Monday, February 1, 2016
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7(NLT)
My friend, Fawnie used to talk about “devil-itis” sometimes; once she explained to me what she meant.
Fawnie lived only a quarter mile from the church she attended all her life. As a young girl she took piano lessons and was told someday it would be her turn to play for the Lord in worship services. In those days, this country Methodist church was the center of community life and therefore, playing the piano for the congregation was a big responsibility.
One Sunday the inevitable happened, the preacher came to Fawnie in Sunday School, which was held in the little room just off the sanctuary, to tell her today’s the day! The regular piano player was sick, and in a little bit they would gather for worship.
Well, nerves being what they are in a pre-teen, as soon as Sunday School class was done, Fawnie exited the side door running, and didn’t stop until she’d found the safety of her room at home.
When asked later what possessed her to duck out like that, she simply replied: I guess it was just devilitis.
Fast forward a half-century and you find the postscript – or, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.
It was the first year after I became pastor at that little church. Sometimes (when we had a pianist) our Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer time began with a song. If we didn’t have a pianist, we would begin with prayer, and the standing joke was that the preacher would call on the last one to arrive.
One Wednesday night our regular pianist (my bride, Elizabeth) was under the weather, so I joked to the gathering group, the next one through the door will play our hymn so we can start.
Well – God’s humor being what it is…my words had hardly settled down when, on cue, Fawnie walked through the door. I had no clue she could play the piano, so I said it jokingly, expecting a quick, declining growl): Ahh…Fawnie’s the last one through the door; she’ll play Shall We Gather at the River. Let’s turn to #723 and sing.
Without batting an eye, or breaking stride, or melting under the spell of “devilitis”, Fawnie walked past the group to the piano behind me, sat down and began to play a hymn that had been longing to move through her fingers for over fifty years.
One of the truths about the Christian life that is my personal favorite about the grace of God is that it is more important how you finish than how you start!
Fawnie told me she regretted many times the failure she experienced as a child, intimidated at the thought of performing in front of all those people. Mostly we would explain it away, or dismiss it as stage-fright, or a simple case of shyness; after all, children will be children. But, perhaps Fawnie labelled it more correctly – devilitis – the pain brought by our adversary as he tempts, accuses and generally works on disrupting our lives so our service to God is diminished and sometimes disappears altogether.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, advised us to resist the devil and we would find the bully fleeing out the side door of the Sunday School room. That’s Godly advice; he can’t bring you devilitis when he’s running away.
Decide before you leave the house that this day’s temptations and trials will be resisted with all that is in you. God promises to join you in that fight; all Satan can do is flee – heels and elbows is all you’ll see.
 My good-natured friend has given me permission to share this story.