Not so long ago I received the kind of warning that puts you to and keeps you looking over your shoulder. It came from an older and wiser man in the aftermath of a particular event, and it sent chills down my spine. In essence, I was warned to look out for the assaults of the wicked one, because – in his estimation – the distinctive circumstances suggested to him that the Adversary would be bristling.
Needless to say, this put me on my guard. I would not go so far as to say that I was on tenterhooks, but it would be reasonable to suggest that I left in a heightened state of spiritual alertness. Conscious of some of my particular, personal weaknesses and frailties, I sought to guard my heart, keeping Eye-Gate, Ear-Gate, Nose-Gate, Mouth-Gate and Feel-Gate well defended. My prayers took on a particular edge. Having had reason to mention the excellent little book by Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, I was left considering what might be the particular points at which I should expect the warned-against assaults.
As I pondered, a number of possibilities passed through my mind. And then I realised that several of them I could substantially discount. In themselves, it seemed that they were less likely to be the immediate occasion of the attack. Specifically, I did not need overmuch to fear physical death or damage. To be sure, there might be pressures associated with those circumstances which could be the assaults, but that is not, typically, the way Satan seeks to attack pastors.
He does not so much seek to harm or destroy us physically as to hurt or damage us in our role as ambassadors of Christ. He would no doubt be very content to see certain warriors carried away from the field of battle, but his greater concern is to damage the cause of Christ, if he could. He is much more likely to seek to destroy our reputations, and so to bring dishonour to our Saviour, than anything else. It is not trials alone, but trials as a means to temptation, that are most to be feared. Sufferings, even to death, can be occasions for the glorifying of God and his grace in Christ. However, the temptations that come in suffering, or the danger of being drawn or driven into the kinds of iniquities that allow men to mock our testimony and discount our witness – those are the things most to fear.
I know of at least one man of God who prays that the Lord would rather take his life than permit him to discredit or dishonour his Saviour by acting in a way that would be contrary to his testimony and would undermine his witness.
And so, if not quite on tenterhooks, it is good for God’s servant to cultivate this heightened sense of spiritual alertness. We should buttress the various gates that give entrance to the heart. We should consider afresh the distinctive points in our own humanity at which the Adversary is most likely to strike. We should watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation, and succumb to it in ways which not only bring us to disgrace but – in doing so – expose the name of Christ to dishonour. May the Lord in his mercy, and for his own name’s sake, rather take us away, than allow us to be the means of bringing scorn upon the name and cause of the best of Masters.