Nobody ever said Satan fights fair. And he doesn’t. When he sees us in our weakness, whether it be physically or emotionally, he will attack.
You see this in these passages. When Jesus and his disciples arrived at the Garden of Gethsamane, Jesus warned them,
Pray that you will not fall into temptation. (Luke 22:40)
The disciples had been through an emotional wringer. They were still trying to make sense of all that Jesus had said, words about his betrayal, words about their betrayal of him, and the thoughts of him being taken from them. And because of that, they were weakened, not just physically and emotionally (Luke 22:45), but spiritually. And so though Jesus asked them to stay with him and keep watch with him, they fell asleep. Not just once, not just twice, but three times. This despite all Jesus’ pleas and admonishments to keep watch and pray.
The result? When it came time to face Judas and all of Jesus’ enemies, they fled.
Jesus, on the other hand, faced even harsher realities. He was going to the cross, with all the sins of the earth upon him, and his Father’s face turned from him. We see only a glimpse of his prayers here, but consider that they went on for at least an hour for the first prayer, and he returned twice more to pray. He prayed so hard, that drops of blood started to fall from his brow (a condition called hematidrosis — Luke 22:44). Not only that, with his disciples sleeping, he had no emotional or spiritual support.
But in his weakness, God strengthened him, even sending an angel as support and comfort. (Luke 22:43)
Thus, when the time came for his arrest, he was calm, and fully prepared to face his final trials here on earth.
When I think about why Jesus could do this and his disciples could not, here’s the guess I would hazard. Jesus throughout his life watched and prayed. Every morning he did so (Mark 1:35), and we can guess that he often did this at night too (Matthew 14:23). So when the time came when he was weakest, he naturally responded the way he had trained himself.
His disciples, however, had not disciplined themselves that way, so in their weakness, they fell.
I remember reading about a famous football coach named Chuck Noll. As he was watching film of a game with his team, he pointed out an opposing player who repeatedly made errors late in the game. And he told his team (this is my paraphrase), “When he was practicing, he was probably lazy about working on his technique. He probably thought to himself, ‘Well, I don’t need to work so hard on this. I know what I need to do, and in the game, I’ll do it.’
“But when you’re tired and beat up late in the game, you don’t think, you react. And you react in the way that you trained yourself.”
The same is true in the spiritual world. If you tell yourself, “Well, when I’m in trouble, I know what to do. I’ll pray,” but never make a daily practice of that, when you’re tired and beat up spiritually, you’ll find yourself unable to do even that. And like the disciples, you’ll fall prey to your own weakness when your greatest hour of trial comes.
But if like Jesus you make a practice of seeking God, of watching and talking with him, when your hour of trial comes, you’ll find yourself able to do what you know you should. And you will stand.
How about you? Are you making a daily practice of watching and talking with God?
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (Mark 14:38)