Warpath

Posted: March 18, 2008 in Announcements, Church, Crosspoint, Family, Happenings, Health, Perspective, Worship

Bob is tired.  Really tired.  The passion that once used to fill him with purpose and energy has begun to weaken, as if it was a flame fighting against a strong wind.  He just might quit.  His service – his ministry – to God now seems routine.  He still shows up every week, and he tries to smile and laugh with others who serve at church with him.  But deep inside, he wonders each week if it will be his last.  The stress – the work that seems so devoid of joy at times – has finally gotten to him.  The tension of working with others, whom he imagines are just as stressed as he is, seems ludicrous to him in the body of Christ.  Besides, he wonders, is the small role he plays actually doing any good for anyone, anyway?

Samantha always appears happy.  She is usually the first person to say “hello” to you on Sunday morning.  She works tirelessly.  She encourages others.  She drops everything to help someone in need.  What no one knows, however, is how truly miserable she really is.  She hates her Monday through Friday job.  The stress of everyday life is impacting her relationship with her kids and with her husband.  Sunday is her only refuge, but even that barely carries her through the week with any hope anymore.  But striving to be an example of Christian love to others, she smiles anyway.  But she wonders, how long can she keep up the act?

Warren is open about his struggles.  He always has been.  He freely – yet humbly – shares his testimony about his previous addiction to alcohol and how Jesus changed his life.  He is stunned that others find inspiration in his story, when he views his own life as one of near-failure.  Still, he thanks God every day for turning his life around and getting  a second – even a third – chance.  However, he is scared to death that his addiction will return and once again defeat him.  After years of fighting such a powerful internal demon, he feels he’s getting tired of facing the same struggle day after day.  So he pours more and more time into serving, into Bible study, into prayer, and into community events.  But he finds the time spent in these activities to be far less fulfilling than it used to be.  Eventually, his struggle worries him to the point that it nearly consumes him, and he can think about nothing else.

Todd is ticked off at Gary, but he has not told him about how he feels.  He figures Gary will figure it out when he doesn’t show up Sunday morning to serve.  That will certainly teach Gary that losing his temper and snapping at his fellow servant (i.e., his “brother” in Christ) week after week has its consequences.  Todd knows this may be a bit extreme – and even feels a bit guilty about just walking away- but he simply cannot put up with the tension created by Gary’s short temper any longer.

John sits on the third row every week.  He hangs on the preacher’s every word.  He has his doubts, but desperately needs hope.  After all, the biopsy came back:  Tumor is malignant.  He is terrified of what the future may hold for him.  He prays, “Please, God…please…”  But his fears do not go away.

Susan tries very hard, but she never feels up to the task.  In fact, “Not quite good enough” could be the motto for her whole life.  She’s made so many mistakes over the years, she wonders if anyone can respect her.  Though everyone tells her she is gifted, she thinks they are just being nice.  If they only knew the truth about me, she thinks, and a shudder of fear runs through her body that only solidifies her self-doubt.  She keeps most of her “maybe-friends” at arm’s length.  No one gets too close.  If they do, they might see her for who she really is – know the things she has done – and then they’ll turn on her.  They always do.  And then the pain comes.  It’s just easier for her to keep them all at a distance.  No intimacy is better than pain.

Randall is not happy.  Last week, the preacher made him angry when he made that joke about bald people.  Sure, the preacher was actually making fun of his own baldness.  Sure, he was using his baldness as a metaphor to address his own shortcomings.  But that is no excuse for making such an inappropriate comment from the pulpit.  Though people laughed, he did not.  He plans to send the preacher an e-mail.  While he’s at it, he might just send a critical e-mail to the worship leader about how terrible the music sounded last week.  How people could worship to that sound (which they incomprehensibly did) he will never know.

————————————– 

These people – the characters in these stories – are all fictional.  But these stories could be real in any church (and probably are).  Let me put it this way:  They may be fictional, but they are also true – meaning that the types of struggles, self-absorption, and personal conflicts illustrated in these stories happen every day in communities of “Christ followers.”

I believe that stories like these exist because our Enemy (Satan) is a master of his craft.  He knows how to get into our relationships and tear them apart, one small piece – an argument, a disagreement, a personality difference, a misunderstanding, etc. – at at time.  He knows how to get into our minds and tear us down – to tire us out, to blind us so we fail to see the purpose in our efforts, to steal our joy, to remind us of our mistakes and our shortcomings.  He knows how to invade our egos and subtly shift our focus off of God and onto us, shaping us into critics instead of encouragers, into gossipers instead of healers, and into self-focused egotists instead of self-sacrificing servants.  He knows how to discourage us.  He knows how to tempt us.  He knows how to take something good (god-honoring) and make it bad (self-serving).  He knows when to attack:  To destroy good times and worsen the bad times.

He knows exactly when, where, and how to attack us. 

Satan is waging a war against us.  He hates us.  He hates God’s church.  He hates the message of the Gospel.  Forgive the fact that I’m sounding like a hellfire and brimstone preacher, but the reality of his existence and his hatred for us and all-things-God is a fact of our existence:

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat…(Jesus warns Peter in Luke 22:31).

If we are not careful, we let him in – into our marriages, our private places, our jobs, and even our churches.  And in a flash, he can tear us – and our churches – apart, breaking relationships, robbing us of our passion, and planting subtle seeds of hopelessness into each and every situation he touches.

I am not suggesting that we apply the motif “the devil made me do it” to every thing that happens to us.  We are responsible for our own sin.  And our sin has resulted in a fallen world, where fallen people live out and among the consequences of that sin every day.  It is because of this sin that we turn from our sin and believe in the salvation and grace that can only be provided by Christ.

But we also need to be keenly aware of Satan’s interference in our lives and deal with it.  We fight it with our faith:

In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan (Ephesians 6:16).

The stories I began this with indicate how many of his “arrows” work.  You fight those arrows with faith that – even in times of discouragement, self-doubt, and hurting relationships – Satan is ultimately defeated and all he can really do to us is go to the end of his chain and bark.  He cannot defeat God, and he cannot snatch us out of God’s hand.  We should cling to that every time his arrows are aimed at us.

We also fight Satan with our love:

Be humble and gentle.  Be patient with one another, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

We need to love each other…period.  We need to watch our tempers, honor our relationships (marriage or otherwise), and treat people as Christ would treat them.  But it is also inevitable that we will fail at this.  Therefore, we also need some thick skins.  A friend of mine actually carried this a step further and said, “Heck, we need scales.”  The fact is, we will screw up and treat each other badly.  But rather than let Satan get in and let these mistakes destroy us, we need to learn how to brush off the mistakes and move on – make an “allowance” for our faults “because of our love” and stay united in the Holy Spirit.  Does it get any clearer than that?

Making an “allowance” for our faults means we need to learn to be less sensitive, less self-focused, and less critical of others.  We need more patience, more communication, and – above all – more forgiveness, “so that Satan will not outsmart us.  For we are very familiar with his evil schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11 – great stuff about forgiveness).

Basically, we need to learn to not be hard on other people in the body of Christ – whether we are the offender or even the offended.

——————————–

Last week, I attended “Unleash 2008” at Newspring Church in Anderson, SC.  It was a powerful conference, and the 15 of us who went came home re-energized and incredibly aware of what God can do in a church if we let Him guide us.  Basically, we were on top of the world.  But in the short time since we returned home on Thursday night, I am also incredibly aware of how much Satan is “on the prowl,” so to speak.  I have heard stories of discouragement and spiritual attack that are blowing my mind.  Satan seems to be invading every area at times.  Heck, I even received some criticism Friday over a blog entry from someone I don’t even know and doesn’t even know me.  Maybe this person’s attack upon my character was a well-intentioned admonishment…who knows…but it seemed like an unexpected slap out of nowhere.  So…wow…no detail is off limits, I suppose.

So here’s where it gets real people.  Do we give up?  Do we wave the white flag and let Satan run us over?

Or do we now – when it matters – recognize spiritual warfare for what it is and grab the dual-lightsabers of faith and love and kick Satan’s proverbial a–?

We’ve got God – the almighty, creator of the universe God – on our side.  And we know who wins in the end.  So, Satan… bring it on.

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Comments
  1. Jason says:

    Preach it brother…….you are right on target Kevin.

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