By: Nick McDowell
As the new year rolls along, many of us who may have made New Years’ resolutions might have already given up and moved on at this point. I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions simply because I don’t think one needs a new year to make a positive change in one’s life. However, I realize it’s a thing and I admire those who make a commitment and stick with it.
Recently in ministry I have noticed the different ways we can have our commitment to God and to serving others undermined. We can come under attack in many ways. Like a New Year’s resolution that quickly goes in the dumpster, we make a commitment to God, only to fail living up to it a few months, weeks, or even days later. No matter what it is we do, things can go off the rails quickly in our lives if we aren’t careful. We need to understand that when commitments are broken, sins are committed, or poor choices are made, these do not simply happen by random occurrence, and they don’t happen in a vacuum.
The reality is this: There is a very real spiritual war being fought for and around us each day. God has enemies and when we commit to serve Him, those enemies come after us as well.
Growing up through pre-school I had never really encountered anyone who stood out as being my “enemy.” I got along with everyone at church and pre-school, and pretty much everyone got along with me. It was in kindergarten that I first experienced being bullied. I realized that not everyone played “nice.” I naturally found myself avoiding those particular individuals and hesitated to trust them in any way.
It's hard to accept the fact that there are people out there who don’t like us, trust us, or even downright hate us. When Jesus commanded us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44), it was pointing out the obvious…that we will indeed have enemies and we are called to love them in spite of this. We must remember that while there are people out there who will attempt to tear us down and turn us away from Christ, they are not the real enemy. The enemy, as Paul describes it, is not against flesh and blood:
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.
Jesus shared this with His disciples:
“ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”
There is an enemy out there who wants to destroy. I believe we have three “forces” that we have to contend with in this world. First, there is the reality that Satan and his fallen angels are active in this world and are out to destroy us.
1 Peter 5:8
Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow.
Second, we have people who have given themselves over to evil and wickedness and the enemy will use them to tempt, deceive, and mislead us.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Finally, and perhaps the person who sneaks up on us the most, is our own self. We walk around with a sinful nature. Though as Christians we have been forgiven and redeemed through Christ, we must still submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit each and every day. We are not sin-proof while on this earth and to think we are can lead us into a very dangerous trap. Often times, we are our own worst enemy.
We must be vigilant and aware of the enemy’s tactics and the weaknesses of our own sinful nature. We must be intentional in putting up boundaries and arming ourselves with God’s love, truth, and the power of His holy word.
So KNOW THY ENEMY! When you’re in a fight against someone, you need to learn their tendencies as well as your own weaknesses. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing the 5 different ways I believe the enemy from within and without, attempts to undermine our relationship with God.
They all start with the letter “D”, so hopefully it can become something easy to remember. The enemy desires to:
DISTRACT – DISCOURAGE – DIVIDE – DECEIVE - DESTROY
How has the enemy been attacking you lately? Have you been dealing with discouragement that keeps you from persevering and serving God faithfully? Have you been dealing with distractions that keep you from practicing important spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, and reading Scripture? Have you experienced division in your life, whether it’s between family or other brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you being deceived in any way? Finally, does it feel like the enemy is simply out to destroy you, leaving nothing left in his wake?
We can experience spiritual attacks in many ways. As we walk through the different ways the enemy can come at us, my hope is that God would use it to help us keep our guard up, be more intentional in our walk with Him, and filter our perspective through Him and not our earthly circumstances.
Remember what Jesus told His disciples:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus knew we would experience trouble. When it happens, it doesn’t surprise Him and it shouldn’t surprise us. But He has overcome all the struggles and challenges the enemy may throw our way. No matter what the battle brings, Christ has already won the war. Remember that. He is with us! And that is a promise to cling to this new year.