I recently saw a headline that Russia was torching Ukraine's grain fields. Heartbreak aside, I was reminded of the age-old warfare practice of attacking vital, strategic resources and assets like food supply, highways, bridges, ports, and military bases. Think Pearl Harbor or less hauntingly, the recent Top Gun sequel in which ace fighter pilot Maverick, boldly bombards the enemy's dangerous air fleet, effectively neutralizing a global threat (great movie, BTW). Our enemy--the devil--does precisely the same thing in an effort to derail us from our own strategic mission and just plain make us miserable. Knowing his methods and our own "vital assets," can help us more effectively combat the very real enemy who seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy.
First Things First: Suspending Skepticism
When I first became a Christian twenty-two years ago, the idea of a devil seemed positively absurd. Messed up people, crazy people, bad people, yes, but not some pointy-tailed meanie. Yet the Bible is perfectly clear that there's an actual devil, along with demons, forces for evil hell-bent on tormenting us and taking us out. If the Bible isn't authoritative enough for you, a few minutes scrolling headlines will convince you that evil is alive and kicking. Maybe more than ever, like a foe who has nothing left to lose as the battle comes to a decisive end.
Naturally, any enemy is more effective if he's unknown and hidden. So, the first thing I'm asking you to do is to concede that there's some cunning, baffling, and powerful force in the world, working against us. As I've already said, his aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. If he can't actually destroy us, he'll settle for making us miserable.
For those of you who need more convincing, Google "what the Bible says about satan" or read renowned Christian Oxford and Cambridge University theologian, scholar, and former atheist C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters for a glimpse of the weasel's methods. Or...you can just read on.
I participate in a one-hour women's prayer group Friday mornings. Each week, we take turns preparing a reflection or prayerful activity to share. At last week's meeting, the leader--new to our group--confessed that she'd really struggled with the task. Not so much with selecting a devotional but with relentless insecurity:
What will people think of this topic?
Will anyone show up?
What will they think of me?
How about the book and author?
Will I get flustered as I speak?
Will it be helpful?
Can anyone relate? Bahaha! Of course! Who hasn't felt that way? Now, I have to applaud my sister for sharing so vulnerably right out of the gate. That's so key to disarming the distressing throughts. Now get this: The devotional prayer was based on Craig Groeschel's Winning the War in Your Mind! The hour that followed was bonding, illuminating, comforting, and practically helpful for all of us.
I'll bet the weasel would have liked to steal, kill, and destroy all that. He didn't succeed, but he did succeed in stealing my sweet sister's peace for a spell.
Like any effective adversary, the enemy most aggressively attacks our greatest strengths or when we pose a real threat. Thus, when and where we feel attacked, oppressed, disheartened, hindered, or otherwise troubled, it can serve as a revealing clue as to our greatest strengths or God-given calling.
Here's another perfect illustration, so aptly timed, like my Heavenly Daddy rolls! This was my entry in yesterday's Mornings with Jesus. I'll let you read it.
Now anybody who knows me would seriously doubt I had paralyzing fear of anything, much less talking or being in the spotlight, but it was once achingly true. Ironically (not), I'm probably most gifted at speaking and writing. If I look further, I also know some other areas in which I find myself relentlessly attacked have been areas of my greatest strength. Maybe the same is true of you. Reflect on the issues that really bug you and see if the principle holds.
The Samson Principle
The Biblical figure Samson's might resided in his uncut hair. When double-crossing Delilah conned him into telling her the source of his strength, her servant cut Samson's hair, rendering him impotent and vulnerable to further attack. By grace and begging, Samson's strength was briefly restored, enabling him to defeat his enemy even as Samson died.
Your greatest strength may be your greatest vulnerability. For instance, if you have the gift of healing, you can find yourself getting sick or those closest to you can struggle with illness. If you're gifted at helping others, you may be prey to interpersonal strife or unusual misunderstandings. If you're a gifted communicator, you can run into communication problems including technical issues, issues with your voice, or even crippling stage fright, like I once had.
All of this can be rather paralyzing, causing us to doubt our calling, doubt ourselves, or doubt God. That triple threat can effectively paralyze us from doing what God calls us to do.
So, if there's an all-out war on the very asset God wants to use for such a time as this, whatever can you do? Are we doomed to do battle until we die?
In my own experience, the answer is no…with a qualifier: Christ in us is greater than the enemy, and there are some practical steps we can take to combat the fiery darts the loser shoots our way. I've gained victory over some battles by repeatedly employing one or more of the following countermeasures and found I stopped being tormented. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed grace to endure when the battle wears on.
And just like in a real Top Gun dog fight, if we persevere, the enemy will eventually tire of bugging us, feel the heat himself, and will bail. So here are 7 ways to dodge those fiery arrows.
7 Ways to Dodge Devilish Bullets
Don battle gear. The Bible offers a tidy checklist of defensive armor: Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God (best declared out loud), and prayer and supplication, which is begging. Sometimes that seems altogether overwhelming, and I can't think straight enough to employ anyone one of those tools. Regardless, ever important is...
Don't go it alone. The mind is certainly one of the biggest battlefields and not a safe place to go alone. The Bible says the enemy prowls around like a lion looking for supper. Lions look for lonely prey, isolated from the pack. In fact, our thinking can be the very thing that isolates us from others, just like the woman in my prayer group (see Ephesians 6:12). I can testify, too. Sometimes, simply calling someone when I'm having a wonky thought is enough to diffuse it. We identify, they challenge me, or simply the act of sharing it makes it obvious how flawed my thinking is.
Resist! James says if we resist the devil by submitting to God, he'll eventually flee from us. No fun tormenting someone who cannot be shaken. That's a fine segue to...
Flee temptation. If we're knowingly living outside God's will by sinning, we're more vulnerable to danger, like a boat that wanders outside the shipping channel. Even a wee sin is a slippery slope that can lead to disaster. It's like cooperating with your assailant. Don't give the enemy a foothold by giving in.
Know he's a loser. While it's important to be sober and alert, the fact is, the enemy can't do anything without our permission. He's already defeated.
Mind your mind. The Bible has a lot to say about minding our minds. Taking thoughts captive to Christ and focusing on positive and encouraging things. Personally, I can almost chart my growing dis-ease by what I'm feeding my head and conversely, how my mood is lifted by positive, spiritually-nourishing food.
Depend on God. More than anything else, focusing on Christ, depending on Him wholeheartedly, is the best defense . Whether it's simply prayerfully visualizing Him or employing anyone of the tactics above, He is totally sufficient.
Blessings for victory in Christ,
PRAYER: Jesus, sometimes my life feels like a continuous battle. Help me remember that there would be no attack if I weren't a formidable threat. Help me see clearly my true power and gifting and enable me to employ strategic warfare to fulfill your calling on my life! In Christ’s name I ask it. Amen.
TAKEAWAY TOOL: Make a list of the areas in which you commonly feel attacked, oppressed, or discouraged and identify the correlation with your gifts or calling.
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