As I help a friend through a difficult situation I have caught a glimpse of how much people can give themselves over to evil. He is under constant attack and it’s costly. It is also character-forming.
Over time, I have also seen the contrast of what might be seen in a snap shot (what someone might want us to see of them) and their true character which is then revealed over time.
The bible says (Matt 7:15-20):
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
These verses tend to focus on those who would seek position in churches – people to watch out for. In the case of my friend it seems he is having to confront a “dragon in a dress“.
As I write I am conscious that many of you may think I am being unfair, but please trust me, there is a long list of people who have felt the flames of attack. My friend just receives it regularly.
It is a testing time. He suffers. His wider family also suffer. But during this time we have prayed and worked together to try to be and respond the way God would want. Which ultimately means to trust God, wait and see what He will do. It’s not easy and it is very tempting to respond another way.
1 Pet 5:18-19
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
So, how do you disarm a dragon? A beautiful magnificent creature that breathes fire and destruction.
In summary, the answer is faith as opposed to fear. The enemy is only as strong as the degree to which we give ourselves over to fear. And of course we need to be honest when we are doing precisely that – and bring it to God. Confess the fear and ask Him for help. This is not a momentary transformation. It is an ongoing battle. We need the shield of faith.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The only defense against the flaming arrows is the shield of faith. Faith in a trustworthy God, faith in His victory, faith in the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus, faith in our identity in Christ. To stand firm in the fact that I am a child of God. It is my identify bestowed upon me by the Lord Himself.
The enemy also only has as much authority as we give him. In Genesis 1:28,29 God gives man authority over the earth:
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
In Genesis 3:4-7 Satan steals that authority:
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Why do I say he stole our authority? See Matt 4:8-9:
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
I say it, because he claims it himself. He has as much authority and rule as we give him. He does it through temptation, sowing seeds of doubt and fear.
However, Jesus won that authority back (Matt 28:18-20):
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And with that authority he commissioned us to re-establish the rule of His Kingdom.
We literally have to choose which kingdom we live out of. This will determine how much power we choose to give the enemy. How much do we choose to believe the lies or fear the threats of the enemy as opposed to putting our trust and faith in God? How much do we allow a harmful action to define us – victim or victor.
Let God defend our character as opposed to trying to control and influence what others think about us. Our reputation is safe in His mouth.
We can learn something from a famous passage found in the sermon on the mount (Matt 5:38-42):
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Do not resist an evil person! Wow. That is a challenge, but it is also the key. Do not be drawn into reacting – it is slippery slope.
I say again this is why suffering so often refines our character. We have to recognise who we are choosing to be in any moment.
“Turning the other cheek” – when done, we are saying that the threat of physical harm does not have any power over me. I have the courage to face physical pain. Your violence against me does not define who I am. My response to your action defines who I am and I choose to be a child of God. Your action defines who you are. Now, who is the victor?
“If being sued for your tunic give them your cloak as well.” Your threats to rob me do not scare me. I place little value in these things and more value in trusting God for what I need and who I am as a result. Your actions define who you are. Now, who is the victor?
“Go the extra mile when someone forces you to do one.” Note that this is routed in something the Roman army could enforce on people. They could demand a local to act as a guide or a porter – for a set distance (1000 paces). Given this was an order from an oppressor this very act reinforced that you were the victim. Jesus once again encourages us to choose who we are. I choose to be kind and if you want help it is my choice to give it and I choose to help you more than you asked – it is my choice. I choose to bless – it is who I am. Who are you? Now, who is the victor?
Wise as serpents, innocent as doves (Matt 10:16).
Pouring hot coals (Prov 25:21-22).