So I was feeling perfectly safe the other day, when something made me look up to the side. At eye level, only a foot from my face, a tree snake was lying on an azalea limb, perfectly still and exactly the same color as the limb. No, I didn’t scream. I did duck though and get past him a little faster than I ordinarily would have, loaded the feeder and scrambled out of there. Keith saw it that evening, even closer to the feeder, trying its best to snatch an easy meal off its surface. He donned a pair of gloves, grabbed him and threw him over the fence.
Three days later he had not been back, so I was feeling safe again. I had learned not only to watch the ground, but the limbs between me and the feeder too. I made it all the way to the feeder, and started loading, edging my way to the end which sits smack up against the old antenna tower, the only reason we have to go the long way around through all those azaleas anyway. As I made my way back, I looked over my shoulder and there was a garter snake, this time lying on the limb of an azalea at the east end of the bed, well past the point where I had been watching. When I had my back to it, I was probably not more than three feet from it.
That evening as we made our after-supper stroll around our place, we spotted him again. This time he lay right out in the open, a good six feet from the lush, leafy shelter of the azaleas.
You can think you are safe. You can think you are watching where you need to be watching. Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not walk in the way of the evil, the Proverbs writer says. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on, Prov 4:14,15. If I stay out of the bars and away from the bad side of town; if I watch the company I keep, surely I will be safe from sin.
And don’t you know that Satan knows that’s how we think? Who had Judas been with for over three years when he decided to betray the Lord? What company had Peter been keeping the morning before the evening he denied him? If anyone could have been safe from sin, strong enough to endure temptation because of their surroundings, surely it would have been those two, who traveled with the Lord himself. But no, they fell even more catastrophically than the others, who simply ran and stood afar off.
So are any of us safe? Am I saying we are all doomed? No. I am saying that we need to be careful all the time, no matter where we are, no matter whom we are with. Jesus once looked at Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan, Matt 16:23. He understood that temptation can come when you least expect it, even from those you consider your support group. That doesn’t mean they are out to get you too; it just means they sometimes fail just like you do.
Sometimes I am the Satan that gives bad advice, or makes a careless comment. Sometimes you are. We must watch all the time. We must look for that snake on every limb, under every bush, and sometimes right out in the open where you least expect him to be. As soon as he thinks you aren’t watching, he will sneak up over your shoulder and nab you.
Do you think I am not two, three, four times more careful when I go out to feed the birds now? That’s exactly how we need to be every day of our lives. If you only wore your seat belt on the day you knew you would have an accident, would you go anywhere at all that day? You need to be on the lookout for temptation every day. Don’t just avoid the obvious places. Look in the places where you least expect it.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…to that end, keep alert with all perseverance, Eph 6:16,18.