March 30, 2009

Shadow boxing

Imagine, for a moment, that the village idiot is boxing with his own shadow, fighting an invisible enemy while the real enemy creeps up behind him, finally overtaking him with ease. That's the picture I got this morning when I was thinking about the believer's real enemies.

There are a couple of enemies that continually sneak up on us while we are fighting the imagined ones. We get so distracted by fighting evil in this world that we aren't prepared when the real enemies attack. Paul speaks about these enemies in a letter to the Corinthians, and another to the Ephesians.  

Our flesh:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

A truly invisible enemy, Satan and his minions:

Ephesians 6:10-13

A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.

It is so important to remember that we are not fighting "flesh and blood", but the invisible enemy that could sink us when we are not looking. We often confuse the evil "outside" and spend all of our energy trying to redeem the culture, save our union, or making sure our brothers and sisters aren't engaged in some sin. It's not that we should never engage in fighting evil in the world, but it's important to identify the real enemy. We are fighting the lusts of our flesh, and when we aren't looking, we could easily lose the struggle and become disqualified. We've seen enough of that disqualification in recent days among the leadership in evangelical churches. And we're fighting an enemy that hopes to sink the church by disqualifying believers one by one.  

I've allowed this to happen in my own life WAY TOO MANY times. I'm in the process of repentance and restoration in a couple of areas of my life—both relating to good stewardship of God's resources. While I was busy slaying perceived giants in my world, a small weevil crept into the grain and threatened to destroy it.

I encourage you to check your armor and your focus. Make sure you pay attention to the enemies that could sink you as well as the flesh and blood enemies of our world. It is important that we maintain good stewardship and integrity so that our message isn't maligned by our behavior. If we focus enough energy on the real enemy, we'll be qualified soldiers with authority to fight in the flesh and blood battles of our day.

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