How Satan Steals Our Lives
We know that Satan fooled our first parents, and convinced them to take the fatal step away from obedience and faith in God, and their experimentation brought death into the world.
From then until now, we all die, and immortality can only come to us through the supreme sacrifice of our divine Messiah, Yeshua. Still, in this life, we are doomed to experience death. Only the last generation can escape it, and many in that time will go through the Great Tribulation. Death is one of Satanís best weapons, since it is so anti-God, so anti-Life, that even knowing about it or seeing it so demoralizes us that we often lose heart.
I have come to see there are many other deaths that Satan brings to us besides physical mortality. There is spiritual death for those he has managed to deceive or discourage Ė but we may yet receive mercy from God for these thingsÖyet, this discouragement is a kind of walking death, where we do not experience the fullness of life that God wants for us, and Christ died to give us: the abundant life, the joy of heart, the peace that goes beyond all rational understanding, because we can have it in the midst of turmoil, want, and suffering Ė Satan often kills our inner life, our joy, if we let him.
God tells us that He has set before us life and death, blessing and cursing, but He is not neutral about it: He cares what we choose, and urges us Ė choose Life! LíChaim! the Jewish blessing or toast Ė "To Life!"
There is yet another death, even more subtle than these, that Satan foists upon the world, and most believers, are, I am convinced, also caught up in it: Satan wastes our time, slows us down, puts blocks in front of us, frustrates us, and generally brings our progress to a grinding halt. He does this through lies, but also through our immersion in the world.
The world seems determined to stop anything good from happening, or if it canít stop it, to delay it interminably. All our institutions are designed to waste time, and prevent accomplishment. One of the shocking things I learned, when studying to be a teacher, was the history of our modern, western school systems: they were not designed for education: their history was during the Industrial Revolution, when rural families flooded into the cities looking for factory work.
The society had two problems: 1) how to prevent children from taking the jobs of adults (child labour was common, and cheaper than adult labour), and yet have them taken care of, so their parents could work, and 2), the long-range problem of how to "civilize" the rural people into habits necessary for factory work: punctuality, orderliness, obedience, subservience, uniformity. Schools did both: they kept children out of the work force, and took care of them while their parents did factory work; schools also trained children to be punctual and operate in a way that would make them useful in the factories.
The fact that they were taught to read and write, or were given other subjects to learn was largely immaterial: so long as the children learned how to "behave themselves," any other education was of little concern. To this day, students are being treated as though they are being trained for the factories, but offices have adopted a "factory attitude," so this perpetuates itself. Most teachersí big concern in school is not ensuring the students learn, but "discipline," a problem that vanishes when students are learning something interesting, and are not bored or frustrated. It is typical that even the basics of literacy and numeracy are not learned by all children, and yet they continue to be promoted from grade to grade. When children do learn, they are often held back from learning as quickly as they could, because they are not allowed to cover more than a certain amount of material in each grade. The process of slowing down what could be a very fast process has begun, and the children grow up learning to "slow down," absorbing the idea that everything must take a very, very long time.
Interestingly, people who have great passion for things find that a great deal can be done in an incredibly short period of time. Iíve been involved in projects like this, such as the Poetry Sweatshop, where 12 people are each given a page from a Thesaurus, out of which they choose one word to be the title and theme of a poem that is written in half an hour. I have also participated in the Three-Day Novel contest, where people spend the Labour Day Weekend writing a novel. When I did this, I found that, even with all my delaying tactics, trying to avoid writing, I still finished a novella of over 90 pages in three days. In less than a week, at that rate, I could write a novel. Why donít I do this? Because it is frightening to move at this speed when we have been taught since childhood that quick progress is impossible.
Ray Bradbury wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 in 9Ĺ days; many other works have been done in an equally short period of time. When you look at the longer times people take for projects, you find that most of the time is spent avoiding the work, and delaying the work: exceedingly little time is spent on the work itself.
I learned a bit about this phenomenon as an art teacher. I was teaching a High School Grade 10 art class to draw, using still lifes containing various white objects, like bottles and other simple shapes, so the shadows would be easy to draw. I would set up the still life, and have the students work on their drawings. In an 80-minute class, none of my students would be able to finish even one drawing!
I knew this couldnít be right, and I was determined to speed up the process. I borrowed a stopwatch and whistle from the Phys-Ed Department, and proceeded to shorten the time allotted for each drawing. I started out giving the students one minute to look at the newly-unveiled still life, and let them make some measurement marks on the paper, but they couldnít draw until I blew the whistle. I gave them two minutes to draw, and finished or not, I changed the still life. In an 80-minute class we did still life after still life, until, finally, all the students could draw the setup in the two minutes (three, counting the minute of looking).
But this was only the beginning. Once I accomplished this, I wanted to see just how quickly the drawings could actually be done. I split the tasks into three: observation, line drawing, and shading. By the end of three weeks, 14 out of my 15 students could accurately draw a still life with 1 minute of observation, 30 seconds of line drawing, and 15 seconds of shading, though one student never broke the 2-minute barrier. This meant an entire, accurate drawing could be done in 1 minute of observation, and 45 seconds of drawing and shading! When I looked back on the amount of actual work the students had previously done, before these exercises, I found it to be less than 5 secondsí worth in an 80 minute period!
In other things, I have found this ratio to be consistent: the amount of actual, productive work done in any period of "normal activity" is so miniscule as to be almost non-existent. Common wisdom regarding productivity in companies is that 20% of the people do 80% of the work Ė and the other 80% of the people spend their time hindering them. This is said jokingly, but is actually quite accurate, though the 20% may be somewhat optimistic.
We experienced this as a small company contracting to a large company. We took inexperienced staff, trained them in computer graphics, and within three weeks, they were producing one 11" x 17" detailed map Ė with contours, roads, towns, and individual houses Ė every three days. When our client wished to take over the map-making, with very expensive software and highly-trained draftspeople, it took them from August to December to produce one map, and even then, they had problems with the proper placement of the text. Our experience convinced us that large companies are like beached whales, dying under the weight of their own massive inefficiencies. They operate by bringing in outsiders who have to be efficient to survive, and then they often cannibalize and destroy these companies in the process.
The fact is that nearly everything you have been raised to believe about achievement and productivity is not only false, but wildly false. Things that take a four-year degree to learn can often be mastered in a very short period of time. A multi-year Ph.D. thesis can, once the initial research is done, be completed in a few weeks, not several years it is stretched out to take.
The fact is that all our institutions are designed, in the words of one educational theorist, to "cool out" people, and prevent them from accomplishing more than one or two things in their lifetimes. Years and years are wasted, slowly learning things from books that could be read in a weekend, and various roadblocks are set up to prevent people from going any faster, and preventing them from learning by experience, or doing particular jobs without "jumping through the hoops" of unnecessary training.
We learn to believe that everything takes a very long time to learn, master, and complete. The fact is, once you throw away this notion, you find many things are possible to do in an incredibly short period of time, and often without any training. I taught myself how to build databases by working with other peopleís databases, even though Iíd never taken a single course. I built my first relational database in a program I had never used before: I learned the program and built the database in a few weeks, then tweaked it over the next few months. Even though the database worked exceedingly well for its purpose, I always felt sheepish and embarrassed at my lack of training and knowledge of theory.
After having built several databases, I began to read about database theory, and discovered a thing called "normalization," where, essentially, you take a database that is stupidly built, and re-organize it into a more logical and efficient form. I was puzzled. Why would anyone build a database so stupidly in the first place? When one very senior experienced programmer, trying to put me down as a foolish amateur, asked me, in front of others, how I "normalized" my databases, I was speechless. I knew enough database theory to know what he was talking about, but I couldnít answer him. He stepped in and said, "I didnít mean to embarrass you, but this is what I mean: you obviously donít know the first thing about what youíre doing." And, of course, embarrass me he did, and deliberately. I was so flummoxed, it was only later that I could express what Iíd tried to get out: "I donít Ďnormalizeí my databases, I build them that way from the start!"
At least Codd, one of the great database theorists, admitted that database theory was "just codified common sense." My adversary was using his experience and his theoretical knowledge to put me in my place, and he succeeded so well, he destroyed my confidence in myself for more than a year. Still, in the process of researching further, I kept running into databases created by "professionals" that were absolutely ridiculous, awkward, clumsy, and unworkable Ė and had people who used my databases be just thrilled with what they could do. I realized I had a native talent for it, and understood the theory instinctively, as did Codd and the other theorists who first documented these things.
By all rights, I should have gone to school for years to learn how to build bad databases and then go through a series of three or four steps to progressively "normalize" them, or make them more elegant, streamlined, and logical. Instinctively, I just jumped in and built them right the first time.
When the Odones developed "Lorenzoís Oil" for their ALD son, they short-cut their way through what would have taken decades, and still might not have been done, by trying to figure out what was going on with their sonís disease. They brought scientists together in symposia, sped up research, and generally did in a few weeks what would have taken years, so within a few years, they had accomplished what might have taken many decades to do. Of course, everyone worked against them, including the organization of ALD parents, but a few people of good heart and good will bent the rules and went out of their way to help them achieve the impossible.
This is not an isolated incident. It is an accepted fact that no innovative discovery has ever been made by someone working in that field. Major breakthroughs are always made by people outside the field, because they are free of the structures that prevent fresh thinking, but also, because I believe they are not steeped in the "delaying messages" embedded in every area of knowledge. (Even much of the Bible has been written by "laymen": shepherds, fishermen, doctors, tax collectorsÖPaul was one of the few with "religious training": even Christ did not have rabbinical training, but was a carpenter by trade).
What does this mean for us as human beings in general, and as Bible believers in particular? It means that Satan has not only robbed humanity of the opportunity to live forever without dying (now, we must die, and await our resurrection), but he robs us of not only seconds and minutes, but hours, and days, and years of our lives, slowing us down, "cooling us out," diminishing the amount we can accomplish in our lives, not only by the structure of his world and its society and demands, but also by the lies we are raised to believe.
How many believers have ever read the Bible cover to cover? It would take forever, most think. Iíve read it several times over, through the years, without keeping track of how long it takes, but I do recall, as a teenager, reading the entire New Testament in one day. It was from morning till night, one day on a weekend, but it wasnít at all hard. And reading it this quickly gave me an overview that a few verses here or there wouldnít give me. Obviously, there is a place for careful, slow study, but there is also a place for reading for story flow and general context that is lost in a slow read.
I am reminded of the way in which Jehovahís Witnesses are taught to study their own books. They cover a few paragraphs, perhaps a page, in each "study meeting," being asked detailed questions (the answers being at the bottom of the page, ready to be repeated), so each book takes months, or even a year, to complete. The consequence? The material seems much more profound than it actually is, and they never get a grasp of the total concept. Many Jehovahís Witnesses have been convinced of the falsity of their beliefs just by following the suggestion to read one of their books straight through at normal speed. They see, in horror, what it is they are being taught, and realize that they never had any idea what ideas they were assenting to.
Academia treats many texts similarly, dragging out the time required to read and study them to the point where they appear to be much more weighty than they actually are.
I donít say the Bible fits into this category, but without the "top story," that is, the flow, the context, it is difficult to get a sense of what is generally meant. And reading the Bible this way is not difficult, so long as one is forwarned not to get bogged down in the "begats" or in the "taches" of the tabernacle. Read this way, it is much like a Russian novel full of various characters, or like "A Canticle for Liebowitz," or Asimovís "Foundation Trilogy," where the main characters change from chapter to chapter, like any other epic taking place over many peopleís lifetimes.
The pace of the Biblical narrative is breathtaking, but the flow is still there, and the story thread is very possible to follow. I find this a bit easier to do, in the Old Testament, with the Christian order of the books, since they are in chronological sequence, rather than the Jewish order, organized by category (Torah, Prophets, Writings). The New Testament reads very well this way, since most of it is roughly chronological, with the Gospels introducing Christ and His life, the Acts carrying forward the general lives of the apostles, then the various epistles dealing with specific issues in different churches, until the last living apostle, John, finishes up with the only New Testament prophetical book, The Revelation.
Impossible, you say? Nonsense! The Waldenses in the 12th century memorized entire books of the Bible (they were the inspiration for the last scene in Fahrenheit 451). How much easier just to read!
But Bible Study is not the only thing that doesnít have to take years to do. Real personal change can be accomplished amazingly quickly, even on a human level, without spiritual help. Drug addicts can clean up their lives, and start afresh in a matter of months. People caught in abusive situations can walk out, one day, and build a whole new life in a matter of weeks, and never look back.
How much more progress should we show with the Spirit of God? How well I remember one Christian brother who despaired of church people who never showed the fruit of change in their lives. "Iíve seen more change in an AA meeting, filled with unbelievers, than Iíve ever seen in the church!" he said, and he was right. Where is the change? Where is the substance? It has been stolen by Satanís lies, who makes us think everything must take years.
I believed that, too. For years, I was late to everything. For years, I couldnít accomplish anything without delays or putting roadblocks in front of myself. Even a few months ago, I couldnít make it anywhere on timeÖand this is after more than 40 years of tardiness. I was a premature baby, and I always used to joke, "I was born early, didnít like it, and made sure Iíd never be early again, and Iíve been late ever since." It was a joke, but it was true. Studies have shown that most chronically late people were born at least one month premature. I was more than six weeks premature. I was born feeling rushed, and was never able to be comfortable with time. For years, I believed I had no sense of time, but whenever I didnít have a watch, I could often guess the time to within five or ten minutesí accuracy.
Then, just recently, I had what some people would call an "attitude shift." Suddenly, I just didnít want to be late anymore. I started nagging my punctual husband to hurry up, and making sure he wouldnít make me late. I havenít been late for anything since. And Iíve been finding it easier to get certain physical things, like housework, done without delays or excuses.
My husband noticed another thing about me. "You donít hold yourself up with projects anymore," he said. "Now, you just do things and get them done. You donít put roadblocks in your way anymore." I guess I just got tired of never getting anything done. And Iím sure God healed me of those attitudes, because I finally began to pray to have my old attitudes changed, believing He could do it, but even I didnít think Heíd ever cure me of lateness! Cancer, maybe Ė lateness, impossible!
But nothing is impossible with God. And lots of things donít even have to take that long.
This is not to say that some things can be rushed. Maturity takes time. Some sins need to be dealt with slowly, simply because we would become discouraged if we saw too many of them at once. Emotional healing often takes a long time. And this is never to say that anyone else should ever second-guess or rush another believer along their way, something weíre way too prone to do in the church, as it is. We are not patient with each other, and weíre not patient with God.
No, Iím talking about ourselves, ourselves alone. Sometimes, we need to be patient with ourselves, and wait on God. But many times, we can move quite quickly, and we need to practice doing this. Pull out the stops, and see how far you can go without having to slow down. Donít limit yourself. Donít limit God. When you find a real limit, youíll know it. The brick wall will be there, and youíll need to exercise patience. But until then, donít put up brick walls that donít exist.
How many years does it take us to build up a church from a few families to a hundred? Five years? Ten? On the first Pentecost after Christís ascension, God increased the church from 120 to more than 3,000. This was in one day! That doesnít mean it will always be this way, but when God moves, our ideas of limitations need to move aside, or we will hinder His working, and slow Him down to what we think is reasonable, and Satan wins again.
The devil wants nothing more than to take what we have of our short, mortal lives, and waste our days on delay, unbelief, and unproductivity. It is Satanís way of bringing us as close to death as he can without actually killing us.
But Jesus promises us the abundant life, which is one of doing great things, being filled with love, joy, and the peace that goes beyond all understanding. When we are filled with His life, we are truly alive, and God can do great things with us in a very short time. Notice how much God did in a short period in the New Testament. Jesusí ministry was only three and a half years, and all the world couldnít contain the books that could be written of all he said and did. Look particularly at the Gospel of Mark, where everything happens, "straightaway." There are very few delays in the Gospels. Even in the Acts of the Apostles, great things are done very quickly. This is how God works.
This doesnít mean that our impatient, rush-hour, instant-fix-it attitude is correct: in truly human confusion, we rush what takes time to grow, and we delay and slow down things that can be done very quickly, if we are determined, pray to God for the strength, and just move forward in faith.
Wisdom comes from God, and He can help us discern what time things should take. We can see, though, that if everything in our life is moving at glacial speed, some things are definitely being unnecessarily slowed down, and we are being hindered. We need to pray, and discern, and trust God to show us where we can begin to move very quickly, and where we need to use legitimate, godly patience (and not sloth or procrastination).
The last thing we want to have to explain in the Judgement is why we let Satan steal our lives away, weeks and years at a time, with nothing left to show for it!
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