Some years ago I attended a Christian retreat. Starting each morning with a personal prayer time I opened my bible and started to worship.
"I kneel before you today..."
"I GIVE YOU ALL THE GLORY LORD AND..."
Scritchy-scritchy scratchy scratch!
It was no good, I could not focus on God knowing there was something behind me. But where, and what? My curiosity now well and truly piqued, I looked around. Aha! A few metres away sat a round, metal garbage can.
Bravely I ventured over to the possessed trash can; it was empty, save for a small, frightened mouse.
My heart ached for this little prisoner; as I watched him run around in frantic circles, trying to find a way out of his filthy prison I knew he had to be set free. But how? After (very quickly!) dismissing the thought of reaching into his icky surroundings or picking him up, I had a flash of genius - turn the bin over on its side!
I tentatively grasped the grotty sides of the garbage bin and pushed the cavernous dungeon over. I waited, hoping Squeaky (yes, I had named him by this stage) would do the rest. Finally, a tiny pink nose stuck out over the edge of the bin, followed by two beady eyes blinking to adjust to the brightness of being on the outside. "Yes! Off you go Squeaky, you're safe now!" Smiling with relief, and a not-too-small amount of pride, I set the bin back on its flat bottom and headed off for the first Bible Study session for the day.
I hadn't walked very far when something else caught my attention.
Swoosh. Swoooosh. SWOOOSH!
Turning around to identify the source of this strange new sound, my heart sank. Overhead, just a few feet away, lurked a huge, black crow. His eyes were focused on just one thing, and I watched in horror as he dropped to the ground, thrust out his talons and latched on to his prey - Squeaky!
I was gutted. In my eagerness to see the little mouse set free, and my elation over his liberation, I had failed to see the rescue through right to the end. I had released Squeaky into an open patch of dry grass, a 'no-man's land' of sorts, leaving him unprotected and vulnerable. I was so sure I'd helped him, when in actual fact I'd turned my back on him when he was at his most vulnerable.
Had I been seriously committed to his rescue, I would have considered the bigger picture and asked myself, was this a safe place to release him? and, what other dangers could Squeaky possibly be up against?. It wouldn't have been convenient, but I would have stayed with him until he'd reached the safety and protection of the nearby shrubs.
Now I'm sure you can probably see the funny side of this anecdote, but God revealed a very important lesson to me that day.
As Christians, we are called to set captives free from the prison of sin. But it is imperative that we do more than just come along and turn their world upside down - we must see them safely into the kindgdom of God, into the protection and security of God our Father. We must zealously guard our newly-saved brothers and sisters from the lure of the enemy, through continued prayer, or we will be leaving them in their own no-man's-land, vulnerable and open to the enemy's attack.
For when people are imprisoned by sin they are of little interest to the enemy; they are not in the kingdom of God, so all he needs to do is maintain their oblivion. But, the very second they are released into the Kingdom of God and their eyes are opened to the truth, they gain the enemy's full attention. Now it gets personal, and his mission switches from blinding their minds to total annihilation.
No, half-hearted prayers and a casual "hi" on a Sunday are not enough to keep new Christians from the lure of the enemy. We need to be completely, 100 percent sold out to keeping them in the Kingdom of God, staying focused on the job at hand and fighting for them. Will this be convenient? Probably not! But in doing this, we'll be imitating Jesus himself, who prayed to his Father, "not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." John 17:15 NIV
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