adequately protected by the Armor of God to deal with whatever comes our way, but it works best when we actually use it! If we set the Amour of God aside, naturally we give the enemy an opening, and he will take it.
So, do not give the devil an opening. When you experience anger, unforgiveness, are quick to take offense, greediness, self-pity, lust, pride, as soon as these come into your mind, recognize them for what they are, they are literally attacks of the devil against you. Cast them off immediately! Raise your shield high. Ask God to strengthen your arm and push forward.
We don’t need to know and have all the answers. That’s why it’s called the Shield of Faith. Let the Shield of Faith be your answer. “I don’t know devil, but here’s the Shield of Faith. Talk to the Shield!”
You can break the cycle of spiritual ups and downs by recognizing not only the devil’s sometimes very sneaky and subtle attacks, but our own Un-Christ like feelings and thoughts that creep into our minds.
Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 11:3. He says,
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the Serpent’s cunning… your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
As soon as you become aware of un-Godly thoughts, recognize them for what they are, an enemy attack; just shake them off and keep moving. Do not allow yourself to be taken out and distracted so easily by the enemy. Fight against the devil, and fight again, he will flee. Focus on the mission, not on the attack.
“…take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” as Paul says. Your thoughts belong to you, and your mind belongs to Christ. The devil has no business in there.
By the way, did you notice that when Paul cast the snake off, that in this particular instance, he did not bother to rebuke it? Why do you think that is? Well, it was because he knew he was protected already. He never took his armor off. He knew who he was in Christ Jesus and that he was still on the same planet he was 20 minutes ago. He was walking securely and confidently in the power and protection of the Lord.
Furthermore, he knew that as a believer, he had the authority and power to cast the serpent off and back into the fire pit it sprang from.
In Luke 10:19, Jesus tells His disciples;
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”
That doesn’t mean the enemy will not continually try to harm you. Listen to Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 11. He writes,
“I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Paul continues on in the very next Chapter by adding that on top of it all, he had an ongoing “thorn in his flesh” which he had repeatedly asked God to remove, but the Lord responded to him by saying,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
So Paul went on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12)
Paul was hurting, he was in pain, but he did not let that stop him. You know there is nothing that frustrates the devil more than when he attacks us and we respond with praises and thanksgiving to God. He can’t understand that, and he leaves.
On some levels, we can all relate to Paul but we are far from being there - yet. However, believe me, or rather believe God’s Word, a time is coming, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 24, where there will be an “increase in wickedness” and “great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now…”
Now is the time we need to learn and put into daily practice our God given ability bestowed through the Holy Spirit to withstand the coming troubles and persecutions which are already underway on this planet. They are only going to get worse.
So, Praise God! And as the Scriptures say, when you see these things coming, lift your heads up!”
Let me remind you of the question I asked earlier, Have you ever wondered why you were born here and now, at this time in history?
Being able to walk consistently and confidently in the power and protection of the Lord is for much more than fending off the enemy’s attacks on our own self. We do it to strengthen the Lord’s Body, the Church, to strengthen and protect our families, for our friends and neighbors and those who will look to us for answers in a world of upheaval. God is calling forth a Remnant to not only remain steadfast, but to keep advancing the Gospel regardless of what the enemy throws at us. The message that Jesus died on cross for our sins, and was resurrected back to life, so that whoever “confesses” this message “with their mouth”, as it says in Romans 10:9-10, “and believes in their heart will be saved.”
First and foremost, know and believe this Gospel message.
Know and remember every day who you are in Christ Jesus.
Secondly, always remember where you are. Never forget that you are living in enemy held territory. Do not take your amour off. Expect attacks. But always know and trust that you are fully protected by the blood of Jesus.
And finally, never forget that you have a purpose and a mission. God did not only give us a shield to defend ourselves, but also the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ. Let’s use the sword God has given each one of us, everyday, to advance the kingdom of God especially by telling others how they may be rescued from this evil world through Jesus. This is your purpose and your protection.
For Christ and His Remnant,
Pastor Bruce Sikes
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