I published this in my second book, Lessons Along the Journey
Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. – The Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
I know why they’re called fire ants. I’ve been stung more than a few times, and I can tell you it feels like . . . well, like fire. The first time it happened, I thought someone had jabbed a match into my foot.
Fire ants are not native to Texas where I first encountered them. They’re from South America. No one knows how they got to the Lone Star State – or how to get rid of them, but their nests are easy enough to spot. Although the critters build underground, their telltale mounds at the surface can be as large as four feet around. That’s a lot of ants waiting for some careless person to get too close.
One day, curiosity got the better of my judgment. I poked a stick into a mound, stirred it up, and watched a bazillion frenzied ants scatter in all directions, back and forth into their nest, over and around in circles.
Mesmerized, I studied them.
That was a big mistake. Before I realized what some of them were doing, they had raced up the stick. In moments, my fingers and palm felt like they were on fire. The welts lasted for days.
That taught me to stay clear of fire ant mounds, but that experience also taught me a valuable spiritual lesson.
The devil is not native to our planet. Some Bible scholars interpret Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as describing Satan’s original habitation in heaven. When the devil rebelled, God cast him and other mutinous angels to earth (see also Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:9).
Although Satan works “underground,” in the invisible realm of the spirit, his telltale signs are easy enough to spot. The dirt he brings to the surface – despair, disease, hopelessness, and death – is everywhere. And he waits patiently for some careless person to wander near, to stir the soil, test the limits, so he can move in for the kill.
I assure you, his assault is not pleasant
As a young Christian, I tested those limits and played the dangerous game of seeing how close I could get to temptation without being hurt. I stirred up old rebellions from the days before my conversion to Christ. A drug experience here, a small lie there, a flirtation with sexual immorality . . . .
I thought I could get close to the fire and not be burned. Oh! How wrong I was. No one can stir Satan’s mounds without getting stung, and unlike fire ant welts, the devil’s wounds can last a lifetime. That is why I give wide berth to conversations and entertainment that might seduce me into believing it’s safe enough to play with fire. That is why I avoid associations and situations that can lull me into rationalizing why it’s okay to play near his mound. My spiritual wounds and scars are ever present reminders to me that the devil is much more dangerous than the fire ant.
And he is not a creature to trifle with.
The devil’s snare does not catch you unless you are first caught by the devil’s bait.
– St. Ambrose