Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Everywhere one turns these days for (real) news and (objective) analysis more and more of the tactics of totalitarianism and on a global scale are being exposed.
Anybody paying attention gets it, already!
It’s time to know how to rise above the fray–and remain there as much as possible–because angst is exhausting; anger, infectious; and anarchy looms not far behind when it all breaks apart because civilization breaks down.
And it seems many are getting close to the break-down point globally and some, personally.
I believe God’s Word, “…alive and active…(s)harper than any double-edged sword, (penetrating) even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; (judging) the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”…offers powerful road signs marking the way to, or back to, peace and, especially, sound-mindedness. See what you think. Be strengthened and encouraged.
I have previously written many blog posts listed on the page “On the State of Political Rage” detailing my view of the nature of this era’s menacing political scene and offering some solutions. In this post, I offer five more ways to help believers remain awake and aware spiritually where our real “enemy” “prowls” seeking not only whom he may “devour” but also whom he may be able to use to do his destructive work. If we allow.
A five-part outline for both offensive AND defensive tactics can be found, I believe, in 1 Peter 5:7-9, tactics reinforced elsewhere in God’s Word, a multi-genre, multi-generational anthology that not only chronicles spiritual history worked out in real-time “on the ground” but also interprets and affirms itself. Here is the outline in verse:
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.…
1 CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM
In this global mess?
There is a related Scriptural directive that seems counter intuitive, even in a real existential crisis, but that sheds light: “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33, NIV).
As noted, this seems like the opposite of what one ought to do or feels necessary to do, especially as certain forces in the U.S. and elsewhere cry for the ultimate in resistance: fight fire with fire, aka, engage in civil war.
Yet, those who “lose” themselves in “service” of varying kinds to others by “working alongside Christ,” so to speak, though this can be difficult, testify of another spiritual truism from the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
A soul at peace is in a much better position to think rationally and act wisely.
In other words, although there are times when a civil war is required as a last resort, it is still possible to accomplish quite a bit by remaining “yoked to Jesus,” Who, like the older, wiser ox yoked with the younger and inexperienced, as is the situation with yoked oxen, there is greater success, whatever the work to be done.
Even in the case of civil wars, if need be, there is much effort over time in the preparation that requires cool heads and steadfast effort lest one “acts hastily” and in his zeal, “makes poor choices” (Proverbs 19:2, NET).
As to the fruit of being “yoked” alongside Jesus, so to speak, from John 14:27, this promise: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. “
But where does this “peace” come from as things seem to get worse by the day?
2 BE SOBER MINDED AND ALERT
Back to the “guide-book” plus corroboration from a secular view.
Such peace comes from a mind focused on God. As Isaiah puts it: “The steadfast of mind (samak–supported, upheld, sustained by God) (God) will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in (God)” (26:3, NASB).
Here is a verse that explains why this kind of peace is possible, even in the current state of world affairs (or should I say “broken state” of world affairs”): “20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure (thésauros–storehouse of riches, thoughts) is, there your heart (kardia–mind, character, inner self, will, intention, center) will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21, NIV).
As to fighting a battle with well-honed will, there is little more powerful than a focused mind. According to famed military strategist, Sun Tzu, “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things” (The Art of War).
As to winning the battle, according to Proverbs 16:32, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city” (NIV).
However, our real existential adversary is formidable even against all the Sun Tzus the world produces. After all, empires come and go. Even the greatest of mortal military strategists have their Achilles’ heel. But even if they don’t seem to, their opponents often succumb to envy and greed and in their desire to acquire the same riches and fame, end up destroying it all.
Indeed, the Bible details in many places who we’re really up against–as well as how to deal with him, the anarchist of all anarchists, the author of all destruction. He is described, in a nutshell, just below.
3 YOUR ADVERSARY THE DEVIL…
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NASB).
Strategy: know who your real enemy is.
4 RESIST HIM
But we are not alone in our struggle. The same Ephesians context goes on:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17, ESV).
In short, the battle begins in the spiritual realm, by the power of a mind focused on Christ, kept awake, aware, and alert by the power of the Holy Spirit communicated in the Word of God, and won by sometimes seemingly counter intuitive means.
But effective, nonetheless.
Else what with the power and brilliance of our real enemy, the human race would have been defeated not long after the get-go, the first humans being as weak-minded and weak-spirited as they proved to be–and, as innocent as doves concerning who they, too, were really up against! And, in this state of complete human failure, is where God began His redemptive work…for them and for us.
The thing is, as seasoned believers come to know in their own struggles in which they pursue God’s guidance and wisdom, our real adversary is, after all, created by One Who is a whole lot smarter and more powerful.
And Who is on our side, should we so choose.
But, understandably, the reader might wonder, why such pain and struggle, why such a dark side, so to speak, of creation from a so-called “loving” God?
My thoughts in other posts go to the topic of what in my view is the most powerful–and loving (though it also seems counter intuitive) of all gifts given us by the same Creator: free will. And sometimes human beings choose wrong.
But the good news is, we can choose, even this day, who or Whom we will serve–or come back to serving. And just as in elections, there are both good and bad consequences that follow each choice.
5 REMEMBER: YOU ARE NOT ALONE
You and I are not the only believers “undergoing the same kinds of suffering,” whether spiritually, mentally, and/or physically! And there is great help to be had in gathering together for ministry and encouragement.
Amid today’s turmoil, my small fellowship group tries at all times to keep in mind two things:
–It is especially important then, that we also keep in mind the need for–fellowship.
As Paul put it in his letter to the Hebrews, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (10:25, NLT).
And this fellowship is not, as some might define it, for the purpose of maintaining some brick and mortar edifice or denominational institution; rather, it is to inform and encourage believers of like mind and faith to stay focused on the Way, Truth, and Life amid, above, and beyond any strife Satan and his minions can whip up for our destruction. As the Psalmist reminds us:
Psalm 9:9-14 (NIV)
9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.*
*For a free, downloadable devotional based on another go-to “reminder” Psalm, #91, that includes comments, illustrations, and testimonies of God’s power to deliver us from evil, click here.
Image from Wikimedia Commons