Short-Circuiting the Buttons Satan Pushes

James 4:7-8a

Ed Jansen and Trish Gaffney

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.8Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8a)

I will be forever grateful to the teacher in my highschool days who showed me the importance of learning how to compose at the typewriter. To this day, all of my sermons, all of my studies, actually any time I compose any kind of writing, it’s done at the computer. One morning about awhile back, I went to my computer with coffee in hand to begin to work on a sermon. I went to put the cup down on my desk and fumbled. Some of the coffee spilled onto the keyboard. I cleaned it up and started to type, but a funny thing happened. Some of the buttons on the keyboard wouldn’t work. It was really frustrating. I’d push the buttons I’d always pushed, but didn’t get the response I’d always gotten. Well, today’s lesson in James is about how we can be like spilled coffee and short circuit the buttons Satan pushes.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could frustrate the devil by short circuiting the buttons that he has always pushed in your life? Can you picture him sitting there with this big control panel in front of him with your name on it. I’m sure he’s got one with my name on it, too. And he knows exactly what buttons to push to get us to respond as he wants. After all, he’s been pushing buttons for a long time and has gotten pretty good at it. He knows exactly what button to push to get us discouraged, to get us angry, to get us worrying, or to get us feeling defeated. But hasn’t he played with us long enough? Well if he has, we might be interested in making today’s lesson our personal strategy for finally getting free. It’s amazingly simple. Let’s look at this three-part message. Short-Circuiting the Buttons Satan Pushes:

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Ethics, makes an interesting observation: “The tree of knowledge of Good and Evil produced the ability to choose our own good or our own evil. Both choices may take us equally distant from God. We have a third alternative, God’s will.”

C.S. Lewis talks about submitting to God this way: “The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'”  That, my friends, is what James is talking about when he says submit to God!


Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. There are two buttons Satan loves to push in the life of every Christian: The Temptation Button and the Indifference Button.

Temptation Button Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree. Each has a hole just large enough for the monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist. He doesn’t have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive. Sounds really silly, doesn’t it?

Well, this is a picture of many of us when we refuse to resist the devil. You see, the devil with his crafty devices tries to trap us too. He appeals to the appetites of our flesh that can lead to our spiritual downfall. As long as we hold onto the bait, we can’t escape from Satan’s trap. So he keeps on urging, “Don’t let go! Enjoy the pleasure of your sin just a little bit longer!” Listening to the tempter’s alluring voice, we continue in our fallen ways. It’s a button Satan loves to push. But resisting him, by letting go of the very thing that’s entrapping us, sets us free. Satan isn’t interested in anyone who has been set free from his or her sin, so he flees.

Indifference Button  Among the great number of books authored by C.S. Lewis is the wonderful story called The Screwtape Letters. In it Mr. Lewis has the devil brief his nephew, Wormwood, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. “The goal,” he counsels, “is not wickedness but indifference.” Satan cautions his nephew to keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs. “If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans; not to worry, it could induce indigestion.” And then Satan describes his role: “I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with the people who do not care.”

One of the biggest problems the worlds today is indifference. So many people in the world just don’t care. If the word “indifference” is what the devil promotes, then Jesus must promote the very opposite thing. So what’s the opposite of indifference? Difference! James wants you to ask yourself, “What difference is my life making?” If there is no difference, there is no faith, because faith without works is dead!  Resisting the devil short circuits two of Satan’s buttons: Temptation and Indifference.

8Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Have you ever wondered why a pigeon walks so funny? Well, a pigeon walks the way it does so it can see where it’s going. Because it can’t adjust its focus as it moves, the pigeon actually has to bring its head to a complete stop between steps in order to refocus. This is the way it walks: head forward, stop; head back, stop. Don’t laugh — that’s how it goes!

In our spiritual walk with God we have the same problem as the pigeon. Sometimes we have a hard time seeing while we’re moving. We also need to stop between steps — (come near to God) to refocus on where we are in relation to the World and the will of God. That’s not to say we have to stop and pray about every little decision in life. But certainly our walk with the Lord needs to have built into it a pattern of “stops,” that enable us to see more clearly before moving on. I believe this can be accomplished three ways. First, our daily quiet time which includes prayer and meditation on Scripture. Second, at least for me, is to continuously look for God in his creation:

I wasted an hour one morning beside a mountain stream,

I seized a cloud from the sky above and fashioned myself a dream,

In the hush of the early twilight, far from the haunts of men,

I wasted a summer evening, and fashioned my dream again.

Wasted? Perhaps. Folk say so who never have walked with God,

When lanes are purple with lilacs and yellow with goldenrod.

But I have found strength for my labors in that one short evening hour.

I have found joy and contentment; I have found peace and power.

My dreaming has left me a treasure, a hope that is strong and true.

From wasted hours I have built my life and found my faith anew.


And thirdly, is the celebration of God’s gift to His Church each week in the Word and Sacrament of the Mass. Some have said, “I don’t need to go to church. I can worship God on the golf course.” Well, that’s true, you can if one truly does such a thing while playing golf. But one doesn’t hear the Word nor receive the Sacrament on the golf course, do they? You see, this is a part of our faith, that by His design, requires us to come together, so that we can draw near to Him. If we don’t attend church regularly, we’re only fooling ourselves about drawing near to God. There’s a billboard on the highway that says, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” Draw near to God and he will draw near to you happens in our hearts and minds, in our world around us and in our church. Anything short of all three is incomplete and probably ineffectual.

Conclusion:   The next time Satan tries to push some of your buttons, frustrate the hell out of him. Submit to God: release whatever attachment you have to outcome. Resist the devil: let go of the willful sin in your life and put your faith into action. And draw near to God: through prayer and meditating on His Word, acknowledging God in His creation, and in regular corporate worship. When we do these things, we short circuit the control panel Satan uses to use to manipulate our lives.


Love in Christ,


Ed and Trish

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