Sometimes, the things I find most interesting about the Bible, are the little ideas hidden behind the big ideas. The curious little tips on life that will occasionally stand so close to a big story that you don’t see them unless you really look hard.
I found one of those the other day in Luke 4. This chapter is primarily known as the chapter in which Satan tempts Christ. Fresh off of his 40 day fast, Christ stands in the desert and is tempted three times.
There have been roughly 1 billion sermons about those temptations, but the thing that interests me most is the verse that kind of concludes the whole episode. Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing is dramatic, but in this particular case, I find the punctuation sentence on the story really fascinating. Here is what verse 13 says:
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
The phrase I want to focus on in that verse is “until an opportune time.” I think that says a lot about how the enemy works. He is not foolish. He is cunning, he is smart and deceptive. And he is far more patient than I think we ever give him credit for. He will wait a decade if that’s what it takes.
There’s a little trick in addiction therapy called “HALT.” It’s a word designed to capture the most tempting and dangerous situations for an addict. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. The idea is that when you feel that way, you are vulnerable. You have been captured by an opportune time.
But recently when talking with a friend I realized this phrase was incomplete for me. I don’t feel tempted when I am hungry. Instead I feel tempted when I am happy. That’s dumb maybe, but for me, when things are going really well I start to feel like I “deserve a break.” I decide to celebrate my good fortune, not by thanking God, but by indulging in temptation. I relax my boundaries. So instead of HALT, my friend and I decided to use TALC, with the C standing for Celebratory, because that’s when danger finds us most often.
Maybe that’s silly. Maybe you never let go of your standards when you find yourself holding the winning ticket to some sort of happiness. You’re probably right, but what’s not silly is taking a few minutes to dissect and study what your “opportune times” are. When are you vulnerable? When is the devil waiting to come back to you? What can you do today to make sure that when tomorrow finds you in the middle of an opportune time you’ll be ready?
The nice thing about the enemy is that he tends to use the same things over and over and over. And if we don’t take the time to understand what our stuff is, what our opportune times are, we just welcome them back into our lives.
So there it is, what is your HALT? What is your own personal TALC?
What is your opportune time look like?