Sometimes the devil really is to blame.
Let’s say you’re on a mission trip and everything goes backward. It may not be a random accident that what you intended to be a win for the Kingdom of God has become a loss for everyone involved. It might even feel like “someone” sabotaged it all on purpose.
As Jesus plainly explained, the Enemy comes to “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)
But how often do we lay the blame at the devil’s doorstep instead of acknowledging our own culpability?
I’m a big believer that all things are spiritual. The natural and supernatural realms are woven together. I’m not proposing that something is ever fully a human thing without some kind of divine or demonic component to it. But what if we’re a little too quick to point the finger at Satan—to point out the “speck” in his eye before we’ve removed the “log” from our own?
There’s a reason why blame is spelled “Be-Lame.”
We’ve all been on both sides of the tension, especially on youth trips. We hear it in the voicemail from a parent listing in detail how disappointed they were with the mission experience their kids signed up for. We see it in a volunteer who, for some strange reason, can’t seem to function physically on the third day of the trip and now needs care from you that you’d planned to invest in other ways.
The list goes on.
But maybe the reason that parent is upset has little to do with the influence of Satan, but is the consequence of poor planning. Maybe that volunteer wouldn’t have ended up sick if they’d slept well in a clean bed versus tossing and turning on the bug-ridden floor.
Before we assign blame, I’d suggest a PAUSE instead:
You can do this alone, but ideally meet with your leaders or entire group when something goes wrong to seek the Lord. By all means, pour out your heart and thoughts to Jesus. Just also make sure you invite Him to pour His heart and thoughts out to you.
After you’ve started with prayer, you’re in a better position to specifically ask Jesus and others, “Who or what is behind this?” If you’re quick to assume it’s a people thing, consider the supernatural (and vice-versa). Sometimes what we’re experiencing is the product of our ignorance or indifference. Other times we’re experiencing a natural consequence of us not spending any time in prayer to invite Jesus into something. The Bible tells us to put on the whole armor of God, so if you’ve only half-suited up you’re going to be more inclined to attack.
Ask Jesus, “What actions steps or authority would You like us to take over this?” Again, understand God’s heart before you take action. Sometimes Jesus begins a sentence and we’re quick to finish it before letting Him clarify the whole thing. Slow down. Consider what personal examination and confession is needed to restore relationships. If you’re in a foreign culture, its especially important to ask your hosts how they are viewing anything awkward through local eyes.
Don’t merely “do something,” but serve a greater goal. This may mean that you make a dramatic leadership decision, such as getting your group out of a bad neighborhood that puts everyone’s safety at risk. In general, be willing to adjust what you’re doing in humility before you spend your time and attention taking authority over a spiritual influence.
On a mission trip, we don’t always have the luxury to think things through. On the other side of the trip, when you’re back home, look back so you can better look forward. Don’t do this to kick yourself, but to find better footing for the next experience. A rearview mirror on a car is only so big for a reason.
Since Adam and Eve, people have been pointing fingers at the devil. Granted, he is a part of things, but so are we. In the process of noting his presence, may we also recognize and accept our own responsibility in the situation. Stay true to your role and invite Jesus to do his. See your failure as an opportunity—and grow as a leader.
Maybe this is what it means to “resist the devil and he will flee?”
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