The previous chapters offered prescriptions for “chronic disease” and are intended to give the struggling Christian a lifestyle of habits that, if built into the fabric of life, will make you able to resist temptation. While they will not make you impervious to Satan and the struggles of life, they will, if they become ingrained habits and a way of life, make you stronger. Such long-term prescriptions will help you over the routine temptations, the ones you expect and know about, the ordinary garden-variety temptations that should not and do not come as a surprise. But what about the unexpected attack? What about the out-of-the-ordinary incident that shakes you to the core and tempts you in unexpected circumstances and situations? The temptations that come upon us without a moment’s warning? Now what does one do?
It is my hope that the emergency prescriptions outlined here will strengthen you in such moments of crisis.
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7)
Prayer is not only our first line of defense against temptation of any kind, but certainly should be our instant weapon against unexpected and sudden temptation. There is never a circumstance in life when you cannot send up a prayer to your heavenly Father, whether it be working in the factory, walking down a busy street, bending over a dying patient, presenting an inspiring presentation in the marketplace, teaching a class, or planting crops. God always has an ever-ready ear and a willing heart to hear and answer a call for help.
Luther’s friend Philip Melanchthon said, “Trouble and perplexity drive me to prayer, and prayer drives away perplexity and trouble.”
E. M. Bounds captures the core of the battle when he wrote: “The Christian soldier, if he fights to win, must pray much. By this means, only, is he enabled to defeat his inveterant enemy, the devil, together with the evil one’s manifold emissaries.”
Obviously, prayer is a prescription we use for both chronic and acute temptations to sin.
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14, 15).
The devil is ever ready to introduce evil thoughts or temptations into our minds. We have no way to prevent that, nor is it a sin when we experience them, but when we start to entertain and massage and enjoy such thoughts—that is sin.
We have all seen the bumper sticker that claims “The Devil Made Me Do It.” Did you notice that our verse for this prescription points out that we “are drawn away of his [our] own lust, and enticed”?
It’s not always “the devil who makes us do it.” James, reminds us that we humans have enough evil in our hearts that many times it is our own evil heart that instigates the sinful acts of life. So how do we extinguish such self-conceived thoughts of lust? By repeating silently (or better yet, out loud, if circumstances permit) a favorite verse. We should have a whole set of prescriptions memorized to call up in just such an emergency.
“Well,” you may say, “how does that help? I can ponder the sin and quote the verse at the same time.” No, you can’t. God gave us many blessings, and one of them is that we can concentrate only on one thing at a time. Notice I said “concentrate.” If you are really concentrating on the verses, the evil thoughts will melt away.
We have many reasons to memorize the Bible, but to use the verses as emergency medicine is one of the best. Fill your “medicine cabinet” with such “emergency prescriptions” as soon as possible.
“Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6).
Dozens of other passages have a similar message. Of course, such songs should have a spiritual theme. Not songs that are boisterous, flippant, frivolous, for they would not heal the soul. The songs you sing are those you learned because they have a spiritual message for you individually. Use them as emergency healers.
Christians should have a variety of songs to call upon. Let me name a few kinds:
Songs of thanksgiving.
Songs that praise God.
Songs that act as prayers (use them as a tonic).
Songs of deliverance.
Songs of experience and God’s leading.
Songs of God’s providence.
Remember, all such songs are emergency prescription, and as such should be the kind that will ignite in us an immediate spirit of reconsecration.
As one studies the Old Testament sanctuary and Temple services, we find that God directed His people to sing— especially songs of praise and thanksgiving. If He instructed them to do so then, how much more today should we use these inspiring methods?
It seems to me a good habit to sing the song audibly (if circumstances allow). If you can’t sing out loud, you can hum the tune and think the words, but if circumstances prevent either—at least keep a song in your heart.
Carlyle called songs “little dewdrops of celestial melody.”
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Keep this prescription close at hand at all times. The “illness” requiring such emergency treatment commonly occurs under stressful conditions. That’s why I say it must be always available. But as you allow the Holy Spirit to teach you how to use this emergency prescription, you will find it will save you much distress. I have seen where fists were ready to go into action and a few ounces of this elixir turned things into a handshake. I’m certain we have all seen shouting matches end because someone was wise enough and in control enough to reply softly.
But did you know that “the preacher” gives us another verse that is even more powerful? Proverbs 25:15 says: “A soft tongue breaketh the bone.” Now, that really appeals to the sinful human heart, doesn’t it? How often have you wanted to “just break someone’s jaw”? Well, here’s how—do it with a soft tongue. Who knows, it may even save your own jaw.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
How could that be an emergency remedy? Notice that the verse above speaks of several kinds of moves. Moves that God, through Isaiah, suggests will be a mighty antidote for sin. Let’s take a look:
The wicked person should move away from wickedness.
The unrighteous person should move wicked thoughts away.
The wicked/unrighteous should move to the Lord.
God will be moved to have mercy and pardon.
To make the moves suggested in this verse is both curative and therapeutic. Do you remember the verse I mentioned in which Job says “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid” (Job 31:1)? Even though Job had not heard Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he understood how the sinful heart/mind operates—just as Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). (It applies to women as well as men.) So Job had already started using this remedy.
Instead of looking at and thinking about an attractive woman, he moved his eyes. Of course, this prescription applies to more than just looking at the opposite sex. We all know that there often pops up before us scenes that it would be better we did not see. So move your eyes.
Our little prescription, “Move,” applies to other areas of life. A physician friend of mine belonged to a club of fellow physicians. Each Friday night they would play cards until the wee hours of the morning. From time to time he would share with me the fact they would play for stakes involving thousands of dollars. The indebtedness they acquired affected their practices and, of course, their friendship. But they were addicted to the excitement of their weekly games. He would have been far better off if he had moved from the area and started his medical practice anew.
Another situation that comes to mind is the parked car and its occupants. Better get moving toward home. Or how often have we been in the office, the home, at a party, or just involved in a sidewalk conversation and begun to recognize that an argument was in the making? Move. It’ll save you and possibly others a lot of trouble. The list could go on ad infinitum, but I believe you get the point. A little move on our part may keep us on the straight line toward heaven.
To move can also be a long-term cure-all. Illicit relationships can develop in the business world, in the marriage relationship, and in almost any human situation. People could have averted disaster in most of them had the ones involved simply moved. I know that this sounds like radical surgery—and it is—but many times it would be to a person’s spiritual good if they would simply sell the house and move.
While it may strike you as strange medicine, if you make it part of your lifestyle, I guarantee you will find it to be one of the most useful.
If you just picked this book up and started reading, you might get the idea that I have outlined a “lifestyle of works’ by which you can earn or work your way to heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth, for I have written for the committed Christian—one already being saved. It is directed to the Christian who has traveled the spiritual pathway long enough to realize that the spiritual enemy never rests, and, realizing this, has longed for some help. I believe these prescriptions, both long-term and emergency, are a step toward a healthier spiritual life.
You may ask, “What criteria did you use in making up the list?” One criterion only—can a person implement the prescriptions by choice? Choice alone is the test.
I’m positive my list of prescriptions are not exhaustive, so add your own. Remember, these lists are not to get you saved, but to help you with the process of living a Christian life.