Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].
- Ephesians 4:27
Perhaps the best way to interpret these words of the apostle Paul is to say it this way: Don’t give the devil an opportu¬nity. There are many ways we actually give the devil an opening to pounce on us. One of those ways involves being passive.
To be passive is the opposite of being active. This can be a dangerous problem because it means you aren’t on guard, you aren’t actively standing up, and you aren’t alert. One of the devil’s most deceiving tricks is to get you to do nothing and to feel content about it.
I have found a wide variety of definitions for the word passive, but I describe it as a lack of feeling, a lack of desire, apathy, laziness, and lukewarmness. It is what John referred to when he wrote to the church at Laodicea: I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!(Revelation 3:15).
It reminds me of something someone told me years ago. “I’ve been a good Christian today,” he said. “I haven’t hurt anyone or done anyone any harm.”
In a moment of insight, I said, “But have you done any good for anyone?”
He stared at me for several seconds before he said, “I guess I never thought of it that way. I was so concerned about not doing anything wrong, that I never thought about doing anything good.”
That’s one of the tricks the devil plays on our minds. All we need to do is read the Bible to find out what God says. Paul wrote to Timothy:That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-¬control (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Paul told his young disciple to shake himself up and do something—which is good for us to consider, as well. Paul urged us to get moving and start using the gifts God has given us.
The devil knows that inactivity, laziness, or failure to exercise our will for doing good can throw us into ultimate defeat. As long as we move against the devil, we can win the battle. When we do nothing, we become his prime target. It’s when we get stirred into action, and passionate about faith, and zealous to follow God that we can destroy all the devil’s influence.
Peter wrote to the persecuted believers of his day: Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined] (1 Peter 5:8-9a).
I stress this because I see many believers who don’t feel passionate about anything, so they don’t do anything. They attend worship services and praise the Lord if they feel like it. They read their Bibles if they have the energy and time. If they don’t feel like doing something, they just don’t do it.
That’s not God’s way. We need to stir ourselves up—the way Paul urged Timothy. I’ll use myself as an example to illustrate what I mean. I don’t really enjoy physical exercise that much, but the more I exercise, the easier it gets and the better I feel. It was pretty tough when I first started the program. In fact, it hurt. I was sore. I ached all over, and I wanted to quit. I’d been so inactive (passive) for so long about physical exercise that it was painful! And my physical condition only worsened as long as I did nothing about it. But exercising consistently eventually paid off.
Let me encourage you to stir yourself. Get active. You don’t want to give place to the devil by doing nothing. If you make the effort to praise and to read the Bible, you give God the opportunity to bless you. If you don’t make the effort, you are inviting the enemy into your life. Get moving! Start today.
God, help me to stir myself up, especially on those days when I don’t feel passionate. Help me remember that it is an act of the will that You honor. In the name of Jesus, help me to stay vigilant and active—and that means being victorious, as well. Amen.