One afternoon when Ryan was little, we were fishing near the big cedar tree that overhangs the water. It was spring, and the snakes had just begun to move around. I spotted what I thought was a deadly viper and raced for the rifle, dragging a reluctant Ryan behind.
I returned to the lake, determined to shoot the dreadful predator that threatened Ryan’s safety. All the lessons I’d heard about the benefits of snakes were forgotten as I searched the lake for the long black creature I’d seen. I couldn’t locate it anywhere.
“Ryan,” I asked, “do you see the snake?” “No, Mommy,” he assured me, “I don’t see any snakes at all.” “Ryan, look closer. Are you sure you don’t see him anywhere?” I insisted. Ever so patiently, Ryan explained, “Mommy, I don’t see the snake because I’m not looking for him. I’m fishing.”
Ryan was interested in bass and bream, not snakes, and he wasn’t going to waste a minute on anything else. I, on the other hand, thought I had seen a snake and could focus on nothing else until it was removed. We made a good team, but I’m not so sure how well we’d have done separately. Ryan wouldn’t have been safe without a watchful eye and I wouldn’t have had a moment’s pleasure because of my concern with the snake.
There’s a tendency in Christian circles to treat Satan much like we treated the snake. Either we are as obsessed as I, binding the enemy and fleeing demons rather than focusing on the task at hand, or as glibly oblivious as Ryan.
Peter, writing to the first century church, explained, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith…” (1Peter 5:8-9)
Paul explained further, in his letter to the Ephesians. “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil… the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the boots of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:11-17)
The objective, however, is not fighting devils. The objective is carrying out the job Christ gave us to do until his return, no matter what gets in your way. Go and make disciples, then teach them to obey.
I ended that lazy afternoon without catching a fish or a snake. My son, on the other hand, caught a stringer full. It’s important to keep a watchful eye, but Ryan had one thing right. If you want to catch fish, you have to focus on fishing, not snakes.