This series is dedicated to a Man of God who is after God’s own heart. My Pastor, Elder William Eakins, II wrote a book titled Conversations with the Devil and in this book, he goes into great detail about the different strategies and tactics that the devil uses to wreak havoc in our lives. The Bible tells us in John 10:10 that the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That is his job, but Pastor Eakins exposes how the devil plans to do that in his book. Being a student of the Word under the guidance of this Man of God, I am blessed to learn how to navigate this world and maintain my righteous walk with the Lord.
This is part 7 of an 8-part series about the different conversations we have with the devil on a regular basis. Part 7 is based on the scriptures 1 Chronicles 21:1-4 and 2 Samuel 24:1-4, and it deals with instigation. Boy, that brings back memories of my childhood! When I was growing up, my siblings and I would try to push each other’s buttons. We would even try to push our parents’ buttons. You know how everyone has a button that can be pushed? There is something that irks them or provokes them to act. Have you ever had a younger, or older, sibling who was an instigator? Have you ever been an instigator to your siblings or parents? We would sit back and say, “Watch this!” as we proceeded to push a button to get a reaction. We knew how the other person would respond, and we would push their button just to see their reaction. More often than not, it would be a negative reaction, or one that would cause them to be frustrated. It was funny to us, but over time, as we all grew up, the instigators realized it was not funny at all, especially if the other person stopped reacting the same way. It is good to recognize what buttons we have that other people can push so that we can control our response, or not respond at all. Don’t give other people what they want when they are trying to push your buttons.
In his book, Pastor Eakins gives us a definition for the word instigate. “To instigate means to urge, provoke, or incite some action or course.” He talks about how there are boundaries that are set in our lives and what happens when we cross those boundaries, either by choice, or by an instigator. He starts out by talking about boundaries that are in places with an “elevated viewing area,” like what you would see at a stadium or on “top of a tall building.” In these places, there are always barriers or walls to keep viewers a safe “distance from the edge.” There are signs posted to warn viewers of the danger of coming too close to the edge. They even have guards standing watch to make sure the rules are followed, as an extra level of safety for the viewers. However, there will still be someone who pushes those limits because they just want a closer look. They risk their lives for a closer look. They throw disapproving looks at the security guard who is trying to keep them safe by telling them to “Step back!” They feel like they are being deprived something when they look at the limits, the barriers, the security guard. My question at this point is, “If you wanted a closer look, why would you position yourself so far away?” If you want to see what is on the ground, don’t go to the top of a building! If you want to see the action close up, don’t sit in the upper seats of the stadium! It seems like simple logic to me. However, maybe I am swayed by the fact that I have a fear of heights, so you won’t catch me going up high to look down low. I leave sitting high and looking low to God. The way I see it, He is the BEST one for that scenario!
Speaking of God, did you know that He places limits and boundaries in our lives to keep us safe? Most people understand and accept that limits and boundaries exist to “provide structure and consistency.” The devil knows this, so he has to devise a plan to influence how we view those limits and boundaries. He becomes an instigator so he can give is “a little push” past the limit.
As you can see, Pastor Eakins included 2 scriptures for this part of the book. That is because, in his God-given wisdom, he knows how to read the bible in context. If you only read the first scripture mentioned, which was 1 Chronicles 21:1-4, you will not have a clear understanding of the text because this passage implies that the devil came against David on his own. However, when you read the same story in 2 Samuel 24:1-4, you will see that God is the one who sent the devil to David. We have to remember that the devil does nothing without God’s permission. One might ask, why would God send the devil to provoke David. Well, if you read the bible, you will see that God’s people are not always obedient. They do not always follow God’s rules. Isn’t that the same way people are today? I am guilty and I am sure you are guilty as well. What do you do when your children do not act the way you expect, when they don’t do what you ask them to do, over and over again? At some point, you grow tired of their defiance, and you correct their behavior! Why should you expect God to be more lenient on His children than you are on yours? We are made in His image, right? Yes, God is a merciful God. God is also a JUST God, meaning we don’t deserve any of His grace, but He gives it to us anyhow, because He loves us, even when we get on His nerves. You still love your children when they get on your nerves, right? God loves His children and YOUR children even more.
In his book, Pastor Eakins tells us about the different things that are under attack when we have a conversation with the devil. When the devil uses instigation in the conversation, he is attacking “the limits and boundaries in a person’s life through some form of emotional appeal.” David had gotten older and was feeling “unnecessary and irrelevant” as he suffered “emotional turmoil” after growing faint during battle, causing his armies to go to war without him. Had he forgotten what God had done for him and how He had caused him to be victorious in his younger days? It was during this self-loathing that God sent the instigator (the devil) to provoke David to number the people. God did this to snap David out of his depression. We see in 2 Samuel 24:10 that David realized the error of his ways and sought God for forgiveness. However, there was a consequence to David’s actions, much like how there are consequences to every action we take, whether good or bad. When we do or cause good things, we don’t see the positive reaction or effect as a consequence. We call it a blessing. I challenge you to look at so-called negative consequences in the same way, a blessing. Call it a blessing in disguise if you cannot see it as a blessing yet. Your children defy you and they suffer a consequence. Later, they thank you because they see the blessing that resulted from the consequence. God is the very same way with His children. The consequences, or judgement, that God issues against his people are to correct their behavior. Once they correct their behavior and get back on the righteous track, they recognize the blessing in the correction, and they thank God for it.
According to Pastor Eakins, instigation happens when people are enticed to do things that they already know is dangerous and could lead to their demise. However, due to their emotional state and how they “feel” about the situation, they tend towards proceeding with the reaction. The devil knows that emotional people can be “goaded” into doing just about anything. This is because they are not using logic for their decisions. They are relying on their emotions, which is never a good time to make decisions. Emotional people commit suicide. They cannot see the logical outcome of their actions. They choose a permanent solution for a temporary problem. They are pushed over the edge by an instigator. Emotional people do all kinds of things. When a person finds out their spouse is cheating, they become emotional and seek revenge instead of looking at logical choices to either save the marriage or dissolve it. In their emotional state, they want the cheater to feel the same pain they are feeling, and then some. They want to kill the cheater or the person they cheated with. They want to get back at them by becoming a cheater themselves. They may even become destructive to themselves while staying married so that they make their spouse look bad for keeping the relationship. They internalize the pain and turn to some sort of addiction, like food, alcohol, or drugs. All of these reactions during an emotional state will lead to more problems that destroy the person and those around them. The devil knows this process and he will do whatever he can to spiral people out of control.
What about people who like to accept dares? I think they call them “challenges” today. People used to say, “I dare you!”; “I double dare you!”; or “I triple dog dare you!” Now they say, “I challenge you!” and we say, “Challenge accepted!” Something triggers our emotions when our abilities are challenged, when people imply that we can’t or won’t do something. That is why people end up doing stupid things around their friends. They feel they cannot back down from a dare or a challenge. How would that look to their friends? Guess what! If a so-called friend dared me to do something stupid, that relationship would be severed because it would become clear to me that they were not a true friend. They just wanted to push my buttons to get a reaction. They were an instigator working for the devil.
In his book, Pastor Eakins shares some “Interesting Aspects” regarding the passages of scripture that he suggested. First of all, “David didn’t recognize who the instigator was. Oftentimes, we think our decisions are being made from our own thoughts and actions. We fail to realize we are being manipulated to do the devil’s bidding. While David had been humbled by his past mistakes, his emotional state left him vulnerable to attack from the enemy.
Secondly, David was “unaware of the nation’s spiritual condition” because he was stuck in his feelings. He was so focused on himself, that he did not see what the people were doing to provoke God to anger against all of Israel. Perhaps if he had been paying attention, he could have moved the people to repent, causing God’s anger to be abated. Unfortunately, being in an emotional state can make us oblivious to what is happening around us, and blind to “impending disaster.” When we remain prayerful, seeking God and His counsel, we make it more challenging for the devil to be an instigator in our lives. I talked about my childhood and how my siblings and I would be instigated or instigators. There is even a good example of this in the movie A Christmas Story. However, I want people to realize this is not something that ends during childhood. The devil knows that adults can be gullible just like a child because emotions have no age limit. That is why we need to examine ourselves daily and check our emotions. Oftentimes, I have found myself getting into my feelings, as they say, and I have to cry out to God and release those dangerous emotions. The bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast ALL of our cares upon God because He cares about us. Don’t stay in your feelings until you do something detrimental. If you are “feeling some type of way,” it is time to turn your thoughts toward the One who can make it all better for you. Don’t stay in an emotional state that opens a door for the devil to come in and instigate. While Satan is not always the instigator, he still takes great joy in that scenario because he knows it can lead to people doing work for him.