I’ve said before that the enemy’s strategy is to cloud our thinking in our everyday lives. How many of you know what I mean when I say “the enemy”? Do you think of what you learned in church as a kid? Do you picture the devil coming to get you if you lie to your parents or push someone on the playground? Do you picture demons that come after you in the night or demons in the form of drugs, alcohol, depression or other hard to overcome issues? I think we all have our own picture or image of what we think is the “enemy,”the dark side of human nature, the opposite of God.
Do we ever think of the enemy as people we know? Do we even let our minds wander to the fact that the enemy can be deep within ourselves as well? Maybe the enemy comes out when we feel challenged or when a friend of ours is feeling jealous or even when a seemingly benign stranger sees us doing something on the road and “road rage” kicks in. All of these scenarios can be pretty uneventful, passing issues that hardly affect us. They can, however, escalate, and, suddenly the road rage incident causes someone to get hurt – or the jealous friend acts in a way that causes irreparable damage or we convince ourselves to behave in a way that changes the course of our lives.
I’ve said before that the enemy’s strategy in your life is to cloud your judgment or corrupt your thinking. I said in a previous blog post and in my book that in our lives, we’ve all fallen prey to friends who coerce us to do something against our better judgment. I also need to point out that maybe we’ve been involved in relationships and, suddenly, find that our lifestyle is one we no longer recognize or maybe we replay our actions and behaviors in a certain situation and find that we are not proud of what we did and that, further, we are worried about the repercussions of what we’ve done.
Once the enemy – in whatever form – gets inside our heads or the threat of the enemy allows us to weaken at all, we can start down dangerous paths. The enemy will make us question our own judgments, will injure us so badly that we can’t trust our own emotions, and will use guilt to chip away at our defenses and tap into our vulnerabilities. This is how the enemy permeates the minds of otherwise intelligent and secure people and moves through groups of friends, families, or communities, coercing and moving people to behave in ways that they normally would not. Sometimes, good intentions go horribly wrong, as we’ve seen in recent events in our own society. Peaceful protests and vigils turn to rioting and violence. Emotions are corrupted by selfish motivations. The root of the issue is clouded with vulnerabilities, hurt feelings, and fear.
We all have different goals in life; some are big, and some are small. We all share the same goal to move forward in life in a positive way; However, this may be interpreted in different ways. The family man may want success in his career. The single mother may want a more fulfilling personal life and a good relationship with her kids. The college age boy may want to do well in school and pursue a sport of some kind. None of us can move forward if we let the enemy decide for us what direction we take. We have to be stronger than that. We have to be prepared for whatever life sends us. We need to secure our “Armor of God” and offset the attacks that the enemy – again, however we perceive it – will, most certainly, unleash on us.
“You have to know the rules to break the rules” a friend once told me. A proponent of being disciplined and practiced in order to lead people into social advocacy and non-violent protest, he was a charismatic and unique individual with an aura of hope around him. And, yes, I agreed with him, in part, but I always felt that, in his quest to show quiet restraint and strength without overt fortitude in the face of those who opposed him, while noble and admirable in so many ways, kept him from achieving true success. And, I don’t mean success in life, in general – I mean, success more in line with knowing himself and his fortitude in the face of the enemy. And, I don’t mean that quiet restraint and strength born of learning the rules and applying them is at all a bad thing; I just mean that I always thought that he should show off this anchor he had inside – this fortress of discipline, faith, and self-awareness. What good are all these qualities if we don’t use them, visibly, as God wants us to, in faith and in daily life?
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s scheme. (NIV)
And, if we take the meaning more modern day, it means:
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.
So what DOES it mean to “live strong”? To live strong in God, in life, or in any way that we want to interpret it? Previously I said, too, that this friend of mine was a born leader in terms of initiating and successfully implementing non-violent protests and advocacy for those without a voice. And, this IS strength, isn’t it? Particularly in these days of violent protests and volatility when the stresses of daily life and the social, professional, or emotional injustices that plague all of us on occasion rear their ugly heads. This ability to negotiate or to bring people together to a resolution is strength. Strength is also simply recognizing our abilities and knowing when to use them.
In my book, I say that we can’t allow people to coerce us into doing something that we do not want to do. Instead, we should use our strength and our sense of self and faith to make sure that what we do is productive and helpful to others, to God, and to our own families and communities. Also in my book, I use the apostle, Paul, as an example of how to live and why we need to tap into this strength – this Armor of God. The enemy will attack us when we aren’t expecting it through self-doubt, fear, and unwanted change, to name a few avenues. Other times, we can see it coming in the way of violence, crime, and unbearable injustices as is the case, very recently, with the issues in Baltimore.
I say this distinctly in my book, and I firmly believe it: We often allow others, sometimes friends – sometimes strangers, to coerce us into doing things that are against our better judgment. This, too, can be an attack of sorts. If we aren’t tapped into our strength, we won’t know how to offset the coercion. On a similar note and to my point earlier that my friend needed to talk more about his fortitude and his ability to make things happen, wearing the Armor of God and living in the way that God’s protection provides us, will offset the challenge in some cases. No one wants to mess with someone who wears and lives the Armor of God – who touts his or her faith and truly believes it – or who finds discipline within and is not afraid to tap into it now and then.
Take today to talk about your faith, friends. Take this week to polish up your Armor of God. And take this month to put behind you the anger and fear that the enemy creates in order to live strong with other people in a productive and faithful world.