The other day I was reading Psalms 50:16-18a when I stopped short, feeling as if I’d been hit right between the eyes. Before I tell you why, I should confess a shortcoming. Occasionally, because I’m reading my Bible, praying, and not committing any heinous sins, I start feeling content in my own “righteousness.” As you know, a self-righteous person can be a real pain in the neck. Usually, a Scripture checks this type of irritating attitude before it gets out of control in my life. And that’s what happened the other day when I read Psalms 50:16-18a.
“But God says to evil men: Recite my laws no longer and stop claiming my promises, for you have refused my discipline, disregarding my laws. . .”
At this point of my Bible reading, my self-righteous attitude kicked in. Almost without realizing it, I smiled smugly and mentally patted myself on the back for not being evil or disregarding God’s laws. I had just pictured myself as God’s “shining, over-achieving child” when I read the first part of verse 18.
“You see a thief and help him.”
Suddenly, I felt as if I’d been struck by a bolt of lightning. Staring at the verse, I felt a wave of conviction from the Lord. Naturally—being me—I fought against the guilty feeling. Looking up at the ceiling, I protested loudly, “What are you talking about, Lord? Why am I feeling guilty? I’ve never helped a thief steal someone’s television set! As far as I know, I’ve never even met a thief!”
Instantly, John 10:10 came to mind: “The thief [the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Immediately after I remembered the verse, I felt God speak deep down in my spirit. His voice wasn’t audible, but it was powerful. God simply said, “The devil has been stealing from you, and you have been helping him.”
Leaning back in my chair, I gazed up at the ceiling. I felt stunned. Reviewing the last several weeks in my mind, I narrowed my eyes. I had been experiencing some difficulties, and when I prayed about them, I felt God’s peace assuring me that everything would be okay. But regardless of God’s assurances, I had been worrying about my circumstances. I had been running scenarios in my mind, trying to anticipate possible problems. I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I’d been spending my days feeling worried and tense.
God’s gentle voice said, “You’ve been helping the thief steal your peace.”
Feeling ashamed, I had to admit it was true. My mind wandered to my recent diet. I felt myself blush. I had been losing weight and then gaining it back with alarming regularity. Every time I was few pounds down, I would start craving cookies. Eventually, I would cave and indulge in sweet treats. The break in my diet would signal a return to bad eating habits and lack of exercise. The pounds would creep back onto my frame—along with a feeling of guilt and defeat.
Again, God’s gentle voice came, “You’ve been helping the thief steal your health and victory.”
Biting my lip, I nodded. I knew it was true. Again my mind flashed back over the last several weeks. I realized that I’d allowed resentment toward an individual creep into my thinking. Although I knew bitterness was wrong, I’d been harboring hurt feelings.
God spoke, “You’ve been helping the thief destroy your relationship and steal your joy.”
At this point, I expected God to give some wonderful piece of advice. I expected to be directed to another Scripture verse. I expected—well, I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect what He said next.
God simply said, “Snap out of it, and stop it.”
Sitting there with a stunned expression on my face, I had to laugh. “Snap out of it, and stop it,” may not have been exactly what I was expecting to hear, but I had to admit that it resonated.
Standing to my feet, I nodded. From that moment on, I resolved not to allow the thief to steal my peace. The next time I started worrying about things I knew God had under control, I decided that I would give myself a mental shake and sing a hymn. The next time I was tempted to break my diet and eat cookies, I decided that I would shake my head firmly and grab a bottle of mineral water. And the next time I was tempted to feel angry and resentful, I decided that I would sit down and write ten things that I appreciated about the person who had offended me.
A wise person once said that the best way to fight the devil is to do the opposite of what the devil wants you to do, and to do it with gusto. I think that advice goes hand-in-hand with what I felt God telling me to do. When the devil comes in the form of a sneaky thief, rather than blindly helping him steal—snap out of it, and stop it!