Conflict. Most of us avoid it when we can.
There are times when it is unavoidable, when you are attacked, seemingly without provocation. There are other times when you might have to do the attacking, perhaps to right a wrong.
How do you deal with the people with whom you have conflict? How do you deal with people who treat you unfairly, who are mean for no reason, who take away your rights or force you to do what you don’t want to do?
If we’re honest, most of us would consider those people our enemies. We might think of ways to get even, or try to figure out how we can “hit them where it hurts.”
Yet Ephesians 6:12 proposes a different outlook: “For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
If we are to take God’s word as completely true – and I sincerely hope that you do – then this verse makes it clear that people are not our enemies! Our real enemies are unseen, spiritual forces at work in the world around us. Those people, whom we are viewing as our enemies, are really just being influenced and used by the spiritual forces that seek our destruction.
So when you’re attacked by someone, when someone hurts you, just remember that he or she is not the real enemy. We’re not called to hate them, but to love and pray for them (Luke 6:27.)
That is so hard to do! Ephesians 6:10b-11 gives some help with this: “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil.” The verses that follow give us an idea of what that armor looks like: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, the Bible, and prayer.
A SWAT team would never think of going into action without fully arming themselves with weapons, body armor, and shields, yet as believers, we so often go through life unequipped and unarmed. We’re fighting supernatural forces, something much stronger than the flesh and blood criminals that a SWAT team faces, and we show up to battle armed with sticks and wearing shorts and flip-flops.
It’s time to gear up! Arm yourself with the weapons the Lord provides, lean on His great strength, follow Him as the ultimate spiritual SWAT commander, and fight the real enemy – the spiritual forces – while revealing Him to the people around you.
This is an Easter like no other, isn’t it?
Most churches will not be holding in-person celebrations – nor should they, in my opinion. COVID-19 has changed the face of Easter this year, as we all wait for the crisis to pass.
During this time, there’s a lot of fear. A lot of hopelessness. A lot of uncertainty. People are fighting for their lives, many have lost loved ones, others are losing their jobs, and futures are not what they once appeared to be.
All this reminded me of the first “Good” Friday almost 2,000 years ago, a day that didn’t feel so good to the people who knew Jesus.
That weekend, things looked at their darkest. There was fear. Hopelessness. Uncertainty. They’d lost someone they loved. They’d lost someone who they’d hoped would set them free. The future no longer looked as they’d imagined it should.
Yet just a few days later, all of that would be turned upside down. What they had viewed as the darkest of days became a day we now call good.
You see, God had a plan. Did it look anything like the plans the disciples had? Did they see the purpose in that plan as Jesus was bleeding on the cross? As His body was placed in a tomb?
No, they couldn’t see any of that. But they would. At just the right time, God would open their eyes and show them the glory of His plan.
I feel like we’re in an extended “Saturday”, hovering between the horrible hopelessness of shattered dreams and the glorious revelation of God’s goodness. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, burdened, hopeless, and afraid – like much of the world is right now, remember that the disciples felt exactly the same on a Saturday many, many years ago.
Just as God’s good plan was revealed on Resurrection morning, we can trust that His good plan will be revealed at just the right time now. In the meantime, trust God. Press into Jesus. And let the peace of God so permeate your life that those who need hope will see the hope that only Jesus can give.
These are scary times we live in. Uncertain times. Times of great loss on all levels.
Most people are concerned at best. Many are terrified. We see the evidence in – as silly as it sounds – the shortage of toilet paper.
But, if you’re a child of God, do you realize what one of your great blessings is? You don’t have to be afraid!
This morning I was reading in 2 Kings 6, where the king of Aram comes after Elisha. The troops surround Elisha’s city at night and when Elisha’s servant wakes up the next morning, he sees that they are completely surrounded. He goes to Elisha in a panic and Elisha’s response is very interesting. After comforting his faithful servant, Elisha prays (vs. 17) “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!”
What happened? “The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”
The servant went from terrified to secure in the space of a moment, because he saw things from God’s perspective. Did his circumstances change? No. He was still surrounded by the enemy, horribly outnumbered by an army who had been sent after the prophet he served. Yet his eyes were opened to what God was doing in the unseen realm around him and he experienced the peace only God can give. Elisha’s next prayer was for God to act on His behalf against the enemy, but His first prayer was to see life from God’s perspective.
What if we did that? What if, instead of asking God to deliver us, we first asked Him to give us His perspective on our circumstances?
Don’t get me wrong, we’re to bring our requests to God. Praying for God to help us, to put an end to the Corona Virus, to save lives and restore stability – none of that is a bad thing! But maybe instead of making that our first request, we should first ask God to open our eyes to what He is doing. If we allow Him to show us His perspective on our circumstances, instead of just focusing on the situation around us, we just might find the peace that only He can give.
And the peace of the Lord is what we – and the rest of the world – really need.