I saw a sign in a coffee shop today that said, “Life is Good!”, and I had to ask myself if I really believed that. I’ve had a good life, better than I deserve, but as I was reading the sign I thought to myself that “Life is Hard”! Even though I can see all sorts of good things in my life, life is often a struggle. I know that despite how hard life can sometimes be, God is good and will carry me through the hardest times, but while I know this truth in my head, I don’t always feel it in my heart.
As I was reading that “Life is Good!” sign, I was also reading in Matthew 22 where Jesus said: “Put your sword away! All who use a sword will be killed by a sword.” (v.52) When life gets really hard, I have the tendency to fight back, which can be good depending upon how I choose to fight. There were times in the past where I’d say to myself (or even out loud!): “I wish we could go back to battle axes and fight this out the old-fashioned way.” And I meant it. It felt like an easier, more decisive way of getting rid of disagreements and frustrations, but there are many types of battlefields and simply fighting isn’t always the path to victory. Knowing what to fight, how to fight, where to fight and when to fight are key to winning any battle.
When and Where do we fight? It’s a balancing act that takes wisdom to know when being decisive is counterproductive or when a contemplative approach creates a missed opportunity. The simple answer to this question is: whenever it’s necessary and when the situation is most likely to result in victory. If the situation isn’t conducive, then the first objective is to establish the best possible circumstances for success without delay.
How and What do we fight? The easy thing to do is to lash out, verbally or physically, but that is usually not the best practice for long term success. Once we start on a path towards destruction, it’s extremely difficult to turn back. That’s not to say there aren’t times where it’s necessary, but resorting to violence is like starting a fire: even after the flames disappear, there are often smoldering coals under the surface. I truly believe the best way to destroy our enemies is to make them a friend. It’s much more difficult and infinitely more effective than pulling out the battle axes.
Remember what Jesus said on the cross, something later echoed by Stephen as the first Christian martyr: “Forgive them, they don’t know what they do!” We tend to take it personally when people attack us, but we need to see things from God’s perspective. Wounded animals strike out without thought, often working against their own best interests. People aren’t much different. Now there are times when something is so diseased that it needs to be removed, and when that’s the case, it should be done quickly and decisively for the greater good. That is true for gardens and it’s true for communities: families, churches, and businesses. But too often we confuse who the enemy is with the vessel that contains the poison.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Our fight is not against people. Rather our fight is FOR people. We fight for everyone who is caught in an unhealthy way of thinking, who has been convinced that their brother is their enemy, who has been entangled in a lie that squeezes out the truth and love of Jesus. We don’t fight against either believers or a non-believers; we fight FOR them! And it’s for ourselves, our families, our country and our world to let the truth and love of the Kingdom reign in our hearts, minds and souls.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The first battlefield is our own mind, our own way of thinking. It’s like the flight attendant instructing passengers to put their own oxygen mask on before helping someone else. We strike out in our pain: the hurt, the discouragement, and the lies that the enemy whispers in our ear. But God is faithful, even when we are not, working all things together for good for His people.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)
I don’t know what your current circumstances look like, but I do know that even when life is hardest, God is there to carry us through, and His light shines most brightly through us at those times… when we trust in Him and His ways.
copyright ©2018 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)