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James took the kids out and left me alone pacing the floor. Immediately evil, impish faces appeared in the room and in my dresser mirror. Their mouths curled up in taunting smirks, and their voices mocked me in my thoughts.

I wanted to scream or run, but my limbs felt paralyzed. The images ambushed me on every turn, and their heckling grew louder.

"Please God, help me," I prayed. "Make these things go away. I will do whatever you say."

Then I wept as I confessed, "I do have an unteachable spirit."

When I opened my eyes, the terrifying images were gone. I walked to the mirror and saw only my reflection. A peaceful smile came over my face as I realized my headache was gone too.

An unteachable spirit partners with pride to keep from being exposed. Only humility can uncover them both.

2. Resist the devil (see James 4:7). Some Christians get trapped in sin and live defeated lives because they don't think the devil attacks them. They believe, as I did, that their distorted thoughts are their own.

They don't realize that "we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits of the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12, NLT).

The truth is, the enemy does attack us. He targets our minds and feeds us subtle lies that often keep us in bondage.

We can resist him, however, by believing God's Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to equip us in spiritual armor—the only kind that will allow us to stand against the devil's schemes (Eph. 5:13-18).

3. Wash your hands and purify your heart (see James 4:8). Amazingly, when we confess our sins to Jesus, He replaces our desire to sin with a desire for His purity. The Bible says the Holy Spirit within us "jealously longs for us to be faithful." When we come to Him with contrite hearts, He gives us the strength to make pure choices and "stand against such evil desires" (vv. 5-6).

4. Feel sorrow and deep grief for your sins (see James 4:9). As a young woman, I had the idea that God would "get me" if I didn't live a pure and obedient life. So I worked hard at being good. I honestly think that if I hadn't learned about saving grace in Ephesians 2:8-9 and known people who had intimate relationships with Jesus, I might have missed salvation through Christ.

But Isaiah 64:6 says, "We are infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are as filthy rags."

When the Holy Spirit showed me my sin and how it had opened my life to strongholds, my heart was broken. I grieved and repented before the Lord, realizing I had been trusting in my own goodness, not His grace.

5. Submit to the Lord's plan (see James 4:10). When James initiated our African mission work, I battled a different fear. In the unknown of foreign places, I would be far from my physical comfort zone. Our very lives could be threatened.

What a blessing I would have missed if I hadn't submitted my future to the Lord! Feeding starving children, drilling wells and building orphanages throughout the world has become a ministry passion. I have been surprised by how much I love being in the middle of it all.

6. Allow God alone to lift you up (see James 4:10). The Bible is clear: If we humble ourselves under God's mighty hand, He will lift us up in His own timing.

After James' deliverance was made public, our ministry lost half its financial support. Friends slandered and rejected us. But we forgave—without compromising the message of freedom God had given us.

As it turned out, the opposition only served to open up greater opportunities for outreach. The support we lost was not only replaced, it was greatly increased. God did indeed lift us up!

Wave the White Flag

Everyone struggles with something. My battle was with deception, fear and pride. Your battle may be with something else.

The good news is we can wave the white flag of surrender—not to the schemes of the enemy, but to God. As James and I learned, it's only by surrendering ourselves to God—by humbling ourselves before Him, repenting of our sin and trusting in His love and grace alone—that we find the path to freedom in our lives.

Read a companion devotional.

Betty Robison is the author of Free to Be Me, published by Tyndale House Publishers, from which this article is adapted. Betty helps lead Life Today international with her husband, James.

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