“In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” – Ephesians 4:26-27
The phrase “do not give the devil a foothold” is fairly common in Christian circles and for good reason. It is a powerful image that contains important truth for our lives.
A foothold is a small beginning. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a position usable as a base for further advance”. The first objective of an invading army is to gain a secure foothold from which they can continue their advance. The most effective way to defeat an invasion is before they have gained a foothold. No country would purposefully allow the enemy to gain a foothold and then hope to contain them there.
Yet that is often what we try to do with sin or lies from the enemy. We allow or tolerate what we think is a small presence in our lives under the false idea that it will remain “small”. That is never the desire of the enemy or our natural bent towards sin. No sin or lie is merely an end in and of itself. It is always the beginning of an attempted invasion of our heart and mind. The enemy wants us to think that we can put up with what we think is a “small amount”, but that “little” sin is always seeking a foothold so that it can gain a launching point for more control. If we find ourselves deep in sin or succumbing to it in a way that we finally notice, we can often look back and see where it began when we didn’t think it was a “big deal”.
Before a foothold
The most effective way to deal with sin is when it is still just a temptation. Before we give it any ground in our mind or heart we should strike it down with the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and flee from it (2 Timothy 2:22). Know that your victory over temptation is secured in the Lord.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
After a foothold
Do not lose heart if you feel that sin or the lies of the enemy have taken a foothold in your life or even set up strongholds. Our God, the Word, and the Holy Spirit inside of us are far stronger than the enemy. God will demolish those strongholds and lies.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Allow your mind to be renewed by the power and truth of the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2). Know that Jesus is both the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and that we can be confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
God will give us victory against sin in this life and then total victory and complete absence from the presence of sin in the next.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:51-56