What gives us the upper hand over the devil?
The devil uses his manipulative tactics to confuse our minds and lead us astray; he scares us with persecutions; and then he molests our thoughts with the gods of this culture. They key word in my statement above is ‘tactics.’ They are all tactics – all maneuvers to gain an advantage over us. What can we learn from our former counterparts in the faith who have been goaded, persecuted and even lost their lives this side of heaven because of him? How did they triumph over him?
After Jesus’s ascension, we hear much about the apostle Peter and Paul, but not much about the other disciples. That does not mean they did not do just as much as these two. Every single one of the apostles of Jesus Christ served and suffered for Him with great loyalty and love. But in all that suffering, they had the upper hand of victory. Andrew is such a good example. His martyrdom is the most encouraging to me, because of how he approached his death, not just that he died without denying Christ.
Reading the account of Andrew’s martyrdom from Foxes Book of Martyrs, we learn that Andrew, the brother of Peter, did preach! He preached to the Scythians, Sogdians, Sacae (where the Ethiopians now live). He was eventually martyred by Aegeas, the governor of Edessenes. From the account of Bernard and St. Cyprian, we now have the exact confession of Andrew’s testimony and execution.
Andrew resisted the wicked counsel of Aegeas. He boldly told him that to be a judge of men, he must first know the Judge which lives in heaven and then worship Him. He told him that in worshiping the One True God of Jesus Christ, he would then be able to revoke his mind from the false gods and blind idols that he followed. The proconsul was not happy with Andrew’s words. Andrew went on boldly telling the proconsul that the gods he honored were not gods, they were actually most cruel devils – enemies of mankind. And by worshiping them he offended God and to offend God meant that God would turn from him. And to be left without God was to be left alone to his evil deeds, which meant to be alone with the most wicked heart that had no end at the evil it could produce.
The proconsul commanded that Andrew stop teaching such things; and if not he would be “fastened to the cross with all speed.” Being constant in his faith, Andrew did not stop. He said, “He would not have preached the honor and glory of the cross, if he had feared the death of the cross.” Upon this statement, the proconsul sentenced him to his crucifixion.
What stands out to me the most in this story is how Andrew approached his death. Please bear with me in this story as what I am about to say to you is exactly how we need to embrace our persecutions (the crosses we bear in life)! Andrew’s response:
“Andrew, going toward the place where his cross was prepared did not change in countenance, did not lose his color, his blood did not shrink, he did not fail in his speech, his body did not faint, neither was his mind molested by fear and what ifs, his understanding did not fail him (as does most men in this circumstance), but out of the abundance of his love for His Savior, his words were kindled with sparks of glory, he said, ‘O cross, most welcome and long looked for! With a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee; being the scholar of Jesus who did hang on thee: because I have always been thy lover, and have coveted to embrace thee.’”
How many of us face our persecutions (small and large) with such fervent eagerness? When we do , we become like Andrew who triumphed and like those who will follow suit over the wiles of the devil just as Revelation 12 speaks,
“They triumphed over him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” In their waging with the devil, they kept God’s commands and held fast to their testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:10-11; 17).
Andrew loved the cross because he loved the blood of the Lamb which saved him from his sin, and this love gave him a fervent desire to share in the sufferings of His Lord. He was not afraid of the cross, because he was not a man who lived his life for this life on earth; he lived it for eternity. His focus was untainted by the gods of this world; he knew their falsehoods and pointless end. For Andrew, to embrace death on the cross for His Lord was to love Christ even more.
May we follow Andrew’s lead and not fear the devil. Triumph is yours, my friends! Triumph is our destiny even if it comes by way of persecutions. It still comes! And we will stand dressed in white robes holding the palm branch of victory! Oh may the words on our lips drip with “At the cross You beckon me…” (Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle)