Birds of prey

Birds of prey are often opportunists when it comes to food. They’re poised, ready to strike when a vulnerable or careless moment presents itself. Sometimes, the victim isn’t aware of the danger. But, some animals have seemingly developed an eerie awareness of dangerous situations, so they’re permanently on guard: They eat and drink, prepared to flee at a moment’s notice because experience has taught them a predator is never far away. Isn’t it interesting that Peter exhorts believers to stay vigilant because we have an adversary prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour [1 Peter 5:8]? The believer’s enemy is a conquered foe. But he remains a dangerous opportunist, skilled in distraction, discouragement and deception, capable of exploiting our ignorance [2 Corinthians 2:11].

The Bible’s first mention of birds of prey (a swooper) is in Genesis 15. Before this point in Abraham’s life, his relationship with God centred around the promises God gave him as he left Ur [Genesis 12:3]. But on this occasion, God was about to elevate their relationship further by cutting a trans-generational covenant with Abraham. So, God instructed Abram, his name at the time, to prepare the sacrificial animals for the covenant-signing ceremony [Genesis 15:7-10]. Abraham dutifully obeyed and prepared the animals to order. As he waited for God to show up, birds of prey swooped down to steal the carcasses, but Abram drove them away [Genesis 15:11]. He stood guard on his offering until it was time for the ceremony. The animals were symbolic but crucial to the covenant God was about to make with Abraham. What would’ve happened if Abraham had allowed the birds of prey to steal the carcasses?

Abraham was acting out a principle we mustn’t forget as believers: Guard what you’ve laid on the altar. That includes our confessions, convictions and commitments to God. Because if we’re negligent, they’re birds of prey poised and ready to steal them. Jesus pointed out that our adversary is a thief [John 10:10], and he’s after our faith in what God told us [Matthew 13:19, Romans 10:17]. As we saw with Eve, his schemes have one objective: Get the believer to doubt God because he knows that if we give unbelief a foothold, he’s won [Hebrews 10:38]. Doubt gives him access to lead us away from the path of righteousness, often through decisions motivated by fear, anxiety or worry. Those choices invariably destroy us and our destinies and also impact those God desires to bless through us. That’s an ever-present threat for believers, so we must remain discerning and alert. 

I recently heard that approximately a million millennials walk away from the faith annually. I can’t attest to the accuracy of that statistic, but we can safely say thousands of people Jesus died for are turning their backs on Him. I suspect many walk away because of the birds of prey that are distraction, deception and discouragement. The Bible is unequivocal about God’s intentions for us: He wants us to be fruitful in every area of life [Genesis 1:26, John 15:16]. That’s how we glorify Him [John 15:8] and fulfil our purpose [Isaiah 43:7]. However, there’s no fruit without a seed [John 12:24], and the seed that yields God’s kind of fruit is His Word [Mark 4:14]. So, if we abide in Jesus, the Word, and His words abide in us,  we bear much fruit [John 15:7]. The devil understands this and spends his entire existence trying to sabotage this process in the believer’s life. 

An individual is ransomed from Satan’s domain and transferred into Jesus’s kingdom when he hears and believes the Gospel of Salvation [Romans 10:9, Colossians 1:13] and then becomes fruitful when he understands and applies the Gospel of the Kingdom [Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:10]. Unsurprisingly, the devil actively prevents many from hearing the message of salvation [2 Corinthians 4:4]. If that fails, he’ll fight our attempts to study and imbibe the Scriptures because a believer who is ignorant of God’s word has no seed and cannot be fruitful [Ephesians 4:18]. However, if he can’t stop the seed from being sown, he’ll fight it bearing fruit – often through distractions, deception and discouragement.

Distraction is often subtle because what’s distracting us could be seemingly good. But if God isn’t behind what we’re doing, a good thing can divert us from doing a God thing [Luke 10:38-42]. Therefore, we must be discerning [Hebrews 5:13-14]. Distractions often sabotage meditation – which causes the seed to traverse from the head to the heart where it’s planted [Joshua 1:8, Matthew 13:22]. Deception is insidious because most people are unaware when it happens. Nevertheless, the Spirit of Truth cannot back a lie [Matthew 7:20, John 16:13]. One way to identify deception is to hold it against Scripture [John 17:17]. If it deviates from God’s word, reject it. Discouragement inhibits prayer, thanksgiving and worship. That invariably opens the door to unfruitfulness through unbelief [Hebrews 3:12-19]. You won’t remain a believer for long if you doubt God’s faithfulness.

Like Abraham, we must protect what belongs to God, guarding that entrusted to us from the birds of prey until we receive what God promised [James 1:21]. Circumstances will always test our convictions when we profess faith in God. They’ll also challenge our commitments to His kingdom and principles. But we’re never alone in our fight against the birds of prey [Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 43:1-7]. So, remain resolute [Hebrews 10:23], and don’t let fear, anxiety and worry dictate your decisions [Matthew 6:25-34]. Nail your colours to the mast of God’s word and wait patiently for Him [Lamentations 3:25-26], and don’t allow the thief to steal your joy [Habakkuk 3:17-19]. In due season, your harvest will manifest [Galatians 6:9].

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