Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Remember who your enemy is

I’m always shocked when a good deed turns sour. Have you ever seen that happen? Have you ever watched something that started out good become so twisted and backward that it turned into a weapon? Before your eyes, an idea that was meant to help people became a tool to tear people apart. A pure, simple request can into a major issue that has people at each others’ throats.

Do things like that just happen? I don’t think so. It takes craftiness and skill to turn a pure, innocent idea into a raging tool of destruction. And if we as Christ-followers don’t keep our eyes open, we’ll be tempted to think that craftiness and skill comes from the people around us rather than its true source—our enemy.

Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 6:12.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I posted recently about how predictable Satan is, but I didn’t really talk about how sneaky he is. And personally I think he takes great pride in how he can take someone’s good deed or someone’s good intention and twist them into something hurtful.

Maybe you’ve never seen him do it. It’s masterful. Completely evil but totally masterful. Say you want to buy flowers for a loved one. You have the best intentions in mind. You want to show that person how much you care. Well, when you get to the florist, their delivery people have a bad day and don’t drop the flowers off when they’re supposed to. So the person who was going to get the flowers late in the afternoon on a Monday gets them early instead, when he/she is in a meeting. And it interrupts them and breaks their concentration, and their whole day ends up spiraling out of control, and they’re angry about it when they were supposed to be happy. And that makes you angry because you spent your time try to do something nice for them, and it didn’t work.

That’s a pitiful example, but you get the idea. You can start with the best of intentions, but Satan can twist circumstances and (if they’re not paying attention) people’s perspectives to turn the kindest deed into a personal attack. When that happens, you have two options. You either go with your gut or you do what you know is right. Believe it or not, those two don’t always go hand in hand.

When somebody hurts your feelings, what do you do? When someone treats you like you’re stupid, how do you respond? When you feel like the person talking to you is talking down to you, what do you say in return? My reactions vary from sharp words to full-on tears, depending on who I’m dealing with. If it’s somebody who already intimidates me, you can bet I’ll be crying if they raise their voice at me. It’s embarrassing, but it’s true. If it’s someone I view as a peer or a friend, sharp words are likely, as much as I hate to admit it.

I don’t like being talked down to. I don’t like being treated like an idiot. And I really don’t like being interrupted when I’m trying to explain something. Maybe that’s pride. I don’t know. But it’s like pulling teeth to get me to back off and react with humility when someone is talking over me. But here’s the evil genius of the entire scheme: Most of the time the person talking down to you is only reacting to your tone. Or they’re just reacting to the tone of the person they talked to before you.

How many conflicts could have been ended before they even began if we just remembered that most people don’t want to fight? I mean, who really loves confrontation anyway? Yes, there are some difficult people out there, but generally speaking, people don’t want to fight with each other. They want to get things done. And getting bogged down in misunderstandings is a waste of time. Satan knows that. Why else does he keep turning us against each other the way he does?

He knows how it divides people and hurts people, and he loves to turn us against each other, especially if the people fighting are Christ-followers. Because the more he can drive us apart, the less effective we will be in accomplishing God’s purposes.

So the next time you find yourself embroiled in any kind of conflict, take a moment to just breathe and remind yourself that the person you’re talking to isn’t your real enemy. They’re doing the best they can in the situation, and maybe they started at you with sharp words, but sharp words in return aren’t going to help calm anyone down. Somebody has to back off. Maybe it should be you.

Satan wants us to fight each other, but it’s our choice whether to go with it or ignore him. Trust me. We’d all be better off if we ignored him. So stow the sharp words. Get your perspective back where it belongs, and remember who your enemy is.

Roaring lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

The danger of a predictable enemy

I love big cats, and even though I would probably say tigers are my favorite, lions just seem majestic. But if you think about it, lions aren’t really strategists. Cats aren’t strategists in general, I don’t think. They’re really pretty straightforward. If they want to attack something (or someone), they usually just wait for the right moment, launch themselves at it, and maul it. Then, sometimes they eat it. Other times they drag it up to your porch step to share.

Big cats like lions make a lot of noise. They sound ferocious. And if they ever get a hold of you, they can do some serious damage. I’m not a student of cat science or animal science, so maybe I shouldn’t be saying this because I don’t know for sure. But my observations show that cats are somewhat predictable, big or small. If it’s something they don’t have to work too hard at, they’ll try to achieve it, but they’re far too full of themselves to try it for long if they can’t succeed.

So all the zebras in Africa really need to know is how to keep running because lions only have one attack–charge in swinging. If they can evade long enough, the lion will tire out and give up. But most of the time, the zebra’s stamina gives out before the lion’s does.

Roaring lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Roaring lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Peter 5:8.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

I had a particularly difficult day on Wednesday. Just a number of different circumstances all piled up on top of me and conspired to sour my mood about a lot of different topics. And before I knew it, I was on the verge of shutting down completely and just going home and going to bed.

But I couldn’t. I had responsibilities at Judgement House, my church’s outreach. I had to be there to do my part. And that’s when I remembered that everything in my day had probably blown up and gone crazy for one reason: distraction.

I don’t want to be one of those people who blames every scary shadow on Satan, but I also don’t want to be oblivious to the plain and simple truth that we have an enemy. I’m not sure we as Christ-followers really get that half the time. It’s so easy to buy into culture’s idea of Satan–a goofy character in a red suit with a pitchfork. And who takes a character like that seriously?

Satan is out there, and he hates us. The Bible says in a number of places that he is out among us, looking for people to hurt, looking for opportunities to pull us away from God and to harry us until we make bad choices that will remove us from God’s umbrella of blessings.

Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t give you the right to give up. Just because you’re having a rough time at the moment doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will be rough. Just because two hours out of your day were awful doesn’t mean that you need to see the rest of your day through the same lens. But Satan wants to make you think that way. He wants nothing more than to ruin our perspectives on God and on what God wants for our lives.

And it’s the same tactics he has used against us from the beginning of time. He wants to make us doubt God. He wants us to go after our own desires, our own plans, our own wants and forget about what God is doing.

Satan is nothing if not predictable.

So how does that explain why I keep falling for his underhanded, dirty tricks over and over again? Well, the way I look at it is that he wears me down, and I let down my guard. And once I’ve stopped expecting him, he’s free to walk in whenever he wants. That’s the danger with a predictable enemy; they can only breach your defenses if you let down your guard.

I nearly let him in yesterday. I nearly opened my ears to him and let him carry me away on the waves of overwhelming insecurity and feelings of uselessness. All lies, I know, but they’re so easy to fall for. I just had to remember that the only way I could fall for them is if I let myself. That choice is up to me, whether to let my guard down or shore up my defenses so I can keep on fighting.

The Holy Spirit lives inside me. God has offered me His strength, and Satan can’t stand against Him. So when I stopped focusing on my failures and my weaknesses and started focusing on how awesome God is, Satan and his stupid lies faded into the background.

So remember, if you’re a Christ-follower, you have an enemy out there. It’s not your mean boss or your unfriendly coworkers or your next door neighbor. We don’t fight against people. Satan is our enemy, and he will do anything to trip us up. But the only way we’ll fall for his tricks is if we allow him into our lives to begin with.