Is the Devil in the Details?

I think the answer to that question is a resounding “yes!” The Devil is in the details because that is usually where we find that the failure comes. Personally, I am often careful to make sure I am generally healthy physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc., but it is usually in the small areas that I find Satan has a foothold in my life.

That was the topic of Oswald Chambers’ devotional for today. In it, he reminded me of a story in Scripture that has often intrigued me in the very aspect that Chambers referred: “The high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.” 2 Chronicles 15:17.

Though King Asa of Israel was generallyfaithful to God throughout his entire life, he failed to obediently remove all pagan places from their midst – an apparently insignificant detail. As a result, though, Asa, little by little, began to depend upon other things besides God in his rule.

Early in his reign, God had given Asa victories over larger armies than his own (16:8), yet later he relied on a Syrian king for protection rather than trust in the Lord. Becoming angry at the prophet who pointed this out to him, Asa threw him into prison and mistreated he and some others among the people, as well (16:10). When he became diseased in his feet, he relied on doctors at the exclusion of seeking the Lord (note: it is the failure to rely on God rather than the fact that he consulted doctors that was the failure. This is not saying there is anything wrong with seeking medical help).

The point here is that, though Asa brought many great reforms to Israel at the pleasure of the Lord, he was not thorough in the details of his life and it cost him. All the great reforms amounted to little because of the magnitude to which these small “high places” grew. Chambers brings all this home for us:

Are there some things regarding your physical or intellectual life to which you have been paying no attention at all? If so, you may think you are all correct in the important areas, but you are careless— you are failing to concentrate or to focus properly. You no more need a day off from spiritual concentration on matters in your life than your heart needs a day off from beating. As you cannot take a day off morally and remain moral, neither can you take a day off spiritually and remain spiritual. God wants you to be entirely His, and it requires paying close attention to keep yourself fit. It also takes a tremendous amount of time. Yet some of us expect to rise above all of our problems, going from one mountaintop experience to another, with only a few minutes’ effort.

All of our great efforts to “live the Christian life” or please God will come to naught if we do not take the time to keep every little area in our lives in check. Chambers rightly addresses the importance of always being on our guard in making sure there is no seemingly insignificant foothold Satan may have in our lives. In a moments notice, that little foothold can quickly become a stronghold.