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“Unlocking the Treasures
of the Lord's Prayer”

Part :5
Navigating around the Traps of LIfe”
Based on James 1:12-15 & The Lord's Prayer
Delivered on May 16 & 17, 2009
by David J. Claassen
Copyright 2009 by David J. Claassen
          I'm holding a piece of Styrofoam about the size of a small briefcase.  Do you think it’s dangerous, even if I hit you over the head with it or threw it at you?  Probably not; after all, it's just a light piece of Styrofoam.  What possible damage can it do?  The answer is, plenty!  It was a piece of Styrofoam about this size, scientists believe, that caused the tragic destruction of the Columbia space shuttle upon its reentry into the atmosphere on February 1, 2003.
            Images of Columbia's launch showed that at 83 seconds into the flight, a piece of Styrofoam broke away from the large fuel tank and struck the leading edge of the left wing.  Over the next few days there was some discussion about the event.  Few people took seriously the idea that it could have caused any serious damage.  It was likened to having a Styrofoam cooler blow off the roof of the car ahead of you on the road and hitting your windshield: it wouldn’t do any damage.  However, upon reentry into the earth's atmosphere, when the outer shell of the orbiter was at a temperature of 2,880 degrees Fahrenheit, the shuttle broke apart.  Streaks of glowing debris, like so many meteors, were seen across the Texas sky.
Eventually the investigation led the scientists to perform an experiment where they blasted a similar piece of Styrofoam at a mock-up of the leading edge of the shuttle’s wing.  They fired it at approximately the same speed the Styrofoam would have hit the wing: 800 feet per second.  Most of them were shocked to see a hole punched through the wing mock-up large enough to put a basketball through!  Their “risk management” hadn’t taken seriously the risk from a piece of insulating Styrofoam.
            Let's talk about “risk management” in our lives.  Think about the mistakes we've made in the past: the messed-up situations and the sinful actions we've been guilty of.  In virtually every case our thoughts, words, or actions started out not all that bad.  Maybe they weren’t ideal or even good, but they weren’t terrible — but the results proved otherwise.
        In this six-part sermon series we're looking at Jesus' prayer that He taught us to model our prayers after.  We're calling the series “Unlocking the Treasures of the Lord's Prayer,” and today’s message is part five.  Last time we looked at the part of Jesus' prayer where He has us pray about God’s forgiving our sins as we forgive the sins of others.  Now Jesus has us pray in a way that can keep us from sinning in the first place!  It's good to fix a problem, but it's better not to have the problem at all.  If only the engineers at NASA had been able to see the potential danger of something seemingly as innocent as a piece of Styrofoam and had done something about it!  When it comes to our lives, Jesus has us include some risk management in our prayers.  He has us pray to our Heavenly Father something to the effect of “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13) 

Risk Management Assessment in Our Lives
As the space shuttle Columbia came through the atmosphere, the extreme heat was driven through the hole in the wing, melting the wing from the inside.  The wing probably broke into pieces, followed by the rest of the shuttle.
            What does an unfolding disaster look like in the flight we call daily living?  The writer of James in the New Testament described it: “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)  James gave a detailed, blow-by-blow description of what happens to us.  We have a wrong desire or thought.  We think about it long enough that the wrong thought becomes reality in a wrong action, and the action ends up being painful, hurtful, and really nasty: what James called death.  James was using the imagery of a life cycle: he talked about conception, birth, and death.
            Where does the temptation to think, speak, and do wrong come from?  Just as a space shuttle can be hit by ice falling from its exterior tank, by Styrofoam, or by something else that causes catastrophic damage, the Bible points out three sources of where our trouble can come from.
            The threat comes first from Satan.  There’s other intelligent life in this universe.  A race of creatures were created before humans, at some prehistoric point in time; we now call them angels.  They were given the opportunity to make their own choice whether to be for God or against God.  A massive exodus from God followed, led by one being we now call Satan or the devil.  Ever since then, Satan has been hell-bent on destroying anything God considers important.  That makes us target number one for Satan, because of all God's creation, we’re most important to Him.
            We face direct assaults from Satan and his followers.  Because we’re physical and spiritual creatures, we experience assault from the spiritual realm.  The apostle Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)  Satan is real, and his impact on each of us is nothing to take lightly.  That's why the apostle Peter warned, “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, . . .” (1 Peter 5:8-9a)  Part of our risk management against sinning is to realize that there's a real, conscious enemy out there that's hell-bent on destroying us, our relationships, our marriages, and our work for God.  There's also another source of our trouble.
            The threat comes second from the world.  This is a fallen world, and sin permeates people, government, business, education, entertainment, and everything else.  The world around us — the world we have to live in — is a major negative, sinful influence on us.  Jesus often talked about living apart from the world as His followers: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world!  That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19)   We're being assaulted all the time with a view of life that’s contrary to what the Creator/Sustainer of life wants for us.
            That's why James wrote in our New Testaments, “Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)  There's another source of our trouble, too.
            The threat comes third from ourselves.  The most famous quote from the “Pogo” comic strip is “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  The Bible makes it clear that we are indeed our own worst enemy.  We’re born with a tendency to sin; just watch any young child and you'll come to that conclusion.  Even when we come to God, are forgiven through His Son Jesus, and receive the gift of His Holy Spirit within us, we still deal with our residual fallen natures.  Paul wrote, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17)  That certainly describes our own personal experience!
            We're hit from three sides: Satan undermining us from below, the world surrounding us, and ourselves like a Trojan horse — the enemy within us.  There are different ways this all comes into play, threatening the God-pleasing life God has planned for each of us. 

The Methods of Temptation
I want to share some random thoughts about how we’re taken in by sin and how it works on us.  Here are some examples.
            Sin is appealing at first.  We don't see its negative results very easily or quickly.  It's like the worm on the hook to a fish, or the cheese on the trap for a mouse: they look so good!  Evil is disguised as good, or at least as something not very bad; it seems to be nearly as harmless as Styrofoam.  Our wrong thoughts are just thoughts, after all.  We won't carry them out; we just want to enjoy thinking that hateful thought, that depressing thought, or that lustful thought for just a little while longer.  We don't take temptation seriously enough.
            Evil can even be disguised as good.  Working hard and long hours can be good, unless it takes you away from the family too much and has you focusing on what you can use the money for.  Relaxing in front of the TV or at the computer can be good, unless we do it so much that we have very little time left for praying, reading the Bible, talking with a mate, or playing with the kids.  We can seek to serve the Lord sacrificially to the point that we give in to the sin of pride, thinking that we’re much more spiritual than someone else.
            We can also be tempted by the ordinariness of life.  I'm reading a book by Kathleen Norris called Acedia & Me.  I didn't even know what acedia was, or is; it means the absence or lack of caring.  It’s a lot like apathy, and it has been called the noonday demon.  You know how you feel in the middle of the day, or in the middle of a project.  The excitement of starting it is past, and the excitement of finishing it hasn’t come yet.  You're in the middle of it, often without seeing much in terms of results.  That’s acedia.
            The ancients thought that it was the worst sin!  It can affect us at our jobs, in our relationships — particularly our marriages — and in our church work.  Things are going so-so; there’s not much excitement and not much to show for our effort.  The temptation is to coast along, going through the motions or dreaming about a more exciting and rewarding job, marriage, relationship, or church.  Of course Satan, the world, and our own fallen nature conspire to tolerate the seemingly safe, Styrofoam-like thoughts and attitudes.
            We’re always living dangerously!  We need to always do some serious risk management, and that should drive us to pray as Jesus would have us pray! 

Praying for God's Help with Temptation
Jesus would have us pray regularly something to the effect of 'And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Our prayers should express a rightful fear and healthy respect for the dangers of temptations that come in all shapes and sizes.  We shouldn't even want to be tempted by something, lest we give in to it.  We’re quickly out of our league and in over our heads, and most of the time we don't even know it!  We need the Heavenly Father's help, and we should always ask for it.  Eugene Peterson wrote that we should be “asking God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” (Tell It Slant, p.193)
            Talk to the Father about what you're being tempted with: hateful thoughts, angry thoughts, an “I don't care” attitude (the sin of acedia), prideful thoughts, lustful feelings, selfish thoughts, or whatever else it might be.  Talk to Him about how sin is damaging your relationships, your marriage, your work, or your attitude toward each day — how it's damaging everything!  Ask Him to lead you away from those temptations and to deliver you from the evil that will come from giving in to them.  Don't take temptation lightly; don't see it as harmless Styrofoam!  “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”       

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