In this final blog in a series on 'stopping the devil,' I want to suggest a strategy that sounds opposite the first strategy I wrote about. That strategy was to stand your ground and resist the devil. (Check it out.) Before looking at a New Testament passage, let's consider a vivid example of this ‘opposite’ strategy.
Joseph was the youngest of eleven brothers and was given special treatment by his father. In addition Joseph shared his prophetic dreams with his brothers. All this made his brothers angry and envious.
On one occasion when Joseph’s brothers were tending their family’s flocks of sheep away from home, Joseph was sent to check on them and bring a report back to his father. However, his brothers had something else in mind. They captured him, put him in a pit (a dry well) and dipped his outer cloak in animal blood. They sold Joseph to a caravan of traders and then returned to their father claiming that he had been killed.
In the meantime, the traders took Joseph to Egypt and sold him as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of the bodyguard of the Egyptian Pharaoh. By God's grace, at the young age of seventeen, Joseph was so successful that Potiphar entrusted him with everything that he owned.
The Bible also tells us that Joseph was “handsome in form and appearance.” It is no wonder that Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph. She asked him to have sexual relations with her, but Joseph refused. She tried to seduce him day after day after day...
But he refused, saying to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not give any thought to his household with me here, and everything that he owns he has put into my care. There is no one greater in this household than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” —Genesis 39:8-9 (NET Bible)What an attitude! Even though he was in a foreign country and considered dead to his family, he wanted to do right in God’s sight.
Now, we might wonder if Joseph was actually tempted, but that is not the point. The devil was on the prowl using Potiphar’s wife to seduce him. Whether he was attracted to his master’s wife or not, Joseph desired to be righteous. Yet with his master’s wife pursuing him relentlessly, what could he do to maintain his purity?
RUN!...And run, he did.
The Bible has much more to say about Joseph, but this much gives us another effective strategy to put a stop to the devil: RUN!
It almost sounds cowardly until you reflect on Joseph. He displayed a clear mind, unwavering self-control and a strong resolve to do God’s will. Running was the courageous choice.
Here is the instruction we have received from the Apostle Paul:
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. —2 Timothy 2:22Notice that Paul's instruction is that we should run from youthful lusts. He did not say, "Hey youth, run from lusts." What's the difference? It is not just young people who have lusts (desires) that are generally associated with youth. The instruction applies to all Christians regardless of age.
The key to this 'running strategy' is that, while running from youthful lusts, we must be running toward righteousness at the same time. Long before the devil springs into action we must have already made a conscious decision to place God ahead of our desires. We must be in pursuit of righteousness. Only then will we be prepared for the surprise attacks of the devil.
Be courageous...and RUN!