A burglar broke into a house one night. He shone his flashlight around, looking for valuables, and when he picked up a CD player to place in his sack, a strange, disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying, “Jesus is watching you.” He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off and froze. When he heard nothing more after a bit, he shook his head, promised himself a vacation after the next big score, then clicked the light back on and began searching for more valuables. Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard, “Jesus is watching you.” Totally rattled, he shone his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot.
“Did you say that?” he hissed at the parrot.
“Yes,” the parrot confessed, then squawked, “I’m just trying to warn you.”
The burglar relaxed. “Warn me, huh? Who do you think you are anyway?”
“Moses,” replied the bird.
“Moses!” the burglar laughed. “What kind of stupid people would name a parrot ‘Moses’?”
The bird promptly answered, “The same kind of people who would name a Rottweiler ‘Jesus’!”
(from Gateway to Jesus Ministries, gatewaytojesus.com)
Do you ever hear voices…? In all seriousness, our lives are so busy. We have distractions everywhere and much that demands our attention. But we do hear voices sometimes, don’t we? When you’re going through a challenging time in your life and have a big decision to make, hard work to be done, or something painful to endure, discouraging words may echo in your head. Somehow the busyness we create cannot even drown out that voice. A voice that makes you question your worth, doubt your abilities or become dissatisfied in your present circumstances. Why does this happen? Simply put, there is a war going on for you. A battle is being waged for your heart, and it is fought every day in your mind. You have an enemy who seeks to destroy you and a Friend who desires your freedom. They are both speaking to you every day, and the voice you choose to listen to will determine the course of your life.
When we experience trials, it can often feel like we’re climbing an enormous mountain. The terrain is rough and treacherous. The dense fog obscures the path in front of us and we strain to find direction. Have you ever felt this way? Like you’re standing at the bottom of the Mount Everest of debt, a failing marriage, or a difficult illness? You know there’s such a long and arduous climb ahead, and you doubt you have the energy for it. Straining to discern the long trail ascending before you, you start to climb. And along this climb, discomfort sets in. Pain takes over. Muscles cramp. Lungs begin to burn. It’s too hard, I can’t do it, you may complain as the marriage continues to struggle, the unpaid bills keep coming in, or another relationship fails. When you feel this pain, there are two voices speaking over you, but the one of the enemy seems louder. Just give up, he says. Don’t go that way…take the easier route…it won’t matter. He encourages you to quit, to do what feels good in the moment, to rationalize what you know is wrong, knowing that ultimately it will lead to your undoing.
The Bible says,
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour…”
(1 Peter 5:8)
Have you considered the seriousness of this? There is an enemy of God who seeks to steal you away from Him. This enemy lives in our insecurities and thrives when we are weak. He feeds off of our poor choices when we turn our faces away from God. We may know the path we should take and the choices we need to make, but he often lures us with a short cut or detour, seeking to tempt, deceive, and devour us:
“It’s too hard for you to stay in this marriage,” the enemy says. “You’re not fulfilled anymore and can easily find someone else. Go ahead, leave. Your life will be much more exciting, passionate and fun without them.”
“Just one drink won’t hurt anyone,” he lies. “You’ve been sober for so long, it’s time to treat yourself. You deserve to let loose for a change. You can handle it.”
“They called again – just go ahead and go on that date,” the enemy mocks. “You know they’re using you. You know they don’t care, but at least you won’t be lonely. Who knows, the right person may never come along.”
“Go ahead and buy it. You deserve it. We’ll figure the money out later,” he misleads.
“Doesn’t your child exhaust you? Aren’t you worn out from all the difficulties they put you through?” he taunts. “They will probably never change anyway. Why not just give up and make life easier for yourself? They’ll figure it out somehow.”
The enemy prowls around seeking ways to maim God’s children and lead them astray. Always in the moments when we feel lost and beaten down, He will jab our wounds conniving to distract us from our Father’s promises. His silver tongue lures us away from the Father’s love and His plan for our lives.
But take heart! Our God is all powerful and all knowing, yet He speaks in “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). God doesn’t shout or demand our attention, but He is always with us. He may only even whisper, but if we choose to listen for Him through prayer and the reading of His Word, we will be rescued from the clutches of the enemy. Hearing His encouragement and the love being spoken over us, His promises will provide us strength and His power will dwell within us. Free from the temptation, we become whole in Christ. Jesus says,
“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.“
At the end of my college years as an English major at the University of Georgia, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Mom suggested that I become an elementary school teacher like she had been, but I just couldn’t imagine myself teaching little kids for some reason. “What about high school?” she offered. “Hmmm,” I responded, “I could do that.” I quickly enrolled in a local university to pursue my teacher certification. I was thrilled when I completed the program and was offered a job at a public high school nearby. Being twenty-two years old when I started, my students were only a few years younger than I was and my first classroom was an old trailer with beat-up carpet and wood paneling. To me, though, it was a palace. There was just something about teaching – and teaching teenagers – that I loved. I felt alive each day when I got up to go to work. The look in the students’ eyes as I read to them from Of Mice and Men or Romeo and Juliet, and I saw them “get it,” was a thrill for me. Encouraging them to develop the love of writing was fulfilling. I wanted them to believe in themselves and set goals for their lives. Breaking up fights in the bathroom or doing gym duty during lunch wasn’t such a chore, because I truly loved these kids. I even had a student, a known troublemaker, look up at me one day and say, “You’re the only teacher who has ever been nice to me.” He was in twelfth grade. I was so grateful for this opportunity I had been given.
But there was one problem.
I couldn’t seem to pass the Teacher Certification Test required for all educators. I had taken it the first time right after I graduated from the program and was horrified when the scores came back with the word, “FAIL” typed on it. I had never been great at taking standardized tests, but I did consider myself smart enough to pass an exam like this. So, I studied harder and took it a second time, but the score again read, “FAIL,” when I pulled it out of the mailbox. Totally embarrassed and now quite nervous, I worried whether I was capable of passing it at all. I heard a voice in my head questioning my ability. Feelings of fear consumed me every day. I told no one at the school out of concern that they would laugh at me. The lowest point came when my principal knocked on the door of one of my classes and called me outside. Looking over his shoulder at the 28 precious students inside the classroom, I heard him say, “Yancey, I’ve just learned that you have yet to pass the TCT. I’m afraid that if you don’t pass it by spring, I will have to let you go.” Heartbroken, I felt like such a failure. I truly loved teaching these children, but maybe I just wasn’t good enough. And that voice just kept discouraging me.
“You’re not equipped to be a good teacher if you can’t even pass the test.”
The voice continued to torture me, as I went in for my third try. Terrified as they passed out the papers, I heard someone behind me call out, “Hey Yancey, what are you doing here? I thought you’d already taken this test. Did you fail it or something?” It was a former classmate from college speaking, but I just knew it was the enemy taunting me yet again. I struggled through the exam with questions like, “In 1840, ‘The Prelude’ was written by…” or “What was the longest major poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge?” I did fine on the questions about grammar or being an actual teacher, but the facts I needed to remember about poetry and literature were quite difficult for me, as there never seemed to be an end to what they could ask me. I finished my third try and waited for the results. Finally one afternoon, my husband came to me with a pitiful look on his face as he held the familiar piece of mail in his hand. I looked for any sign of joy in him, but could find none. “FAIL,” I read yet again. My face was red with embarrassment and my heart was pounding with fear, as I had failed the TCT three times! I was convinced I was the only person on earth who had ever done this. What was wrong with me?! The voice kept convincing me,
“You’re such a loser.”
“You have no business being a teacher.”
“Give up and move on.”
I had one more chance to pass this test or I would be fired. I adored my job and needed it to pay my bills. But more importantly, I had to pass so I could keep doing what I felt called to do.
When times are hard and the climb is difficult, Satan lies to you. His goal is to take you away from God’s plan. He wants you to give up on your dreams, doubt your abilities and question your worth. He plots to lead you down an enticing path, only to imprison you with feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. When you are vulnerable, insecure, and weak, he makes his move. This is his design. But this is not God’s design and it is not His plan for you! God has given you a Savior to strengthen you and His Word to uphold you.
Joel Osteen writes,
“All through the day, there are two voices that compete for our attention- the voice of faith and the voice of defeat…The negative voice may be louder, but you can override it. You can take away all of its power by simply choosing the voice of faith. Choose to declare favor, blessing and increase over your life so that you can walk in the victory the Lord has in store for you.”
Ephesians 6:16-17 says,
“…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.”
As I studied for the fourth time, I chose to take up my shield, don my helmet, grab my sword, and listen to a different voice. The voice of my Heavenly Father. It was revealed that He was speaking to me all along, but I was too distracted by the enemy’s voice echoing repeatedly in my head. I was choosing to allow the negative voice to drown out the still small voice of my Savior. “You can do it. I will be with you. You can do all things through Me.” He was encouraging me all along. I simply hadn’t gone to Him in faith. This time around, I sought the Word of God to arm myself with His promises. As I prayed, I asked my family to pray for me, as well. Mom even wrote to Guideposts Magazine about it and also asked them to pray. Why not? I thought.
It was all hands on deck and my job was on the line.
I entered the testing place more confident than the three previous occasions because I knew God’s voice was speaking over me. No more chances would be offered. This would be my final shot. Finally, the day arrived to receive my scores. I opened the paper and happily read the four most beautiful letters on earth staring back at me. “PASS”! I’m really not sure what changed in my knowledge of the literature for the exam, but I knew what had changed inside of me. The voice that I chose to listen to. My heart soared with joy and relief knowing I could continue to teach!
One year later, the student body gathered in the gym for an assembly. The Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award was to be presented to the teacher that the students and faculty had chosen was most representative of their commitment to the students’ future. To my surprise, I was shocked and humbled when my name was called. As I walked to the podium, my family emerged from the bleachers and joined me in celebration. I cannot tell you how overwhelmed with love and appreciation I was to my Heavenly Father, knowing that I had almost given up one year prior. And had I listened to the enemy’s voice, this day would never have come. Not because the award was important in and of itself, but what it represented about choices in life, voices we listen to and the numerous children I was able to meet and influence over time.
The same God who made you has great plans for your life. The mountain you’re climbing right now may be a part of this plan. And your enemy knows this. He wants you to get off the path, especially if it will glorify God, bring joy to your life and possibly inspire others. Acknowledge these voices and choose to follow the One that loves you. When you feel the voice of defeat and uncertainty, follow it up with the Word of God! When you go to the Word every day, His love will sweep over you; His teachings will guide you; and His truth will dwell within you all day long. With God you have power and confidence and security. With your Savior, you are claimed and redeemed. Nothing will be impossible for you. Isaiah 30:21 says,
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”
Joyce Meyer writes,
“Hearing from God is vital to enjoying His eternal plan for our lives. Listening to God is our decision, no one else can make it for us. God won’t force us to choose His will, but He will do everything He can to encourage us to say yes to His ways.”
Your God loves you! He wants the best for your life. Often in the climb is when we grow. Our muscles may be burning, but they are also getting stronger. Our bodies may be tired but our endurance is increasing. You can make it up that mountain! Don’t give up. God will never give up on you. And remember, if the enemy is really trying to get you to take the short cut, to give up…there is probably a reason. There just might be something wonderful for you up ahead. He may know the blessings that God has planned and wants to prevent them. Maybe there is a new job about to be offered, the restoration of your marriage, a new relationship, healing for the illness, or a student who will receive love and encouragement. When we continue to climb in faith, we grow stronger. When we rely on our God for comfort and keep pushing, He rewards us with peace and direction. And the next mountain that comes along doesn’t seem as steep and the climb not quite as daunting. You are a beautiful child of God. You were worth saving. He sent His Son to die for you because He loves you so much. If He would do that for you, He will certainly be with you in the climb. Look up and focus your eyes on Him. Don’t listen to the enemy.
Right now, someone reading this is being tempted to leave their spouse, to give up on their child, to take that drink. Maybe someone reading this is so discouraged and broken from life that they have lost the will to live another day. Don’t let the enemy deceive you. God will find a way. He loves you and the fight for your soul has already been won. The price has already been paid. When your Savior, Jesus Christ, died on the cross and rose from the dead, evil was defeated! Christ was victorious over sin and death! Accept Jesus into your heart and you will be victorious. No longer will you feel inferior, because Christ is lifting you up. No more will sin condemn you because Christ already paid your debt! No longer will you feel alone, because Christ now lives in you. Amen!
I hope that you will choose to listen to that still small voice. I know how much it changed my life. Perhaps you will let it change yours, too.
“You, dear children, are from God…the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
(1 John 4: 4)