I went to check the front yard and found a five-inch dead rat out by the oleander bush—yuk! A couple weeks ago I discovered what looked like a leaf nest in the backyard oleander. I put out bait and killed the rat. Yesterday I started digging out leaves around and inside the hollow place formed by the branches. The pile was just a bit lower than five feet high. It was a mess digging all that out, but I’m making progress. Now that I know what needs doing, I can keep up with it. I have three oleanders, so it’s important to keep them clean. I had no idea of what was going on in my yard behind my back—no one told me it wasn’t okay to keep leaf buildup under oleanders!
With the uplifted straight arms of the thin branches, it makes a perfect “fence” with the inside full of leaves. Then a hole can be made in the leaves. The hole goes in the top of the pile, then comes out at the bottom, so the rat can forage for food and water and the oleander makes the perfect home. I had no idea of the vermin that was trespassing on my property!
Sometimes spiritual rats enter our lives and we don’t even know they’re there. Things like unrighteous anger, jealousy, ungodly sexual cravings, and any number of other not-so-great things. They make themselves at home in our lives and begin to take over. So, what do we do?
We put our gloves on, get our tools out, and go for it. We start to tear away at the nest and break it apart.
At first, it’s so messy looking.
In the rat’s nest out front, there were the craziest things. Being on a busy street, and providing a place to sit, there were the expected things: Big Mac wrappers, beer cans, and plastic bags. But then there were the oddball things: a box cutter, an ID card, a couple of big rocks and a piece of granite countertop.
Like the rat’s nest, when we decide to clean up a potential spiritual problem in our lives, it seems to always start off messy and irritating. We start to clean up and other garbage gets in the way. We need more effort, more tools, and more time, but thank God we get started anyway. When I was pulling out leaves and other junk, I had to even cut some of the olive branches to make a clear path to get to the real mess that I was after.
And some rat nests take more time. I thought I’d have my physical rat nest cleaned up in a couple hours. Wow was I wrong! Instead of a couple hours, it’s more like a couple of days, maybe even a couple weekends—yuk!
But I’ll get it done. Where would I be in a month if I didn’t start now? Where will we be in our spiritual lives if we start to clean them up now? God’s Word says: “Though your beginning was small, your end will be very great” (Job 8:7).
There are five keys I see in this Rat event, that work for physical infestations and spiritual ones as well:
- RECOGNIZE that you have a problem. “So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).
- OBSERVE. Don’t be afraid to look the problem in the face. “And he answered, ‘Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
- BELIEVE what you see. Don’t try to ignore what you’re seeing, especially if the Lord shows you twice.
- ARTICULATE it. Say what the problem is, aloud, or write it down, until you feel like you really have identified it. “And the Lord answered me, and said, ‘Write the vision, and make it plain’” (Hab. 2:2).
- DO what needs to be done to get rid of the rat. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas. 1:5). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Even Jesus had a rat in life. Judas Iscariot was one of His disciples. The other disciples didn’t recognize that he was a problem. Even up to the last minute, they didn’t RECOGNIZE, OBSERVE, BELIEVE, ARTICULATE, or DO. I’m not even sure Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas was going to choose to be a rat. In this situation, God’s wisdom was for Jesus to confront Judas and then let Judas decide what he was going to do. As we know, Judas decided not to repent but took his life instead.
On a personal note, of the five keys I’ve listed, number 3 was the most difficult for me to learn. I grew up in a church that taught that there was no devil, that everything came from God. So, when I saw bad things, I chose to try to ignore them. It was hard for me to BELIEVE that the Lord would be showing me bad things. But I learned that we need to believe what we see. God can’t work in us to get rid of bad things unless we are willing to acknowledge that they exist.
We always have the victory in Christ. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom 8:37).
Gotta go tear down more rat nest.
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