Now that the holidays are over, I’m starting to get back to my usual routine, and one of those “usual” things is working on planning my church’s weekly youth group nights. For our first week back, the topic is evil. That includes sin, the devil, temptation etc. As I sit here thinking about what I’m going to talk about, all that I can think of is bacteria.
Looking at fossil history, we find that bacteria are among one of the oldest living creatures to ever roam this earth. They live all over the earth in all different situations. In some of the most “unlivable” places like volcanoes and sulfur pools… you can bet there are bacteria living there.
Part of why bacteria has been able to survive for all of these years and in all of those places is because it is highly adaptable. It is able to mutate and change very quickly. By very quickly, I mean after hundreds of generations just like any other creature in nature, but humans have (on average) about 20 years between generations, bacteria multiply every 20 minutes or so. In just 7 hours, a single bacterium can generate 2,097,152 bacteria, 21 generations. Think how many years/centuries it would take for humans to get to 21 generations!
So in a RELATIVELY short time span, bacteria can produce enough bacterial cells that there will start to be some mutations and changes. I mentioned that they have adapted to lots of very unwelcoming environments, but they have also done that when humans are the reason the environment is unwelcome.
In the last 100 years, human technology and medicine has increased exponentially. We know so much more than we used to. One of those innovations was antibiotics in order to fight bacterial disease. Scientists found a way to kill bad bacteria that was making its home in the human body. This was HUGE for medicine. So many people before this had been dying from simple bacterial infections.
One of the first antibiotics discovered was methicillin. It was an amazing discovery. But those pesky bacteria don’t die quietly. After just 10 years of using methicillin to fight disease, the bacteria began starting to adapt. They were becoming methicillin resistant. Due to this, scientists and doctors began using other penicillins to fight bacteria, but the more widespread the use of antibiotics became, the more the bacteria were exposed to it, the more opportunities for them to adapt. Because the bacteria have adapted faster than scientists have been able to come up with new medicine, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) has become a very big problem for hospitals. This mutated form of a simple and common bacteria has now become a problem that we don’t know how to combat consistently. Hopefully research will soon come up with an answer to this problem.
This relates back to my youth group topic for a number of reasons. First of all, the devil has been around since the beginning of time. He has been tempting humans since Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, he has staying power and he and his minions continue to prowl about the world.
Sometimes we may think that the devil lurks in the darkness, that he thrives and survives by sticking to the shadows like some sort of boogeyman. Although this is where he works best, the devil can lead us to temptation in any and every situation if we let him. Similar to the bacteria, he can live in places we would never expect.
He is very good at adaptation. As the world changes around us, so do his methods. We have to be constantly vigilant. We have to be ready to battle him with new and innovative ideas. In fighting bacteria, we’ve found a few different antibiotics, but the bacteria are constantly changing and we are slow to adapt with them. When we interact with the devil and his ways, we may fight him in one way, removing ourselves from a tempting environment or situation, but we have to know that he will try to get us in our new place too.
This can seem exhausting and like he will always be adapting faster than we can. It can seem pointless to try to fight him when he has been around since the beginning of time. But we have something greater on our side. We have God. On our own, we will never be strong enough to beat this timeless adaptive enemy, but “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
The key to overcoming this tiring battle is to not do it alone. We must start in prayer, asking for insight into ourselves. God can help us to see our weaknesses, places where we fail often. Once we know those places of weakness, once we better understand ourselves, we can invite God into those places. Invite Him to specifically help you with the things that you struggle most. Then we must be open to whatever He says. Maybe the reason we struggle with certain types of sin is because it would be difficult to change our ways. So once God calls us to those changes, we must be willing to make them even if they are painful or challenging.
The final step in the battle against sin might be the hardest. Once we begin to make changes and we know our weaknesses, we may mess up. We may fall back into sin. When this happens, we cannot get discouraged and give up. We must admit that we have made a mistake and keep fighting. We must continue to battle because we have the knowledge of God’s love and mercy. No matter how many times we fall short, God will always take us back. He will continue to fight for us. “Praise the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1) If we remember this, then the devil doesn’t stand a chance.
This cold and flu season has been a beast. It seems that everyone is getting sick. It seems that no matter what precautions we take, we keep getting sick. It feels like the bacteria is winning. Though it feels this way with physical illnesses, we must not lose hope in the spiritual battle. Bring God into your struggles and your weaknesses, and these sins and temptations are one adversary that we can definitely defeat. We must always remain vigilant with our ally by our side.