The Devil Made Me Do It

I remember as a kid watching a comedian named Flip Wilson talking about the devil. in one of his signature comedy bits he would take on the persona of a minister confronting a woman who would always blame the devil whenever she gave into temptation.  Her common refrain was “the devil made me do it.”  When the preacher challenges this flimsy excuse for misbehavior, she just shrugs it off.  She even goes so far as to suggest how the preacher has himself benefited from the devil’s influence.  “If it wasn’t for the devil,” she notes, “you wouldn’t even have a job!”

I never thought of it that way, exactly, but maybe the lady has a point.

Ministry, indeed the Christian walk, is often about trying – with God’s help- to fight evil, overcome temptation, take the higher ground, and not give in to the tendency to blame our failures to do so on some overpowering force.

This week I will be exploring this theme while preaching about Joseph.

His life reminds me in a powerful way that temptation always provides us with a choice.  It is the choice to give into one or more of those “seven deadly sins” we have all heard about – and with which we have all struggled – or to live out our lives exhibiting their corresponding seven virtues.

“The Seven Contrary Virtues which are specific opposites to the Seven Deadly Sins: Humility again  pride, Kindness against envy, Abstinence against gluttony, Chastity against lust, Patience against anger, Liberality against greed, and Diligence against sloth.”

How’s your spiritual score card looking these days?

Are you, by God’s grace, living a life marked by humility, kindness, chastity, patience, liberality, and diligence?

When I think of those shining virtues I can easily think of persons who are living lives that are anything but examples of those characteristics at work.

But, I can also – thankfully – think of persons whom I am blessed to know – who live out those virtues daily.  They are an inspiration to me, and they give me hope.

We can go through life blaming the devil for everything.  Or we can go through life being instruments of grace, of virtue, and of hope.

Which would you rather do?

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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