Timeless and True
We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that our times are so different from those in the past. In some ways, this is true. But not in the ways of the Christian war on sin. The standard of righteousness, the temptations of men, the truth and power to resist are unchangeable. These things will be as they are until sin is done away with. One puritan prayer reminds of this fact. Though it was written long ago, his prayer is echoed even today.
“Ten thousand snares are mine without and within, defend thou me;
When sloth and indolence seize me, give me views of heaven;
When sinners entice me, give me disrelish of their ways;
When sensual pleasures tempt me, purify and refine me;
When I desire worldly possessions, help me to be rich toward thee;
When the vanities of the world ensnare me, let me not plunge into new guilt and ruin.
May I remember the dignity of my spiritual release, never be too busy to attend to my soul, never to be so engrossed with time that I neglect the things of eternity; thus may I not only live, but grow towards thee.”
Must I explain? Must I state the obvious? For those who are unsure, I’ll relate these prayers to modern terms and examples. But I’ll do so with brevity though I may be specific since I know these too much. My hope is that my specifics do not exclude others from their own knowledge of such things. Rather, that the principle and modern relation helps their memories.
To begin, “Ten thousand snares are mine without and within.” The temptations we struggle so much to win are numerous and they come from within our hearts and flesh as well as from without. That is to say that they also come from the hearts and flesh of others and the imagination of our enemy. Temptations are snares. They are traps to bind us and beg of the Lord his wrath. They are numerous. They are from within us. They are all around us. They are strongly evil. For this reason, the Christian prays, “defend thou me.”
The Snare of Sloth and Indolence
One of these snares is that of slothfulness and indolence. To say it in the terms of today, it is being lazy. It is to avoid exertion. To many of us, it is evident when we arrive home from work. Our children long for us. Their mother have exerted herself to no extent and requires a strong, leading husband to deliver her from the work of child-rearing. Yet, in our own exhaustion, we express our tire and then retire the best way we know how. We chose sloth and indolence over steadfastness and perseverance when it is needed most. To this snare, the Christian asks for “views of heaven.” This is because eternity helps us endure our own weaknesses – even those that are physical.
The Snare of Enticement
Another snare is that of enticement. “When sinners entice me,” the Christian says. There really is no example needed here. We were once sinners who did as our evil heart desired. We defied our authority. We cheated. We lied. We hid ourselves in order to be more sinful. And while we did so, we enticed and begged others to come along. This snare comes in many ways. One way you will likely find on your drive home or during your short time of television. To this, the Christian prays, “Give me disrelish of their ways.” The word disrelish is a feeling of dislike or distaste. He is praying that God would change his desires for these things. Rather than being enticed by them, he is grieved and angered by them. As our children gag and spit out the food that they dislike, the Christian would be good to gag and spit out the sin that entices.
The Snare of Sensual Pleasures
To be take the prior snare more deeply, the Christian adds another snare saying, “when sensual pleasures tempt me.” If you are pondering this from work or a coffee stop, you will likely experience this on you way home or to your destination. The sensual pleasures that the Christian relates exist today on our street signs. They billboards geared to capture the eye of men and young boys. The same exists on the internet and television. To this, the Christian prays that the Lord will “purify and refine me.”
The Snare of Worldly Possessions
Progressively these snares continue. “When I desire worldly possessions.” Sensual pleasures are the longing for what is not ours – namely, the body of another. This is the common condition of the world. But it does not end here. While we might be good at fighting our sensualities, we might lose gravely to the lesser (at least in our American minds), the possessions of the world. Should we ask ourselves, “What is it on that we spend our money?” Is our home full of stuff that make us feel refreshed and new? Or is our home full of content since we have all that we need in Jesus? Do we spend ourselves on one thing and then long to be spent again on something else? Is there no end to our earthly longings? Must we have everything that we like? Rather, our heart should be as the Christian prays, “rich toward thee.” If we spent half our time exerting ourselves to building up ourselves in God’s word as we do in exerting for perishable things, we would do well.
The Snare of Vanities
Again, progressively we move to the snare of “vanities of the world.” This is to be high and lifted up among men. It is to be handsome and pretty. It is to have the finest things and wear the finest clothing while driving the finest cars. It is, at the base, to be noticed or long to be noticed. It is the pride of life. It is the approval of men. It is living for the sake of things that will end and decay and have no real lasting presence. Such snares will do to us as the Christian says, “plunge into new guilt and ruin.”
Fighting the Snares
A keen way to fight these snares is mentioned in this last verse. The Christian prays, “May I remember the dignity of my spiritual release, never be too busy to attend to my soul, never to be so engrossed with time that I neglect the things of eternity; thus may I not only live, but grow towards thee.”
The truth here is subtle yet powerful. The falling into the above snares is a sure sign that we have forgotten the dignity of our spiritual release. This is a clever way to say that we have not been mindful of the value of salvation. We have lost our honor for what Christ has done on our behalf. For salvation is the greatest gift that man can have. It is above all the most dignified, valued treasure. It is to have Jesus eternally who is the greatest good. If we have salvation we have Christ. If we have Christ we have the one who satisfies our soul. Therefore, when we fall into sin, we show dissatisfaction toward our salvation and toward our Lord.
Therefore, we should pray that we never be too busy to attend to our souls. Such attending will arouse our passions for eternity by seeing and savoring the goodness of Jesus and salvation that he has given us. Let us not neglect the things of eternity and be engrossed in this limited time pursuing things that ensnare us. Let us grow towards thee.