“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”Ephesians 6:10-11
“If at first you don’t succeed, then try and try again.” Do you buy into the wisdom of this old adage? I do. I buy into it because it speaks to the undeniable power of persistence.
But unfortunately, the Devil also believes in it. The power of persistence, that is.
Temptation often comes in threes.
The most obvious example of persistence on the part of the Tempter is when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness just before his public ministry began. Three times the Devil came at Jesus in an attempt to pressure and persuade Him to do the unthinkable. You’ve heard the story. The devil didn’t stop after one failed attempt. He kept coming and kept coming and kept coming. And each time Jesus hit back by quoting Scripture until finally, the devil ran off and the angels came.
There’s another example in the Bible where it looks like the bad guy must have taken a page right out of the Tempter’s playbook. In the Exodus narrative, Balak was the king of Moab and he was nervous about the congregation of God’s people coming his way. They were on the threshhold of the Promised Land and momentum was on their side (Numbers 22-24).
So Balak tried to talk a mysterious guy by the name of Balaam into putting a curse on God’s people to stop them in their tracks. When Balak’s scam did not succeed the first time, he tried again. On the second time, same thing, and then the third…but instead of cursing God’s people, Balam blessed them three times!
Eventually, Balak gave up. Or at least he changed his strategy.
In both of these scenarios the Tempter persisted in his enticements – once, twice, three times – requiring the Temptee to say “No, thanks” not once, not twice, but three times. This is what you might call warfare by attrition, when the Antagonist trys to do his thing by gradually wearing us down. He knows our weak spots, the areas where we’re vulnerable. He knows if he takes his time and keeps delivering shots to the body, just maybe our arms will drop, and then he can give the knockout blow.
Been there? Have you faced the relentless aggression of the enemy? I imagine you have. Most of us have picked up on the intensity of the battle lately and we’re a bit worn down.
If this is the case for you and you are dealing with the persistence of the Tempter, just remember there is One who is even more persistent and there is victory in His Name.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:57
Temptation may come in threes, but there’s no limit to the grace and power of God. Keep on keeping on.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.