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“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

(James 4:7 NIV)

I was plagued by night terrors when I was very young. I had a vivid imagination and dreamed in living color. My dreams were like watching a 3D movie with surround sound in an IMAX theatre on the front row. This is great if you’re dreaming good dreams, but it’s terrifying if they’re bad dreams. After a few nights of nightmares, bedtime itself becomes a bad dream. 

One particular night I started feeling scared the moment Dad left my room after tucking me in bed. I tried to be brave. I had a little Teddy Bear I had ingeniously named, “Teddy” (vivid imagination doesn’t necessarily mean creative imagination). I held Teddy close and said, “Okay, Teddy, make a mean face and scare the devil away.” Teddy didn’t know how to make mean faces. I know because I coached him on it several times and he was never able to pull it off. He didn’t scare the devil at all. Very disappointing. 

I got out of bed and went into the living room where I heard Mom, Dad, and my two older siblings talking. Mom immediately brought me back into my room, tucked me into bed again, and tried to comfort me. I can’t remember what she said but it was about as effective as Teddy’s mean faces. I tried to go to sleep but fear once again gripped me. I went back into the living room. Mom had just sat down. She was not happy to see me. “Why are you out of your bed again, Paul?”

“The devil keeps scaring me,” I whimpered.

Now, mind you, I had awakened Mom and Dad six or seven nights in a row because of my nightmares. They were as frustrated as I was frightened. Not missing a beat, Mom exclaimed, “Tell that devil if he doesn’t leave you alone, I’m going to come in there and SPANK . . . HIS . . . HINEY!” Teddy could’ve learned a thing or two from Mom about making mean faces. 

I ran back into my room and climbed into bed. I pulled Teddy close. “Don’t worry, Teddy,” I whispered, “The devil won’t bother us now.” Then, I said out loud, “Devil, you better get out of here! If you don’t, Mom is going to come in here and SPANK YOUR HINEY!” I drifted off to sleep not long after. Teddy did, too. We were both secure in the fact that one of Mom’s spankings was the devil’s worst nightmare.

I don’t have bad dreams very often anymore, but I do have occasional run-ins with the devil. The principle remains the same. Only, I’ve since discovered that it’s not Mom’s spankings he fears. It’s God’s. 

Resisting the devil first means submitting to God. Mean faces and bravado are of no effect in scaring off the enemy. But when we humble ourselves and obediently trust God, the devil begins to tremble. This is because God gives grace to the humble (Jms 4:6b).

John Piper defines grace as everything God promises to be for us in Christ Jesus at the moment we need it. The devil may not be afraid of us. But He is afraid of everything God is in Christ Jesus. When we humble ourselves and submit to God, then our Father stands up behind us. Suddenly, the devil is face to face with his worst nightmare. 

© Paul R Downing, Daybreak Devotions

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